A Weekend of Activity: Report from Occupy Summer Camp and EqualityME

The Feminist GA

Music, movies, grassroot organizing, and radical change: what do these things have in common, you ask? For starters all of them were present at this year’s first Occupy Main Summer Camp. From young musicians, to screening of tactical documentaries on non-violent protest, to the endless chatter of the general assembly, and beyond, into the realm of gay liberation, from June 22nd to the 24th this weekend was one to remember.

Starting on the 22nd one would arrive at the Summer Camp to find an idyllic setting reminiscent of English fiction and Asian romanticism; the pleasant ponds and carefully mowed grass melded with the rustic architecture to leave a lasting imprint. Walking along the entry path I saw the signs which gave away the camp to the world. From “fire congress” signs to “Bring Our War Dollars Home” demands the atmosphere was unmistakably that of an activist’s world.

At once I set up my tent and registered. When such introductory processes were finished I was glad to discover that instead of name tags for the camp there would be homemade buttons. I instantly made on which displayed my name as well as my political identification. I found that a button was an iconic and unique way to say who one was.

Some hours later, once people had arrived and events began to become ordered, the first highlight of the day started: GA. Though in this session not much was accomplished outside of basic introductions and some talk on what brought each individual to the camp, I thought that holding a general assembly was vital if for nothing more than to keep the atmosphere of occupy alive.

The second highlight of the day came some time later when students from The New School, a democratic education high school, came to screen a documentary that they made pertaining to their experiences in Virginia learning about mountain top removal. The movie, When the Mountains Sound, was well made. For a gaggle of youth one might be surprised at the top quality of the film.

Growing sleepy I retired to my tent for the night after I had watched most of the student’s presentation. When I awoke early in the morning I snatched for myself a breakfast consisting of several banana blueberry pancakes and cupful’s of mixed fruit. Some light conversation eased me into the afternoon.

The first scheduled activity of Saturday was a teach-in about genetically modified foods and how corporations use them to clamp down on independent gardeners. Though the talk was far outside of my expertise zone, so as a result I did not contribute much, I nonetheless walked away from the session with a growing sense of urgency. Action was needed to help secure the transition to non-oil based societies and yet with me knowing little in this field, I wished my organic foods activists good will while they pressed forward with our shared struggle.

By the time this teach-in ended it was time for lunch. Which meant for me it was time to nibble on stale chips while I listened to an indie youth rock band play some of their songs. Each member was perhaps college age, if not younger, yet showed great talent in their musical field. The lead singer hit all of her vocal cues perfectly while the guitarist, drummer, bass and electric piano player dutifully followed suit and complimented her adequately.

Feeling tired of music; however, I felt that it was time for another overly long workshop about an obscure topic. Turns out I was in luck. Soon after the lunch period veteran environmentalists gave a fascinating dissection on their decade long struggle against both the state and corporations in cleaning up what used to be classified as one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Their coalition worked diligently and won several victories eventually winning them the right for river life, such as fish, to have an alternative route of migration. Though I entered that workshop an ignorant individual, I left with a great appreciation for the struggle these people undertook for the rights which all animals deserve.

Next up was the Feminist GA (General Assembly) . With it being my first time attending I did not know what to expect. I was pleased to find out that the experience was worthwhile. After the obligatory round of introductions, in which was the only time I revealed personal details about myself, we separated into two groups: male and female. This was done in an effort to better have each sex understand how patriarchy affects them. Though I was left with the impression that the male group didn’t fully delve into their position of power and how it affects individuals who identify as female, I thought that it was a good first step, especially for those who had never before attended such an event.

At this time, unfortunately, the whether began to turn rotten. The clouds darkened and rain started to drizzle then pour in a hellish downcast. Though I fetched my umbrella from my tent, a structure which I knew wouldn’t hold up well in such a storm, it served little use in actual protection. While attempting to do several tasks for the group I was soaked to the bone.

Drying took a couple hours but within that time the rain had slowed to a steady, but light, shower. With the worst of the storm behind us everyone was stoked to see that after the storm a double rainbow graced us with its beauty. Its shining colors and breath taking magnitude brightened up everyone’s day and showed that after the worst of life there is a silver lining.

