Friday, May 25, 2012

New Video: The "Temporary" Memorial

It stood in the center of the plaza between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Miraculously, when the Towers fell on 9/11, it survived, battered, but unbowed. Just as did New York City itself.

When the city quickly needed a memorial to the thousands of victims, it was the obvious choice. It was well known, damaged yet still beautiful and entirely secular in its nature (unlike the famous cross-shaped steel structural members found in the rubble).

Six months after the worst terrorist attack in history against the USA, while the former World Trade Center was still being excavated for human remains, it was rededicated as a memorial in Battery Park several blocks to the south of its former home.

The city even added an eternal flame, all the while knowing it was only temporary.

The Sphere after the destruction.

Today, it's gone, removed so that the park's lawns can be renovated.

Where is it going?

In a statement released on May 12, PA Executive Director Pat Foye said, "Next week, the Port Authority will announce a new temporary home for the Koenig Sphere, the iconic bronze sculpture that miraculously survived the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. We have worked tirelessly to find a new, accessible public space for this important symbol of hope amid devastation. We believe this sculpture should continue to reside in a location where New Yorkers and people from around the region, nation and the world can view this important reminder of survival and resilience." But despite this promise, as of 5/25 there has still been no announcement of The Sphere's new home.

One thing is certain: It will not be a part of the 9/11 Memorial, which has hosted almost 2.5 million visitors since opening 9/11/11.

"We fully, 100% support The Sphere being kept outside in a way the public can experience whenever they want to, but it's not going to be incorporated in the eight-acre memorial plaza," National 9/11 Memorial and Museum president Joe Daniels told Community Board 1 at a May 14 meeting.

Architect Michael Arad's concept for the 9/11 Memorial Park is somewhat antiseptic, and the PA feels that the battered Sphere would clash with his design. The PA's decision isn't sitting too well with area residents and the families of the fallen.

Michael Burke, who lost his firefighter son in the tragedy, started an online petition which has garnered thousands of signatures asking that The Sphere be returned to its original location. "Putting The Sphere anywhere else denies its meaning and... betrays the innocents who perished on 9/11... I would just ask to keep 9/11 all in one place, where it belongs.

Daniels commitment to keeping The Sphere "outside" makes it clear that the PA is also not considering including it in the collection of artifacts to be displayed in the museum.

So for the time being, it looks as though 45,000 pound, 25 feet tall bronze sculpture is going to go back into storage at Hanger 17 in JFK International Airport. The "eternal" flame has been extinguished.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rep. Clyburn Comes Out in Support of Marriage Equality on a National Level

Going even farther than President Obama, today Congressman James Clyburn  (D-SC) said that he believes legal recognition of Marriage Equality should not be left to state laws, but instead ought to be decided at the national level.

Clyburn told NBC's Chuck Todd, "If we consider this to be a civil right - and I do - I don't think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach. I think we should have a national policy on this."

"Sometimes it takes the federal government to step into the breach to resolve many of these issues," Clyburn continued.

Video of the full interview:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Newsweek Blows It Again!

The cover for the next issue of Newsweek (not even on the stands yet) is already causing some consternation in the LGBTQ community.

Just as many persons of color found it inherently condescending when Bill Clinton was referred to as the first Black President, so too will many LGBTQs find this to be insulting. Despite his statement of personal support for the concept of Marriage Equality, his insistence that it is still a matter of States Rights over Civil Rights has many of the people he expected to come to his side in support continuing to challenge him. We want to know, if he truly believes that we should all be treated equally under the law, why does he still refuse to sign the Executive Order that has been waiting on his desk for 3 years now and ban discrimination against LGBTQ employees by Federal contractors?

Even among those in the community who have vocally expressed their gratitude and support for the President for his interview the other day, few believe he has achieved the status of Sainthood this cover implies.

But more troubling (to me, at least) is that this cover reveals the complete lack of any appreciation of American history that one should expect from a publication that would like us to consider it as a reputable source of news.

At least, at the time people were referring to Bill Clinton as the first Black President, we had never had one. But we HAVE had a gay President!

Leaving aside the speculation about Abraham Lincoln for now (speculation being given increasing attention in academic circles) there is very little doubt in the minds of all but the most homophobic historians that James Buchanan was gay.

Even Wikipedia, notorious for trying to whitewash their biographies of LGBTQ people (as if a President who has been dead for over one-hundred years were going to threaten a lawsuit, a la Tom Cruise or John Travolta) tacitly acknowledges the fact that he was, at the least, bisexual. From their biography:

For fifteen years in Washington, D.C., before his presidency, Buchanan lived with his close friend, Alabama Senator William Rufus King... Buchanan's and King's close relationship prompted Andrew Jackson to call King "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy", while Aaron V. Brown spoke of the two as "Buchanan and his wife." Some of the contemporary press also speculated about Buchanan's and King's relationship. The two men's nieces destroyed their uncles' correspondence, leaving some questions about their relationship; but the length and intimacy of surviving letters illustrate "the affection of a special friendship", and Buchanan wrote of his "communion" with his housemate. In May 1844, during one of King's absences that resulted from King's appointment as minister to France, Buchanan wrote to a Mrs. Roosevelt, "I am now 'solitary and alone', having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone, and [I] should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection."

"I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen... not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection..."  Is there any other rational way to interpret these quotes other than as revealing the depth of his relationship with King?

Maybe we should all chip in and buy Andrew Sullivan and his editors at Newsweek copies of a few American history books!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Exclusive Video - ACT UP's 25th Anniversary Commemoration

On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, ACT UP NY   commemorated its 25th anniversary with a march on Wall Street, returning to the scene of their first demonstration on March 24, 1987. Joined by Occupy Wall Street, Queering OWS, Housing Works, Queerocracy, Fed Up Queers, and others, the activists are demanding the passage of a Financial Speculation Tax (better known as the Robin Hood Tax) to fill AIDS funding gaps.

During the course of the day's events, 19 protesters were arrested for acts of civil disobedience. Traffic on Broadway was halted twice. Demonstrators, chained together, formed a line across the avenue. After the NYPD had cleared the street, another group blocked traffic again, this time by dragging furniture into the street to illustrate the plight of the many homeless people who are infected with HIV, forced to live in the streets because they are unable to get adequate support from HASA (NYC's HIV/AIDS Services Administration).

(More on this story below, after our exclusive video coverage of the protests.)

ACT UP at 25 from David Wallace on Vimeo.

Representing those charged, noted attorney Richard A. Luthmann stated, "The District Attorney's office has made no offers of outright dismissal with respect to the 19 arrested at the ACT UP protest. What is clear is that anything less than an outright dismissal of all the pending charges shows a failure of District Attorney [Cyrus] Vance's office to recognize the pivotal significance that ACT UP has had in combatting the global AIDS pandemic for tyhe past quarter-century towards bring about the day when AIDS is no more... ACT UP has had a seat at the table in informing and molding public health policy in every Presidential administration, with the United Nations and with the World Health Organization. The group remains a powerful force for social justice and change, and we are going to assure that they are treated fairly."

ABOUT THE FINANCIAL SPECULATION TAX: The FiST would not target individual investors and would not affect regular banking transactions. It would place a small tax on speculative trading by Wall Street investment banks, hedge funds and other large financial institutions, the kind of transactions that largely precipitated the economic recession of the last few years. Nine member-nations of the European Union are currently considering such a tax, and the International Monetary Fund agrees that such a tax would not have a negative impact on domestic financial markets in countries in which it is implemented.