Tag Archives: justice

The power of Soulforce

About four years ago, I was conducting an online search for resources, mainly, spiritual or religious resources, for LGBT youths/students that offer authentic support to them. There were some organizations and places that I found that seemed genuine. However, there was one particular organization that caught my attention, and kept my attention, the most.

Soulforce.

Soulforce is an organization that believes in nonviolent, passive resistance as a way to get things done on behalf of LGBT persons. Through activism, writings, and their forums, they help others to understand, and also offer active support for those who identify as LGBT, and assist those persons in their coming out. It may sound oversimplified, but it really is difficult for me to put into words how grateful I am for this organization, and the people that I met through it. Soulforce is a life preserver for many who have been damaged by others in the name of religion.

Soulforce, I believe, helped me to find my voice within the LGBT community. I always had a pretty clear idea since I came out who I was as a gay person. Even when I struggled with the coming out process, I kind of knew how I would turn out. However, Soulforce helped me to understand who I was within the LGBT community. It helped me to find out how to speak out, on behalf of my truth and the truth of us all. The need to find equality, the need to be treated fairly. The need to be viewed as beloved.

The need for justice.

But, Soulforce became more than an organization of support for me, more than an education in how to advocate, how to inform, how to protest injustice. Soulforce, by its meaning to me, means to fight injustice not with physical force, but with soul force. To combat inequality with love, compassion, understanding and awareness rather than fists, clubs and weapons. It means, meet those that oppose us with love, self knowing and peace, and seek to inform others rather than fight against them.

So, going to Washington two weeks ago, marching on behalf of myself, and millions of others, I carried the message and lessons and love of Soulforce with me.

Yet, there is more.

I made friends, many good friends, at Soulforce. Sharing stories, support and love. Meeting when we can. Sharing our joys, our sorrows, our peaks and valleys of life. So, a few of us were able to meet up in Washington, D.C. on October 11.

Here we are, after numerous texts to track each other down amidst 200,000 of our closest friends:

soulforce friends

Soulforce, as a belief and an organization, has helped me to grow as a person. Has helped me to pursue justice in a more formalized way. I have known since I was very young that I would fight on behalf of those that are oppressed, I just needed to get organized about it. Better informed. Better able to focus my efforts.

Soulforce has helped me to do that. And, in the process, helped me to meet some lifelong friends.

I am eternally grateful for that.

Soulforce.

Me and 17 strangers

3:30 AM came mighty early on Sunday morning. But, the early awakening and driving in darkness was so worth it.

You see, I was preparing to walk toward my dream, to begin another phase of transformation.

So, at 5:30 AM, we began our journey from Newton, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C. To march, and to rally, for full and equal rights. Eighteen of us all together. Most of us had never met other people on the van, or in the two cars that were in the caravan. The ages ranged from eighteen up to women in their fifties and sixties. Some of us were there with friends, some with partners, some on their own. Some of us were allies, some were gay. Before that day, I had never met any of those on the van before.

What an adventure.

The main thing that we had in common at 5:30 AM, anticipating a ride of several hours to DC, was a desire to see justice come to be. To see full and equal rights. We may have each had a motivation that made it unique to ourselves, but the common cause was justice, equality, fairness, and civil rights.

Less than an hour into the trip, we began to share food that we all had collaborated in bringing along. One person brought brie cheese and lime flavored tortilla chips. Another couple brought homemade egg salad, bagels and bread. Yet another person brought candy corn and gumdrops. We had protein, carbs, fruit, drinks, and companionship.

By the time we were halfway to Washington, we knew additional aspects of life that we had in common. Pets. Children. Foods we enjoyed. Surviving cancer. Vacations. Causes. Friends.

What connects us as people is always so much more powerful than what divides us. It allows us to see the true spirit that shines from one another.

One of the most impacting stories of that day, among those that joined us, was in relation to the three teenage women that drove behind the van in their car. Samantha had left a note for her mother at 4:30 that morning, simply stating “I am going to change the world.” Those young women ended up coming with us after hearing about the march from a patron at K Mart the night before, one of our other fellow marchers.