Some hours after the halting of the rainstorm I was disposed to return to my tent and check on the damage. I was in luck that despite the heavy downcast my sleeping bag was, with the exception of being a little moist on the bottom when I applied weight, alright. Though my backpack and its accompanying clothes were drenched and the tent bottom wet, I still thought that for the little protection offered by the overhead tarp I came out on top.

So with me being ready to call it a night and rouse myself for tomorrow’s canvassing, I stripped off all unnecessary clothes, and was able to fall asleep rather quickly, all things considered. As I lay in that tiny tent, listening to the patter of rain falling upon my humble abode, I had the realization that this weekend felt like a continuation at my time at the Augusta Occupy encampment; adverse weather, heated arguments, and eating little, and as much as possible, fused to leave an impression which, though not perfect, turned my lingering doubts into a hazy mist of security: Occupy was still alive and if we were going to inflict any real change on the system than we would continue with our actions as long as it took; as long as there is an oppressive government, Occupy will be there.

~             ~             ~

                The next day I left the summer camp in the wee hours of the morning so as to meet my father in Augusta where I was scheduled to canvass the capital with marriage equality activists. Though we had never been to the Unitarian church before, the location in which we were to cooperate from, we had an easy time finding the place. When I entered the Church there was a crowd of individuals. Though many of them wouldn’t stay for the canvassing when I glimpsed the “Mainers United for Marriage” stickers I knew I was in the right place.

After waiting a little while the training session eventually began. Though the initial session, which was for “Pod leaders” was not what I had signed up for it was an interesting glimpse into what would have happened if I volunteered for a leadership position. The insight into being a squad leader made me feel more confident in what was expected. After this session for the squad leaders some more volunteers arrived and so began the second training session for the general canvassers.

The training session went over some very basic lines within the script the organizers gave to us. The proper responses to how people reacted determined how far the conversation went with the person. Prepared responses for religious individuals were also encouraged as it was important to convey that the campaign’s target for this election was communicating the importance of love and commitment within homosexual relationships. The organizers made it explicitly clear that unless the response was completely detrimental we were to continue in conversation with hopes of persuading them into a supportive position.

Once these initial session were completed my partner and I, a nice young women who like me was also shy, went out into the big world to knock on peoples doors, engage them in deep conversation, as well as leave tons of material if they were not home. The day was bright and sunny so we did not have to worry about any negatives raining on our parade (which was good as my clothes were still a bit wet from yesterday’s shower).

Though I was immensely nervous about canvassing for the first time I knew it was work which needed to be done. So I sucked it up and put on my confident mask. Shadowing my partner for the first couple of houses, just to learn the trade, we knocked on the door of our first house. Those who answered were a young man, maybe mid-thirties or late twenties, who ate an apple while his wife, the individual whom we needed to speak with, finished up with the duties which beset her. In the meantime we had a nice exchange with her husband who seemed very intent on trying to get us to think of creative reasons as to why individuals should support gay marriage.

In the end of this first encounter we ended up signing on his wife to our program. As it turned out both were already ardent supporters of our cause. Not only that but when my partner stumbled, as often happens in these high pressure situations, I took up her failing and earned an illuminating shot of praise from our target women’s husband. This not only gave me some confidence for the rest of the day but instilled me with hope that I was, indeed, making a difference.

Still, though that initial encounter was positive that would largely be the only encounter of the day. During the rest of the day we encountered little of our target voters. Indeed it was baffling about how many people were not home so it is aggravating to think back to how many campaign fliers I left on peoples steps. Needless to say I ran out of my hefty bundle without even so much as mild chatting. As nervous as I was to talk with people I can honestly say that about half-way through the day I was earnestly annoyed at the lack of individuals whom I was able to converse with. By the time my partner and I returned to the church, at around five in the afternoon, it was at least comforting to discover that the other teams only had marginally better fortune than us.

So though my first canvassing session ended without much real action I was proud of myself for taking the first step towards practical liberation for my people. Without hesitating I volunteered for the next round of canvassing set to begin On July 8th of this year. I am considering inviting my friend to this event for as the old saying goes: the more the merrier. And when it comes to gay liberation, the merrier the better.

