The Lone Voice in a Hostile World
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Living for Change News
September 18th – September 25th
Thinking for Ourselves
About 150 people gathered to remember Jeffrey Montgomery on Saturday on the Wayne State University campus. Jeff died on July 18, 2016, shortly after the annual Motor City Gay Pride event he championed.
Jeff was a leading voice demanding dignity for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from the mid 1980s through the beginning of the 21st century. Often he was the lone voice in a hostile world.
After his partner Michael was shot to death in front of a gay bar in 1984 Jeff turned grief and anger into activism. The police had told Jeff they had no intention of investigating the murder. It was just another gay killing.
Jeff refused to accept this. From that day on he devoted his considerable intellect, energy, and humor to challenging the police, state lawmakers, and ultimately the federal government.
I loved Jeff for his commitment and courage and for his confidence that people could be better. We worked closely together shortly after he co-founded the Triangle foundation in 1991.
We shared an appreciation for the radical tradition in America. I still vividly remember the first time I visited his apartment. Hanging in a place of honor above the fireplace was a framed covers of the graphic socialist magazine, Masses.
Masses was published between 1911 and 1917 when it was shut down by the government for encouraging people to refuse to be drafted. Jeff’s grandfather had been a contributor to the magazine and was a well-known member of the Detroit Socialist Party. It was a history that delighted Jeff. He kept a copy of the Masses credo that declared:
A Free Magazine — This magazine is owned and published cooperatively by its editors. It has no dividends to pay, and nobody is trying to make money out of it. A revolutionary and not a reform magazine; a magazine with a sense of humour and no respect for the respectable; frank; arrogant; impertinent; searching for true causes; a magazine directed against rigidity and dogma wherever it is found; printing what is too naked or true for a money-making press; a magazine whose final policy is to do as it pleases and conciliate nobody, not even its readers — There is a field for this publication in America. Help us to find it.
It was a statement that captured much of how Jeff lived his life.
In the early 1990’s he helped forge the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs. It recorded crimes against LGBTQ people in cities across the country. This work became the basis of national hate crimes legislation and challenged the idea that LGBTG people were disposable.
Jeff became a leading voice challenging the “homosexual panic” defense. This was a strategy arguing that killing a person who is LGBTQ is excusable. People panic in the mere presence of someone who is gay. Jeff’s insistence on our shared humanity and searing arguments shattered this idea. He helped convict Jonathan Schmitz who murdered Scott Amadure in Oakland County in 1995. Amadure had revealed on the nationally televised Jenny Jones show that he had a secret crush on Schmitz. A few days later, Schmitz shot him.
It was Jeff’s voice that helped the country come to terms with the killing of Mathew Shepard. He publically supported the prosecution and helped eliminate the panic defense. Meanwhile, he privately helped Mathew’s family come to terms with their grief.
Confronting the daily cruelties of America took a heavy toll on Jeff. He struggled most of his life against its pull.
Jeff’s life affirms the power of people to create change. But it also cries out for us to acknowledge that those who refuse to conciliate, who fight for basic dignity, become wounded in the battle. As we see a new generation of warriors emerging, we all need to make sure their lives not only matter but are filled with love.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Ruby Sales—Where Does It Hurt?
Where does it hurt? That’s a question the civil rights icon Ruby Sales learned to ask during the days of that movement. It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now, but it gets at human dynamics that we are living and reckoning with. At a convening of 20 theologians seeking to reimagine the public good of theology for this century, Ruby Sales unsettles some of what we think we know about the force of religion in civil rights history, and names a “spiritual crisis of white America” as a calling of this time.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Turkey Is Supporting the Syrian Jihadis Washington Says It Wants to Fight
On August 24, Turkey invaded Jarabulus, a Syrian border town held by ISIS, with great fanfare: several hundred Turkish soldiers, twenty tanks, and 1,500 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters from Islamist militias. In reality, the whole battle was a fake. ISIS had quietly left town several days before, and the difference between this and their usual behavior convinced some observers, particularly the Kurds, that their exit was coordinated with Ankara.
While the mainstream media saw that Erdogan’s real purpose was to go after the Kurds, and noted that it is problematic for the United States to be allied with two parties that are fighting each other, US coverage of Syria has overwhelmingly focused on either the war or state politics. It has thus failed to look hard at the Erdogan government’s support of jihadis, or to ask what they have in common—whether or not Turkey is a NATO member.
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A message from our friends at the Beloved Community Center
A vision came to life on Monday, September 12th, 2016, in 31 state capitols across the Nation; the vision of a National Day of Moral Action took place and had a major impact all over the country especially in North Carolina.
Over 300 people gathered in Raleigh, NC on this important day in the history of the United States led by Rev. Barber who has had a vision in his heart for the last several years to raise the moral level of our state in quest of a more just nation and a more peaceful world. That vision was reflected in HKonJ and Moral Monday. More recently, he established a mission to systematically expand the work in NC and to inject into the current political debate the importance of helping the nation to view issues through a moral lens. He developed a plan called the “Moral Revival,” in which he and several other clergy traveled the nation, preaching that moral imperative. As part of that plan, he led in forming the National Day of Moral Action. From that flowed many, many tasks.
The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutality
evolution in the 21st Century Anthology
…or the classic, Conversations in Maine