“Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama declared to the nation today that “in the face of hatred, we will love one another,” claiming solidarity with the people of Orlando and especially the LGBT community.
The President, speaking from the White House Press Room, said, in part:
“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.
So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.”
The President also alluded to the type of firearms used by the attacker, Omar Mateen, whom the President called “a person filled with hatred.” With the mass shootings of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Colorado, and a Sikh Temple in the background of his remarks, he said:
“Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
Further, the President pledged the full power and authority of the United States government as this investigation proceeds. He ordered that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the dead in Orlando, and as an act of national mourning.
Hernandez was elected to a vacant seat on the Sunnyside Unified School System governing board in 2011. Huffington Post reports that at least two scurrilous flyers attacking Hernandez’s sexual orientation and his position on gun control appeared at the same time the recall conflict broke out on the school board. While other school board members are being targeted for recall, Hernandez is the only recall target whose sexuality and character are being smeared.
Right Wing Watch first called attention to the smear flyers which were passed out to constituents anonymously. The caption surrounding a flyer photograph of Hernandez speaking at an Equality Forum reads: “Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board. Daniel Hernandez is LGBT. We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don’t need someone who hates our values. RECALL Daniel Hernandez TODAY.” A second flyer attacks Hernandez’s position on guns, deeply ironic given the savage shooting that wounded Representative Giffords and killed several constituents at a Congressional town hall meeting.
The nasty, homophobic nature of the flyers is not news. Tactics like these have been influencing votes and voters for decades in Arizona and around the nation. What is newsworthy, however, is the forthright manner in which Hernandez, an openly gay man, is refusing to succumb to the smears. According to LGBTQ Nation, Hernandez has called for his opponents in the recall effort to distance themselves totally from these anti-gay tactics, and denounce anyone who supports such underhanded politics. Furthermore, in another unprecedented move, U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has asked the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the attacks on Hernandez’s sexual orientation as a bias-motivated hate crime.
Hernandez’s recall opponents are scrambling to distance themselves from the hate attacks against a bona fide national hero who happens to be openly gay. The investigation as it proceeds should uncover whatever links may exist between the recall effort and homophobic intent.
Washington, D.C. – Richard Blanco delivered his poem at the Second Inaugural Swearing-in Ceremony of President Barack Obama on the threshold of a new era for the descendants of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. Gay people make a great stride forward today with our poet leading the way: the youngest Inaugural Poet in the nation’s history, a Cuban-American, and an openly gay man. With this groundbreaking cultural and literary event, Richard Blanco, at the behest of President Obama, has inaugurated a new dignity and impetus for LGBTQ Americans, and ushers us along the path to becoming a People: diverse, empowered, graced, and maturing into the full equality of national citizenship. This is one step in a long journey, and no one must be fooled into a sense of ease or rest on a bed of laurels. But nonetheless we have lived to hear the voice of Our People ring out openly and unhindered across the great mall of the National City, and we have every right and reason to be proud. Gracias, querido Richard! Muchísimas gracias!
Here is the poem in its entirety (video of Blanco’s delivery of the poem available here):
Washington, D.C. – The 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee has announced that poet Richard Blanco is President Obama’s choice for his Second Inauguration–a gay of Cuban extraction who was shamed by his own family for being gay. In one historic move, President Obama has chosen the first gay man, the first Latino, and the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. According to Huffington Post, Blanco will recite a poem at the presidential swearing-in ceremony on the U.S. Capitol steps on January 21.
“I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco responded to the announcement. “In many ways, this is the very ‘stuff’ of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life’s story—America’s story, really. I am thrilled by the thought of coming together during this great occasion to celebrate our country and its people through the power of poetry.”
Blanco is the son of Cuban exiles who fled to Madrid, where he was born. The family moved first to New York City, but then settled eventually in Miami, where Blanco was reared and educated. He now lives in Bethel, Maine with his life partner. Politico tells the story of the price he paid as a gay person in Latino culture–even in his own family. Cross currents of cultural identity–Cuban-American and gay–threatened to sweep him into depression or worse. Politico highlights Blanco’s essay, “Afternoons with Endora,” that appeared in the 2009 anthology, “My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them,” where Blanco describes himself as “a boy who hated being a boy.” As a child, Blanco says he retreated from playing sports to his notebooks, writing and drawing; that he much preferred women’s Tupperware Parties to Clint Eastwood movies.
