Protecting You and Your Neighbors on November 16

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Voters in Orleans Parish will have the opportunity on November 16 (or, if they’re early voting from Nov 2-9) to add an amendment to the New Orleans City Charter to create a Human Rights Commission.

Ballot language for HRC Amendment – Art. V, Secs. 5-1101 through 5-1103 – CC:

Shall Article V of the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans be amended to add Sections 5-1101 through 5-1103 thereto to create a local Human Rights Commission to safeguard all individuals in the City of New Orleans from discrimination and to exercise all powers, duties, and functions provided by applicable state and municipal law?

Currently, New Orleans has a Human Relations Commission, established by ordinance in 1991. We should be rightly proud of a forward thinking City Council that created this advisory body to prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing. Unfortunately, though, because of a court injunction, the existing ordinance has no process for enforcement. It means that if a resident has experienced discrimination, their options are to file an expensive lawsuit on their own or navigate a complex patchwork of federal and state enforcement bodies.

Louisiana state law (LA Rev Stat § 51:2236-2241 (2017)) allows cities to create a local human rights commission. Such a commission would provide a single place for New Orleanians to file discrimination complaints. State law outlines the administrative process, so complaints can be investigated and, many times, resolved through mediation and education instead of through expensive litigation. Should the arbitration not resolve the issue, a charter-recognized commission would be empowered to draft a finding of the violation of law and send it to Civil District Court for enforcement.

I support creating a Human Rights Commission in the City Charter because I believe doing so will better protect residents from discrimination and strengthen the New Orleans’ human rights laws.

For those who scoff at the need for such a commission in this day and age, I believe even a single discrimination complaint is a stain on New Orleans reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to visit or to stay. In fact, the 2018 Annual Report of the Human Relations Commission reports 25 discrimination complaints, clearly showing why we need to create a commission that can investigate, mediate and resolve discrimination complaints.

To those who fear additional litigation arising from this amendment, human rights commissions can often resolve discrimination complaints before they get to court, providing businesses and employers with an option to address issues and receive training.

I urge you to vote yes for the Human Rights Commission Amendment on November 16 to protect your rights and those of your neighbors.

Toward that end, I’m working with the Greater New Orleans Human Rights Coalition (www.gnohrc.org) for passage of this important ballot measure. Individuals, activists, business groups, LGBTQ organizations and civil rights groups all have stake in this initiative. Together, we can help safeguard everyone who calls New Orleans home.

Further information on this and other ballot measures is available from ActionNewOrleans.

Storm Prep Tips on Katrina’s Anniversary

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It has been 14 years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall and just a few days before Hurricane Dorian comes ashore in Florida. Over the past few years, I’ve collected some tips on storm preparation that some might find helpful. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments, as we learn best from each other.

Let’s start with that old joke about not being able to boil water – if true, New Orleans may not be the best place to live. We spend lots of time making our water holy by boiling the hell out of it and that is outside of storm events!

Under a boil water advisory, you want to make sure you boil tap water for 1 full minute – start your time after the water is boiling. If using unsafe water, boil for at least 10 minutes or chemically disinfect it by using 5 drops of liquid household bleach to each gallon of water and let sit for at least 30 minutes for disinfection to be completed.

Take a good volume of clean water and freeze it. I use two five gallon containers and freeze one a few days before the storm for transferring to the fridge before landfall (or before going to bed when the storm is about to hit) and then putting another in its place to freeze. It will keep the fridge cool plus give chilled drinking water as it melts. I also use frozen water bottles to fill every nook and cranny in my freezer so that things will stay colder longer.

Plan on enough water for you and each of your family members, including pets, for a minimum of 72 hours. That is about 1 gallon per person per day for three days. I stock up on bottles of water that go on sale immediately after the last emergency. Restock your bottled water once per year.

As there ain’t no party like a hurricane party, stock up on the adult beverages, too. Beer is good to have on hand but it isn’t particularly good warm, so it will need to be consumed first. Then, be sure to have the makings for mixed drinks. Consider making a vat of hurricanes or other themed drinks. Just scale up from this recipe on making a single hurricane serving – mix together one part lemon juice, one part dark or spiced rum, one part light rum, one part passion fruit or pineapple juice, and one part orange juice. You’ll want to serve that with ice, so be sure you have a cooler of ice for drinks. Sipping whiskeys and red wines are also good, as they don’t require ice. Of course, please drink responsibly and make sure there is plenty of extra water as alcohol dehydrates the body.