Pride Parades: A First Timers Account

Some individuals, and those youth who are fortunate enough to live in a progressive location, have a capacity to attend multiple gay pride parades every year, thus making the event seem less spectacular over time. Yet, once upon a time they attended their first ever pride parade: this is my story; from the anxious waiting, to the colorful fun, and fulfilling end, the trappings of the liberation struggle left this revolutionary filled with a sense of awe.

Awe, however, wasn’t exactly the word to describe how I felt on the morning of June 16th. Not at least when I had only received a pittance of several hours of sleep and was tired and sore at the prospect of spending the day with no caffeine. Still, my excitement, I knew, would carry the day and overcome the night of prior excitement.

As with most of my activist events I didn’t so much as “plan” my attendance at Pride this year so much as I stumbled into it. As a result I hastily cobbled together several strings of transportation: the first string consisted of my father dropping me off at a Universalist church on his way to work, while the second string was meeting the organizers to which the remainder of the distance would be traveled. The only problem, you ask? Well, my father dropped me off at six in the morning while the organizers didn’t arrive until ten. So fast forward through four hours of me waiting and pacing and reading (I had brought a book) and you will find the others finally trickling in.

By the time the others had arrived I was happier than a dog greeting its master after a long day. Primarily this was because my mind was almost gone after so long but realistically it was due to the fact that after about twenty minutes I was in the car with my queer mates heading to the Portland Pride Parade.

On the way there our little caravan stopped for a moment to gather up the banner which we planned to use in the parade. This locale in our story is worth mentioning not for its importance to the parade but because it was important for me. With the banner held within one of the lead organizers partner’s house this was a rare moment in which I saw older queer women in their own light. One can internalize their understanding of queer culture though movies and television but that is not enough for it does not compare to seeing the way we interact in person, without Hollywood’s neoliberal agenda.

Though I left that house with a renewed sense of happiness at seeing the life two lesbians had made for each other my excitement for the parade didn’t loosen up even a smidgen. After about another twenty or so minutes of driving we finally found our parking place and walked up to the event. When we first entered the street which our banner would be located I would never forget the sight of dozens of rainbow flags surrounding a horse painted a rainbow hue of colors with a unicorn’s horn placed on its head.

This was but only a small selection, however, of the total marchers; as the attendees would soon fill several whole blocks, drowning out any detractors within a veritable sea of rainbows. The floats, eccentric characters grabbed in gem-stone encrusted clothing, the youths draped in rainbow peace flags offering free hugs along with the drag queens, cross dressers, Butches and leather bound muscle head Bears, made this year’s events one of wonderful variety. Again though, this even does not surpass the moment in which I had waited for all day- the march.

An hour of mild exploring, in which I volunteered to help canvassing the state capital with a local equality group, and all the groups were finally organized and ready to march. Though slow to start eventually the line picked up steam and I marveled at the thousands of onlookers cheering the marchers on waving rainbow flags. Through my mind floated, “this is my day. The one day of the year in which I am not looked down on by society or cursed, the day in which I am cheered for who I am and the obstacles I overcome!” This was a moment in which I would never forget.

With over ten thousand marchers in attendance, several thousand more supports watching form the sidelines, and over 55 sponsoring organizations (including 25 religious groups) this year’s Pride was the largest in Maine’s history. With the big gay marriage vote in the fall and equality groups raising twice as much money as their bigoted opponents, this event was a well-used coordinated part of an vital campaign against the right-wing.

Political maneuverings, however, were still far in the future. And when you are attending a Pride event in the summer you can always expect a festival and this year was no different. For after the parade there was a large celebration in the local park where vendors sold the typical assortment of delectable fair foods. Swearing off such food, however, I was content to window shop the vendors while I enjoyed the aroma.

Being strong and only purchasing a necklace in the shape of a tooth from a local Native American booth I was happy to spend the remainder of the day walking around the festival and taking in all the sights and sounds. This included being introduced to a drag king, watching a strip show (though the exact title was a little more graceful), and walking around with a queer youth of color while we ogled hot guys. In short it was a day which would have been impossible during any other time.

Yet that old radical saying comes to mind at this part: be realistic, demand the impossible.