All of them allies. All of them heterosexual, yet knowing that equality is equality, plain and simple.

By the time we pulled back into Newton, New Jersey at 2:00 AM Monday morning, I no longer thought of those other seventeen people as strangers. Rather, I had made seventeen new friends, comrades in arms, who will go forward with me on this journey toward full equality, in this battle for justice.

Our journey together has just begun.

What’s your secret?

I was posting a status message on Facebook the other day; one of my most frequent ones, with a positive message that sets the tone of my day. A friend commented about my positivity, and asked “what’s your secret?”

No secret, really. No magic pill or powder or bullet. No guru that I have followed to find all of the answers. No religion that I have worshipped to get where I am. No diet. No exercise routine. No infomercial.

Just me, being me.

My secret is not my own; it is the key to fullness of life, loving attitude toward self and others, peace in your soul. Fulfillment of your dreams. It is in the grasp of every, single one of us. We just have to believe in the magic of ourselves.

One of the keys that have guided me on my journey is love and knowledge of self. I ask myself countless questions each day, about many things, people, and circumstances in my life. I don’t seek the answers from others, as much as I answer them myself, what my opinion or my perspective is. I ask myself the really tough questions, the ones that I don’t often want to tell the answers out loud to someone else, but are safely kept within my own being. I self evaluate in every circumstance: not to put myself down, but rather, to build myself up, by being better, stronger, and more loving in each moment that goes by.

Another key for me is understanding and compassion for others. I have always possessed this, however, it has been a double edged sword at times in my life. Having full compassion and giving to and for others, without regard for myself. It often left me feeling used, hurt and bitter at times. Now, I give freely, but I give what I have to give within, storing up my strength and self love, so that I can freely give without expectation. That is a hard lesson, indeed, and I am still learning, even at this very moment.

I also do my very best, each and every day, to live in the present moment. How difficult that is, raising a child, working a couple of jobs, fitting in fun, meeting expectations, spending time with families; the challenges to doing this are very real. However, the less that I chastize myself for the past, or worry about and anticipate the future, the better my present moment is. And, when the present moment is a particularly difficult one, I breathe my way through it, and everything turns out okay at some point.

I believe in justice; justice for myself, my family, my friends, and my loved ones. However, I also believe in justice that is bigger than me and my world. Justice for others; justice for those who live with war, poverty, and disease. Justice for those who are mistreated because of a category or grouping that they belong to. I believe in full and equal justice for all. Ubuntu, my friend.

Another key to living a positive, full life for me is visualizing my dreams. Every day, I spend a great deal of time thinking about, and planning for, the dreams of my life. My nighttime dreams bring me messages that help with this also, but I have come to find that my daydreams are more vivid, and more a direct message of what it is that I truly want and need in this world.

For each of us, the list of what is our own secret to a contented life could be similar to this, or totally different. The most important aspect of my world, the one that puts all of the rest together for me, is living life with a loving, open, truthful heart. It guides me well, it protects me, and it keeps me connected to others that are around me. There are so few persons in this world who live their lives fully open, truthful and loving. It feels dangerous, too risky.

For me, it is really the only way that I can be. And, I don’t hold exclusive rights to this. Uncover your secrets on how to live a happier life.

Then, start living it.

NEM idol!

Okay, now I don’t know if this is REALLY going to happen, but I think I am auditioning to be a speaker at the rally during the National Equality March on October 11, 2009. For those of you that don’t know, the National Equality March, and rally, is being held for the first time this year, in order to bring as many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender persons and their families, friends and allies together, to advocate for full, equal, civil, marriage rights. There is no more time to be patient; now is the time to act.

As part of this historic event, which by the way is being held at the same time as the annual Coming Out Day, there will be speakers to address the thousands of persons that are anticipated as attending. And, as part of that energy, people have been invited to audition to be a speaker there, persons that have energy, passion, have a devotion to the LGBT community and its needs, and who want to speak out about it.

