Category: Social justice

The Cartoon Parade Comes To Town

I’ve been living and organizing in the South (mostly around LGBTQ issues) since 2008.  My friends and family from various parts of the country don’t visit much.  It’s difficult to entice folks to come to Mississippi or Alabama.  It’s not really on the way to a major destination, so folks don’t just pop by.  Interest from family and friends in my work has waxed and waned over the years.  When the work was highly visible (say, a major legal case that made national news) or easy to understand (such as organizing something concrete like a conference or an event) there was interest.  More long-term and difficult to describe work, like youth development and community-building that’s less concrete, doesn’t seem to garner much interest from my loved ones.  That’s perfectly fine with me.  I love my work, and if communities rally around and behind it down here that’s all that matters.

The Westboro Baptist Church and their circus of hate came to town on May 18.  All of a sudden, folks I don’t hear from much were flooding my inbox.  Did I know the group was coming?  What was I planning to do about it?  Did I know of a protest that would be organized?  Was there a place to send money to fund the protest?  Judging from the swell of interest, you’d think that something important was about to happen in my community.

Doing Yoga on the South Lawn

          After two semesters of courses and teaching composition classes, I am finally returning to regularly going to yoga classes. I’m finally returning to doing both yoga and meditation on my own. In these moments I am able to slow down my world, listen to my breath, and focus on what my body is saying to me. After I end my sessions, I return to the world with a renewed, focused mental clarity. I then start thinking on how the lessons I learn in these sessions relate to other aspects of my life, especially with regard to progressive work in the South. I feel like so many progressive folks I have seen, especially while living in Alabama, feel worn down and seem defeated, despite working their damn hardest at times. I wonder, though, what would happen if we started doing more internal reflection, focusing on our local progressive groups’ heartbeats, breaths, intentional inner thoughts.

The Power of Conversation

Most of us experience a variety of conversations on a daily basis without giving a second thought to what exactly we are doing. We share information with others, exchange stories with one another, and engage in dialogue. We can do such through a variety of mediums now, such as in-person and online. While having a conversation is a ubiquitous aspect of our society, we often give little thought about its possible impact and power. Conversations, though, hold powerful implications on abilities to not only affect people’s opinions on issues, but also create a stronger sense of community for organizing efforts.

South Carolina: Stronghold of (HIV) Segregation

South Carolina is the last state in the country to still segregate HIV+ inmates into separate areas, away from HIV- inmates.  The last three states in the nation to continue with this policy were South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi.  Alabama’s policy was deemed unconstitutional just last year, after a court battle. Mississippi changed its policy in 2010 after activists and attorneys pressured the Department of Corrections commissioner Christopher Epps to rescind the policy (which he did, very much to his credit).

Segregating HIV+ inmates is bad policy for some pretty obvious reasons.

A Call For Courage

Meagan M. O’Nan is a guest blogger for The South Lawn.  She is a spiritual leader, life coach, and Mississippi native (among many other amazing things).  The original blog piece, a personal narrative that wrestles with coming out in various ways in Mississippi, can be found on Meagan’s blog

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that
something else is more important than fear.”
― Ambrose Redmoon

I have a lot of emotions about today and tomorrow’s Supreme Court hearings getting started. The majority of what I am feeling is anxiety. Anxiety is the combination of fear and excitement wrapped together. I really am hopeful that the fear will subside, so that anticipation and hope can step forward. But that means I have to be willing to see the best in all people: myself, my parents, my family, my friends, the State of Mississippi, and beyond – gay and straight alike. That’s a risk for me, but I am willing to put aside my fears so that the truth of who we really are can seep in.

Crowding The Space: What is my role as a self-identified male feminist?

If y’all have not heard, Beyoncé came out with a new song called Bow Down/I Been On (if you want to listen to it, Google it). The chorus of the song consists of her constantly repeating the line, “bow down (derogatory term for a woman that will not be used here)”. Well, as you can imagine, this has raised quite a stir. Some people are surprised by the tone of the song. Others actually liked and enjoyed the song. But then there are others (like me) who believe that the song flies in the face of her past statements on female empowerment and being a feminist.

But then I started thinking: what is my role in questioning Beyoncé’s feminism? Is that even something I can do? As a man who self-identifies as an ally of feminism, what is my space to comment on matters regarding a movement that I can only be attached to from the outside?

“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”

Meagan M. O’Nan is a guest blogger for The South Lawn.  She is a spiritual leader, life coach, and Mississippi native (among many other amazing things).  The original blog piece can be found on Meagan’s blog

For video of the interview that Meagan describes, see the original blog post.

Almost two years after moving back to Mississippi, I got a call one morning from our local television station (this interview was a good 8 months ago, now). The producers asked me if I would be willing to come in and talk about my perspective on same-sex commitment ceremonies being allowed in state buildings. The reason this conversation was a hot topic was because a same-sex couple applied to have a commitment ceremony in a state building in Jackson, Mississippi. This didn’t go over well with most people, but there was no law in place to keep the couple’s application from being dismissed. Ultimately, they were given permission to have their ceremony, but most of the state was in an uproar. The television station wanted me to come on and talk about how this made me feel as an openly gay woman. They mentioned that they would be having someone else come on and talk with me, but they didn’t tell me who.