As with all oppressed peoples we Queers are not unaware of the oppressive intuitions which grip our existence so we understand that before liberation can be total we must fight for the same rights which our heterosexual couples possess. This means defying the heterosexist state and battling against overwhelming odds for a dream which is still far in the distance; never once giving up when the times grow tough and the chains heavy. We know this to be the only true course of action: everything else it just smoke.

So with a heart content and a soul filled with joy so ended my first experience at Pride. The music was loud; the people were flamboyant, though not in a stereotypical manner, and the atmosphere delightful (even with that one odd protestor waving a cryptic sign relating to morality). I returned home tired, exhausted and ready for some rest but more willing than ever to resume my peoples epic battle for freedom.

The Youth Pride Project: A Queer Interview

The Queer Facebook community is a lively bunch to be sure. Among the big names are Wipe Out Homophobia (WOH), The Equality Mantra, Bisexuality is Real (It Exists), Wipe Out Transphobia (WOT), and others. Yet for all the amazing pages and groups which serve queer internet users there are remarkably little areas dedicated to youth. Or that was the case until a new initiative rose through the ranks. Entitled The Youth Pride Project (YP) its creator is “only” a teenager of 15 yet has bold plans for the future of his dream. To better illustrate and gain an idea of what this young activist has in store The Queer Project sat down with the mastermind for an exclusive interview.

 

The Queer Project: So, the readers will want to know who is the “man behind the scenes.” What is your real name?

The Youth Pride Project: Ben Boulter

The Queer Project: What prompted you to start up The Youth Pride Project?

Ben Boulter: I went through homophobic bullying and I no longer speak to my father because of my sexuality. I don’t want people to go through the same thing as I did. I want to make a difference.

The Queer Project: When did you first start you page (exact date)?

Ben Boulter: February 22nd [,2012]  is when our fan page came into action

The Queer Project: …tell us a bit more about you: what are your hobbies, interests, and defining character traits?

Ben Boulter: I like to spend a lot of time with working on the project and going out with friends. I also like going on walks and meeting new people (my job is perfect for me :L ). I smile ALOT and I can get on with just about anyone.

The Queer Project: You sound like the exact opposite of this interviewer but it takes all kinds ….Have you read any Queer Theory? If so than what theoretical ideas do you subscribe to? If you haven’t read any such theory than what are your views on it?

Ben Boulter: Theories are basically ideas and presumptions… Facts are things we can work off and improve life for people with facts.

The Queer Project: So this means you would never consider working on any queer theory or endorsing any in the far future?

Ben Boulter: Our project isn’t about theories. We only work with facts because we work with young people and it isn’t good just to tell them theories. Facts get people places.

The Queer Project: Fair enough. Do you have any religious beliefs? If you do than how did you reconcile those homophobic aspects with your faith?

Ben Boulter: I’m an atheist.

The Queer Project: So aren’t I. Did you decide to become an atheist over the religious inconsistencies and negatives or though alternative reasoning?

Ben Boulter: never seen faiths as a big part of my life.

The Queer Project: Now time for the segment many young people have been looking forward to: do you have a partner (as in boyfriend?) or are you still solo?

Ben Boulter: I have a boyfriend … I have been dating him for nearly a year and love him with all my heart.

The Queer Project: How romantic, where did you two meet? At a gay youth support area or just as you were floating though life? Is he an activist as well?

Ben Boulter: We met through a mutual friend on Facebook. It’s crazy how you can start talking online and fall in love in real life. He supports everything I am doing but no he isn’t an activist.

The Queer Project: Do you intend to make him become an activist?

Ben Boulter: No not at all… I feel people should have the choice to do what they like with their lives. Only he can choose which path he shall take and as his boyfriend I respect his wishes.

The Queer Project: Speaking about activism do you have a political ideology you subscribe to in which you believe will help promote your site?

Ben Boulter: No … What will be will be… Someone or something out there is helping us with our project … It feels like I was destined to set up this project.

The Queer Project: Was a Facebook group the first instance of activism you undertook of were there others before?

Ben Boulter: I set up a trial run of a teen LGBT social site and then I closed it due to lack of staff… I then opened a private group for young people under 21 and then our fan page … on our private group we work with over 500 young LGBT people.