Well, let’s see: I have energy, no doubt. Passion, without questions. Devotion? Well, I have been working toward inclusion and understanding for years now, through training, and educating others, including most recently, the church that my family and I attend. I think I am qualified.

But, the question is: do I have the courage to do this? Sure, there could be thousands that try for this, so my chances of being chosen are slim. However, I am willing to try anyway, but what if I were chosen, what then???? Thinking about it makes my stomach feel funny, though I am not sure if that is butterflies of excitement or waves of nausea in anticipation.

What I need to do to try out for this is two things: First, draft a speech of that which I would like to say to get people energized and full of hope to go forward. Then, I have to film myself giving that speech, and send it off to the organizers. They will pick a group of finalists, whose videos will be uploaded onto Youtube and then voted on; whoever gets the most hits, wins!!

I will keep you all posted, and I will probably post my speech at some point, but the thing is, that feels more challenging to me than actually speaking in front of people……

How do I say in three minutes or less how this journey of identity and coming out has brought me to my self, like nothing else in my life? How speaking up and speaking out is now the only way that I can be? How marrying the love of my life would be one of the most anticipated moments for me? How valued and beloved I feel by the Universe, God, and so many persons I have met, who have felt rejected much of their lives?

There is so much in my heart and soul that needs to be said, that should be said, when it comes to equality, love, and justice. Because, that is what this is about, more than love, more than civil rights or pride, is justice, doing the right thing.

Fairness for all.

Wish me luck!!!!

The tortoise and the hare

 

 

Any one out there like the Moody Blues?  I mean, the 1970’s Moody Blues.  Days of Future Passed; Every Good Boy Deserves Favour; Nights in White Satin.  The classic stuff.

 

I used to listen to them so much as a youth, influenced by my older brother and sister and their music tastes.  And, luckily, they had excellent taste in music.  I have been listening to one of the classic CD’s lately, and the song “The tortoise and the Hare” is on it.  And, I have been compelled to listen to it over and over again.  Then, I kind of thought about how it is a theme in my life that I wanted to write about.

 

The first area that I find this recurring theme is in how I conduct my daily living.  When I feel pressured, and rushed, or not just going at a reasonable pace, I burn out quickly and get farther behind anyway.  I make more mistakes, I misjudge, and sometimes I even get hurt because I am not paying full attention.  Speed does not work in my favor here.  Being slow, steady, and vigilant always seems to serve the purpose.

 

 

Unless, that is, I am sprinting as my life event, in which case immediate, accurate speed would be on my side.  Luckily, I am not called upon to participate in such an activity very often.

 

Today, this theme continues to play out in my mind in the aspect of activism and justice.  I am thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr.  I am thinking about Ghandi.  I am thinking about Rosa Parks and Caesare Chavez and all of those whom fought so hard for change, but it was years in the making.

 

I am an activist, but I have to be a patient activist, and I have to be a hopeful activist.  I need to be the tortoise, even when I want to be the hare.  I need to keep my eye on the goal, I need to work steadily toward that goal, I need to take my friends and supports with me, and never waver from what is most important; justice and liberty for all.

 

I believe that the  dissenters,  in terms of civil rights and justice for LGBT persons  and other oppressed people, those dissenters are the hares in this race for justice.  They want change in a hurry, maybe in a bigger hurry than us.  They can’t wait, because if they waste any time, people that aren’t sure about their views might just change their mind.  They need to act quickly, those dissenters of ours, because this country changes quickly, and if they lose sight of their goal and change is not immediate, they stand the risk of us getting the civil rights that we deserve.

 

 

So, we must continue to be the tortoise.  Focused.  Ready.  Steady.  Slow.  Patient.  Resilient.  Keeping our shells intact and ready for the hits. 

And hopeful.  Forever hopeful.  Change is coming.