I have a small cooler that I fill with ice and call it my washcloth cooler – there is nothing like a cool cloth to wipe your face when you’ve gone hours with no air conditioning. Rinse off the washcloth before dropping it back in the cooler.

Fill the bathtub with water. I am a big proponent of the Water Bob as it keeps 100 gallons of water fresh and clean up to 16 weeks! Use open bathtub water for cleaning and flushing the toilet but don’t drink it as it could have soap scum, dust and debris in it.

Bathe and do all your laundry ahead of the storm. During a boil water advisory, you don’t want to be putting that water on your body, hair or clothes.

In lieu of using too much clean water for bathing, fill a spray bottle with 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol and your favorite essential oil so you can spritz that on your clothing and on your body to refresh yourself and take the stink off. My favorites are rosemary and lemon.

Have a big bottle of mouthwash to use instead of water for brushing your teeth – dip your toothbrush in a small glass of mouthwash, brush, then rinse your mouth out with mouthwash. I keep a bottle of water next to sink to rinse the brush (and to wash hands after using the toilet).

Do not walk, wade or, God-forbid, swim in flood waters. E. coli, Salmonella, Giardia, Hepatitis A & C and all the other horrible bacteria in the waters can cause serious illness and even death. If you do end up in the floodwater, change your clothing and wash yourself immediately. Before the flooding happens, get your tetanus shot renewed. Be very careful cleaning up after flooding as the danger isn’t over just because the water went down. See this OSHA fact sheet.

Do not drive in flood waters – you don’t know how deep the water could be or if the road has been washed out underneath. If you have to go through standing water, do not drive more than 5 miles per hour. Not only is driving any faster unsafe and illegal but it pushes water into nearby homes and businesses.

For Orleans Parish, view reports of street flooding at http://streetwise.nola.gov.

Stock up on fresh, dried and canned fruit, dehydrated meals, shelf stable non-dairy milk products like almond milk, breads, trail mix, jerky, MRE’s and other food products that don’t require refrigeration. Have plenty of snacks and comfort foods as most folks tend to stress eat during this time. If you’re a coffee addict and don’t like instant, grind coffee for “stovetop coffee” or invest in a percolator or French Press.

Know how to locate the valve behind your stove or other gas-run appliances (like water heaters) and turn it OFF in the event of flooding.

Check to make sure you have charcoal and other supplies for your grill if you’ve got an electric stove or want to keep the heat of cooking outside of your house. After 48 hours without power, start cooking from your freezer (try not to open it before then). This is a good time to work with your neighbors and have a block party to share perishable goods before they go bad.

Charge all devices and charge your backup phone batteries. If you have a generator, run a test of it and make sure you have plenty of fuel for it. If you have a car, make sure it has a full tank of gas and the battery is charged.

Flashlights are great (with extra batteries) and candles give a lovely glow once the power goes out. Of course, pillar candles dedicated to the patron saints of flooding (St Florian) and storms (St Medard or St Walpurga) and New Orleans (Joan of Arc or Our Lady of Prompt Succor) help ensure you’re well covered and well lit for all contingencies.

Unplug everything if the waters rise. I usually unplug small appliances ahead of the storm so I don’t have to run around at the last minute. Roll up area rugs and put them up out of the water’s way or use them as barriers around doors.

Gather all your pertinent documents – passport, birth certificate, banking info, proof of residence, car registration, all insurance documents, etc into a waterproof folder and know exactly where it is. Take this with you when you leave.

Prep a go bag or bug out bag with clothes, medicines, food, reading materials, etc in case you have to leave in a hurry. Pack one for each family member (including your pets) so you don’t have to rush around at the last minute or, worse, have to make a run to the store after driving for hours because someone forgot their underwear.

If you do evacuate, prep your house by securing your trash cans and any outside furniture or plants. Also, freeze a cup of water in your refrigerator freezer. Before you head out, set a quarter on top of it. Check for melting once you return: if the quarter is still on top when you come home, all is well. In fact, your food is probably safe to eat if the quarter is only 1/3 down the cup. If it is halfway down or on the bottom, your food was unrefrigerated for too long and is not safe to eat.