The Queer Project: What kind of bullying did you endure and for how long? Is it still happening?

Ben Boulter: verbal quite badly with a lot of torments … It’s no longer happening no because I didn’t give the bullies the satisfaction of me retaliating.

The Queer Project: Did your family try and alert the school administrators about the bullying? If so what were the results?

Ben Boulter: I kept the bullying to myself… I didn’t want to trouble others. I didn’t tell anyone except my best friend Abi.

The Queer Project: Who is Abi to you? Did they inspire you to begin efforts at activism?

Ben Boulter: Abi is my best friend … and no she was my friend and my person to talk to about my problems… bestfriend and councilor mixed in one.

The Queer Project: Would it be accurate to say that you didn’t have many friends you could trust because of your bullying situation?

Ben Boulter: I had quite a few but many were people I couldn’t share my personal life with.

The Queer Project: Why couldn’t you share your personal life with them? Simply because they weren’t close enough to you to understand you or because they possibly had heterosexist affinities?

Ben Boulter: just because they werent close enough.

The Queer Project: Many young people find that the coming out process is a hard road, and justifiably so with all the hate. What promote you to come out of the closet?

Ben Boulter: I wanted to be myself. It’s as simple as that. I didn’t want to live a lie anymore. Why should anyone live a lie?

The Queer Project: When did you first realize you were gay? Did you always know to some extent or where there exterior factors which made you realize?

Ben Boulter: Always knew I was.

The Queer Project: How did you always know? Just the way you felt about guys?

Ben Boulter: yeah … never fitted in with all the lads… I hated sports still do.

The Queer Project: Recently, in the United States, there has been a rash of teen suicides caused by bullying. Though many projects have come out in support of gay teenagers, such as the “It Gets Better Project” the rate still doesn’t seem to drop, despite teh fact that America is seen as a progressive country. What are your thoughts on this and what do you think needs to happen in order for a truly supportive space to be realized?

Ben Boulter: I think its because young people don’t feel 100% comfortable with talking to adults and are scared to speak out and there is not enough promotion on the project. Also this could be improved by peer ran projects such as The Youth Pride Project

The Queer Project: Interesting thoughts, does this mean you aim to have your own project one day be the “youth branch” of the “It Gets Better Project”?

Ben Boulter: We aim to create something new and fab but yes we want to be unique.

The Queer Project: Unique in what manner? How will your page differentiate from the crowd?

Ben Boulter: Unique in how we approach young people and make us approachable… Our project will differentiate by been a peer run project who help people their age.

The Queer Project: A peer run site is certainly different. Have you been a part of adult run sites in the past which made you rethink how you wanted your own community to be run?

Ben Boulter: Nope… my own idea.

The Queer Project: Setting up any successful site is hard work. How did you go about promoting your site when you first created the page?

Ben Boulter: I already had our private group so I got all the young people to like it and then got other pages to share us … I then won the L projects “t-shirt caption competition” on behalf of the project … The L Project shared our group when we won and helped get a few likes.

The Queer Project: Describe for us please what caption you submitted.

Ben Boulter: “At the heart of the LGBT community. The L Project” – I made this because there was a heart on the T-shirt and the L project are at the heart of the community …. they are very popular

The Queer Project: So far has your page remained an online only affair or have you branched out towards the real world with your message?

Ben Boulter: We are opening our first branch in Staffordshire in July and hoping to open one in my home town of Leeds ASAP.

The Queer Project: Great to hear. How would you describe the atmosphere of your homeland in regards to gay treatment? How would you compare it to that of the rest of the world?

Ben Boulter: England I think in some respects are relatively accepting … Leeds is very accepting with homosexuals… Some people are homophobic though … but most people don’t care.

The Queer Project: Have you gotten much local support from your community in this effort to set up a branch of your group?

Ben Boulter: We have become part of the local pride parade and we are working on getting funding to be able to get a branch going.

The Queer Project: Are pride parades all that is on the agenda right now or is there more planned?

Ben Boulter: We are planning more but this is classified.

The Queer Project: When did you know that activism was your calling?

Ben Boulter: I’ve sort of always know… I like to stick up for what I believe in and help people.