His grandmother lashed out at Blanco for being gay, calling her own grandson “the shame of the family,” and “little faggot.”
“According to her,” Blanco wrote, “I was a no-good sissy — un mariconcito — the queer shame of the family. And she let me know it all the time: ‘Why don’t we just sign you up for ballet lessons? Everyone thinks you’re a girl on the phone — can’t you talk like a man? I’d rather have a granddaughter who’s a whore than a grandson who is a faggot like you.’”
“Her constant attacks made me an extremely self-conscious and quiet child,” Blanco wrote of his grandmother. “But it also made me a keen observer of the world around me, because my interior world was far too painful. This inadvertently led me to become a writer, a recorder of images and details.” Seeking refuge from his family’s harsh, anti-gay nagging, young Blanco would secretly dress up in his own room as Endora, the magical character from the hit television show Bewitched, and pretend he lived in a world without queer shame. “I wanted to be as powerful as [Endora], and for a little while every afternoon I was,” he wrote. “I could conjure up thunderstorms so I wouldn’t have to go to baseball practice…I could concoct love potions that would make me like girls instead of boys and make my grandmother love me.”
It is a testimony to Blanco’s strength of character and web of supportive friends that he rose above queer shame to become one of the premier poets of this era, a rise that caught the attention of President Barack Obama. The President said, “I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second Inaugural. His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers. Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an Inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity.”
Achy Obejas, a commentator for WBEZ.org, reflects on the significance of Blanco’s selection as Inaugural Poet, and upon his reasons for crying for joy when he heard of the pick: “The President of the United States, the most powerful man on earth, has chosen a guy you know — a fag, a cubiche who likes to joke that he was made in the U.S. with Cuban parts, with whom you codeswitch about Miyami and lechón and our mamis — to consecrate this moment in history with his — our — words.
“And you nod and grin through your stupid tears because you know — you really know — that damn arch really does bend, it really does indeed point to a shinier day.”
Blanco has had a distinguished teaching career at Georgetown, American, and Central Connecticut State universities. His award-winning books of poetry include City of a Hundred Fires, which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh, and Directions to The Beach of the Dead, which won the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award.
When Richard Blanco mounts the podium on Inauguration Day with the whole world watching, they will see a cubiche, no longer un mariconcito–but a spokesperson for all LGBTQ people whose longings are rising above the challenges of discrimination to the heights of full citizenship. “Felicidades, querido Richard,” indeed!
Dallas, Texas- In this unprecedented year of tragedy and hope, in the aftermath of the worst nature can do to many of our readers and supporters, the Unfinished Lives Project Team wishes your family and loved ones a Happy and Safe Hallowe’en. So much is at stake in this election season. Too many have lost too much to turn back now. The stance of this blog and this human rights project has been and will remain to be full of hope:
- For a better world than the LGBTQ community has ever known until now
- For the long arc of justice to bend toward all marginalized people, especially those whose lives have been touched with violence
- For the laws and protections afforded to us to be enforced swiftly, fully, and justly
- For all LGBTQ people to follow to admonition of Harvey Milk, burst down our closet doors, and begin to fight for the values we believe in
We have found allies and leaders who have our best interests at heart. We still believe in hope. That is what we are sticking with this holiday season.
- President Barack Obama has signed the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law
- President Obama has fought by our side for the full Repeal and Implementation of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
- President Obama has directed our Justice Department to defend DOMA no longer
- President Obama has nominated two outstanding women to the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Kegan and Justice Sotomayor
- President Obama vigorously supports the DREAM Act, allowing many LGBTQ Latinas/Latinos to live, work, and prosper in the United States–the only nation home they have ever known
- Vice President Joe Biden has blazed the trail for Transgender Rights, declaring this “The Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time”
- Both President Obama and Vice President Biden have declared their public support for Marriage Equality
- The President, therefore, deserves and has earned a second term
While we at Unfinished Lives respect choices to the contrary, to us the choice this election year could not be clearer.
Enjoy the day, then exercise your rights, and vote. Again, friends, Happy Hallowe’en. ~ The Unfinished Lives Project Team
“We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.” ~ President Barack Obama
We at the Unfinished Lives Project join with Americans everywhere in support and solidarity for the families and loved ones of the fallen in Aurora, Colorado.