An interesting conjunction of events -a nationwide protest against California’s recent vote against gay marriage falling on Jane Addams day, December 10, the state holiday marking the date that Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
Gay rights advocates including the Gay Liberation Network protest at the Cook County Marriage License Bureau, 118 N. Clark, at 11 a.m.; Mirian Wright Edelman of Children’s Defense Fund speaks at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted, at 4 p.m.
Historians debate whether Addams had a lesbian relationship or a “romantic friendship” with her companion Mary Rozet Smith; talking to Newstips in 2006, when the state holiday was inaugurated, Addams Museum director Lisa Yun Lee said Addams and her colleagues at Hull House “redefined domestic space and intimate relationships” in ways that supported women as public actors.
As Lee pointed out, Addams’ work is incredibly relevant to today’s struggles — she led efforts for labor organization and immigrant rights and against war, while experimenting with domestic politics, providing sex education for youth and advocating for legalizing birth control.
A civil rights activist and attorney in the South in the 1960s, Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. She’ll be reading from her new book, The Sea Is Wide and My Boat Is So Small, described as “a series of letters to a variety of audiences—educators, faith leaders, youth, mothers, elected officials and concerned citizens nationwide—that reflect on the social and economic progress as well as the setbacks since [Martin Luther] King’s death 40 years ago.”
Black lesbians and gays are planning a March for Unity and Respect on Halsted Street on June 21 in response to what they say is increased harassment of black youth in the area.
The Coalition for Justice and Respect and other groups are holding a press conference Wednesday, June 3 at 9:30 a.m. on the second floor of City Hall to announce a “series of community responses” to increased harassment.
There’s already been a number of meetings on the issue, including one at the Center on Halsted where police said there was no evidence that black and Latino youth gathering in the area were engaging in criminal activity, said Marc Loveless of CJR.
He said the groups will seek an editorial board meeting with the Sun-Times to discuss a recent Laura Washington column that accused young minority gays of “hustling.”
“Historically, there’s always been an issue of prostitution on that street,” said Loveless.”If you want to deal with prostitution, deal with prostitution; if you want to deal with curfew violations, deal with curfew violations.But do it in a direct and efficient way — don’t try to tag these kids with it, just because they’re more visible because they’re black.That’s reprehensible.”
The young people that area business owners on the street are complaining about are mainly 18 to 21, he said — adults who are too young to get in the bars in the area.
“They’re being treated like they’re a threat — and if we just stand by and let that happen, we’re part of the problem,” Loveless said.
A social justice teach-in this Saturday is aimed at people who are interested in getting involved and at long-time activists who may be seeking renewal.
It’s sponsored by Affinity Community Services, a grassroots organization serving Chicago’s black lesbian and bisexual women’s community, and it’s open to anyone, said Dr. Flecia Thomas of Affinity.
“We want to try to create a pipeline of people coming into social justice work as an ongoing endeavor,” said Thomas. The theme is “choosing your role, finding your passion.”
Workshops will cover modes of activism, from writing and spoken word to organizing protest actions. One workshop will look at the continuing relevance of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Two leading activist academics, Cathy Cohen and Barbara Ransby, will give keynotes. The event will also include a resource fair with local and national organizations working on social justice.
Thomas said response to the program has been strong, and interested people are urged to preregister at the group’s website.
Now 12 years old, Affinity serves as a community center, with health and career programming and networking groups for younger and older women. There’s a weekly drumming circle and an annual “burning bowl” ceremony of renewal, family picnics and an annual camping trip. The group’s social justice committee “promotes black pride along with gay pride,” Thomas said.
The teach-in takes place Saturday, May 17, 1 to 5 p.m. at First Unitarian Church, 5650 S. Woodlawn.
A town hall meeting on issues facing lesbian, gay and transgender immigrants next week will raise the profile of a group whose concerns are sometimes overlooked by both the gay rights and the immigrant rights movements, organizers say.
The program, Tuesday, June 12, 6 p.m., at Acme Art Works, 1741 N. Western, is the first of a series of events planned by the Chicago LGBTQ Immigrant Alliance (CLIA), a coalition that held its first town hall meeting last year.
“Immigration reform is among the most intensely debated topics today,” said Yasmin Nair of CLIA, “but many immigrants who identify as LGBTQ find that their stories and struggles with immigration are not reflected in the national debate.”
Jonathan Eoloff of the National Immigrant Justice Center will discuss prospects for the increasing number of people seeking asylum in the U.S. because they face persecution in their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Debanuj DasGupta of Queers for Economic Justice will speak about the ban on immigration by people with HIV.
The HIV ban is counterproductive, Nair argues, since it “stigmatizes people with HIV” and often “drives them underground,” discouraging immigrants from seeking testing and treatment for fear of deportation, and thus contributing to the spread of the disease.
The CLIA town hall is co-sponsored by the Association of Latino Men for Action, Amigas Latinas, Latinos Progresando, Orgullo en Acción, Radio Arte/Homofrecuencia and the National Immigrant Justice Center.