The Queer Project: What are some of your tactics when talking with bigots and close minded people about equality?

Ben Boulter: Just show them how I see it and how it’s no different to racism and sexism.

The Queer Project: What do you envision your project being when it is in a “developed” state?

Ben Boulter: Having multiple support branches across the country and a peer mentor ran site with adult councilors when needed.

The Queer Project: No international plans?

Ben Boulter: Hopefully in the future … Think big but remember things like this don’t grow overnight. Hopefully one day we can provide support to the world

The Queer Project: And now for the final question. What advice do you have for today’s gay youth?

Ben Boulter: Stay strong and do not be afraid to be who you are and speak out. There is always someone there. You are not alone.

~             ~             ~

So ended my time with Ben but it was a good moment nonetheless. I hope you have gained some valuable information and will widely share Ben’s project with all of your Facebook friends. To make sharing easier I have provided a link below to the Youth Pride Project. Enjoy!

Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/theyouthprideproject

Pastor Worley:Religious Fascism?

On the 13th May, North Carolina Pastor Charles Worley spoke in front of his usual Baptist congregation, only this time he bellowed words crazier than usual. Though a longtime homophobe this particular Sunday Worley surprised the crowd when his rant about homosexuals delved into territories normally reserved for Nazis…

“I figured a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers. Build a great, big, large fence—150 or 100 mile long—put all the lesbians in there. Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. And you know what? In a few years, they’ll die.”

In other words: concentration camps. Still, Worley is typical of a man who devoted his life to fundamentalist teachings, his views, though extreme, were met with thunderous applause from his congregation. Support for his death filled rhetoric may have something to do with the amount of hate groups which is springing up, or it may have to do with NC recent constitutional ban on Gay marriage; both of these travesties have polarized the social landscape and have made the conservative inhabitants there ravenous in their unadulterated hatred.

When a man such as Worley preaches a doctrine eerily reminiscent of fascist Germany it does not surprise progressive minded people when other right-wing lunatics come out in support of him. Such had happened with Worley when parishioner Geneva Sims defended him by saying…“He had every right to say what he said, about putting them in a pen… The Bible says they’re worthy of death. He only preaches the Word.”  Geneva, however, is not the only religious zealot to voice their support of Mr. Worley’s diabolical intentions; for Pastor Dennis Leatherman, of Maryland, not only supported Worley’s words but “one upped” him by musing about the homosexual population and the supposed solution being, “Kill them all. Right? I will be very honest with you. My flesh kind of likes that idea.”

                It seems Mr. Worley’s rage knows no bounds; openly advocating for genocide against all GLBT people and yet hardly can such language is unexpected as he has a despicable history of similar tirades. One such gem can be found back in the year 1978 when he lamented, “We’re living in a day when homosexuals can go around, bless God, and get the applause of a lot of people… Forty years ago [gays] would’ve hung, bless God, from a white oak tree!”

Chilling reactionary dribble stolen straight from the playbooks of the radical Right, spewed straight from the mouths of one of the most bigoted individual on the North American continent. Just how reactionary is this man? He is so extreme that even the largest anti-gay organization in the world, Exodus International, came out against Pastor Worley and his agenda saying that it wasn’t in “god’s will” that homosexuals be forced into camps.

All of this hate, of course, soon attracted a great deal of attention to the church to the point where Worley took down the video recording of his infamous sermon from the church’s website. Adding to the pressure several thousand protestors picketed outside the church on May 23rd. The demonstration, however, did not deter the congregation and the service proceeded as scheduled.

What is to be made of this heart-wrenching story? For any young radical it is surely a wakeup call that in those areas most conservative oppressed populations are being targeted in a well-coordinated campaign. Revolutionists must realize and see these ultra-reactionaries for who they are: members of an extremist fringe movement who would welcome, with open arms, the embrace of fascist policies so as long as it benefitted their supernatural delusions.

It is of utmost importance for all progressives to battle against fiends foes like Charles Worley so that when the inevitable proletarian revolution comes, the working class is free of such rancid propaganda. Only when all segments of the working class are united in a common program will a transition to socialism be possible and a youth international ready to carry forth the tasks of the future.

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