Resources for hurricane preparedness/updates:

Department of Homeland Security Disaster Guide
www.Ready.gov

State of Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Guide
http://gohsep.la.gov/Portals/0/Documents/Prevent/2016EmergencyGuide_English.pdf

American Red Cross Mobile Phone App
http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps

National Weather Service Radar Loop
https://radar.weather.gov/ridge/radar_lite.php?rid=LIX&product=N0R&loop=yes

Parish government webpages:

Orleans Parish
www.ready.nola.gov

Jefferson Parish
www.jeffparish.net

St. Bernard Parish
https://sbpg.net/165/Homeland-Security-Emergency-Preparedness

Plaquemines Parish
http://plaqueminesparish.com/homeland-security-emergency-preparedness/

Tangipahoa Parish
www.tangisafe.com

St. Tammany Parish
http://www.stpgov.org/residents/emergency-preparedness

Washington Parish
http://www.washingtonparishalerts.org/emergency-updates.html

Let me know your tips. Oh, and if you’re having a hurricane party, be sure to invite me.

Congratulations to the 2019 Goldie Winners

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Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists of the Golden Crown Literary Society Goldie Awards.   

Debut Novel

Chasing Stars by Alex K. Thorne

Compass Rose by Anna Burke

The Music and the Mirror by Lola Keeley

Combined Non-Fiction

The Liberation of Ivy Bottini: A Memoir of Love and Activism by Judith V. Branzburg

Romantic Blend

Ask Me Again by E. J. Noyes

Chasing Stars by Alex K. Thorne

My Lady Lipstick by Karin Kallmaker

Humorous Novels

Great Bones by Lynn Ames

Contemporary Romance: Short

Breakthrough by Kris Bryant

The Neighbor by Gerri Hill

The Promise by Claire Highton-Stevenson

Poetry Poems/collections

Lovely by Leslea Newman

Mystery/Thriller/Crime

Alias by Cari Hunter

What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka

Young Adult/New Adult

Snowsisters by Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick

Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length

A Wish Upon a Star by Jeannie Levig

Blend by Georgia Beers

Love At Cooper’s Creek by Missouri Vaun

Pursuit of Happiness by Carsen Taite

Paranormal/Occult/Horror

Gnarled Hollow by Charlotte Greene

Erotic Novels

Breaking the Rules by Larkin Rose

General Fiction

Bird on a Wire by Tagan Shepard

Perfect Little Worlds by Clifford Henderson

Fiction Anthologies

Language of Love by Astrid Ohletz & Lee Winter

Historical Fiction

Lies of Omission by Elena Graf

Contemporary Romance: Long

Gold by E. J. Noyes

It’s Not a Date by Heather Blackmore

Just for Show by Jae

Three Reasons to Say Yes by Jaime Clevenger

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Lucky 7 by Rae D. Magdon

Proxima Five by Missouri Vaun

Waking the Dreamer by K. Aten

Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award

A Proper Cuppa Tea by KG MacGregor

Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design

2 Degrees cover by Ann McMan

Directors’ Award

Jenny Fielder

Lee Lynch Classic Award

Loving Her by Ann Allen Shockley

Trail Blazer Award

Sandra Scoppettone

Many of the books many be purchased at Bella Books or other fine retailers.

Next year’s GCLS Literary Conference will be held in Albuquerque, NM, beginning on Wednesday, July 8, 2020 and ending on Sunday, July 12, 2020. More info may be found HERE.

The Star-Spangled 4th of July Marathon Reading of the Complete Mueller Report

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How will you be spending the Fourth of July?

Me? I will be reading a portion of the Mueller report. The readings will run from 6am on July 4th until 2am on July 5th. My reading time is scheduled for 6pm. Event organizer, Michael Martin, will perform the report’s redactions as Russian folklore character Baba Yaga.

There will be music, food and drink available throughout the day. The Facebook event is HERE

This event is a benefit for ACLU Louisiana. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Buy tickets at : impeachableyou.brownpapertickets.com

Event location:
HappyLand Theater (Venue information)
3126 Burgundy St
New Orleans, LA 70116

We got a write up in Gambit!

I hope to see you there for food, music, fun and freedom!

Someday There Will Be Hell To Pay

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During the 2019 Legislative Session that ended on June 6, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill that will prohibit an abortion after six weeks, before many women even know that they’re pregnant.

His signature on the misleadingly called heartbeat bill came after legislators in the Louisiana Senate voted 31 to 5 in favor of the bill and the Louisiana House voted 79 to 23 to pass measure. In both the Senate and House, the measure passed with the support of more than a dozen Democrats (and it was authored by a Democrat, too).

Lawmakers, including the author, rejected amendments that would have added an exception to the ban for cases of rape and incest. Perhaps its one saving grace is the law will only go into effect if a federal appeals court upholds a similar law in Mississippi

Worst of all, the bill is meaningless and duplicative. Back in 2006, then Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco signed an act to ban abortions, with the only exception being when a mother’s life is in danger. That Act will go into immediate effect if the Supreme Court reverses the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision. By the way, Act 467 was also authored by a Democrat and passed the Louisiana House with a vote of 85-17 and the Senate with a vote of 30-7. Blanco, too, is a Democrat.

Further, voters will also be asked to amend the constitution in November 2020. HB 425 would change the state constitution to say there is no right to an abortion. That bill was authored by Democrat Katrina Jackson and passed with overwhelming majorities in the House (81-10) and Senate (31-4), including a number of Democrats.

Because Louisiana is already one of four so-called “trigger” states that already have passed legislation that would outlaw nearly all abortions, I can’t help feeling that current attacks on abortion are less about protecting life than a cynical plan to force Louisiana’s Democratic governor to either lose his base of supporters in metro areas with a signature or to lose the rest of the state with a veto.

The Machiavellian strategy behind this bill could cost us a governor who brought medicaid expansion, criminal justice reform including reducing prison populations and unanimous juries, domestic violence reform, teacher pay raises and educational improvements, an executive order protecting LGBTQ public employees from discrimination and a budget surplus to our state.

Those are gains for all Louisianans. A Republican governor would most certainly roll back what John Bel Edwards has achieved.

Unfortunately, I can’t dismiss what happened as just some evil plot foisted on the women of this state by the GOP because these bills were written by Democrats, voted on by both Democrats and Republicans and signed by a Democrat. I can’t put this entirely on male legislators who devalue a women’s bodily integrity and decision making ability because women were involved in every aspect of getting the pro-birth bills from this legislative session passed.

I could put it on a fiercely anti-scientific bias (Milkovich, the heartbeat bill’s author, said on the Senate floor, “Many of you may know some of the leading researchers in America say that autism is a result of vaccination. Did you know tissue from aborted babies is now used in vaccines. Did you know that vaccines use aluminum which is shown to be a neurotoxin? Did you know vaccines in America is preserved often with mercury, which is beyond neurotoxic?”) because a six week fetus is not a baby and it does not have a heartbeat:

At six weeks’ gestation, there is only a “fetal pole,” an area alongside the yolk sac that extends from one end of an embryo to the other. It for damn sure should not have more rights than the breathing, thinking, voting woman who is carrying it.

While I would have liked to see John Bel Edwards at least have sent the bill back to the legislature asking for exceptions for rape and incest, I also knew what I was getting when I first voted for a pro-life candidate for governor. As someone who has personally benefited from Medicaid expansion, I will be voting for him again this Fall.

I support the national Democratic party platform – every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion. I just wish more Louisiana Democrats did as well.

Therefore, I will work to elect more pro-choice and women candidates across the state. Because someday, maybe not tomorrow but soon, there will be hell to pay.

Saints and Sinners Sweet Sixteen

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It was my pleasure to spend the last weekend of March at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. Paul Willis and his merry band put on another great gathering of LGBTQ author luminaries, queer emerging authors and many other artists and allies. On the schedule were master classes, panels and reading series, so plenty from which to listen and learn.

It was great to see so many friends and to make more as I interacted at the conference. Of course, I also had to put more items on my to-be-read list after hearing writers read from their works or rave about things they had read.

I read from my third book, In the Midst of Tribulation, on a rainy Sunday morning. Other writers reading at that time were Dale Corvino, Lewis DeSimone, Fay Jacobs, Felice Picano and Bryan Washington (who won the Emerging Writer Award later that afternoon).

Additionally, I was on a panel on the Power of Love and Desire with Kimberly Dark, Karelia Stetz-Waters, Rick Reed and Lewis DeSimone, moderated by David Pratt. Our conversation meandered from erotica to romance to tropes and everything in between.

A highlight from the weekend:

Dykes to watch out for

We were in the presence of giants with a great panel of lesbian literary foremothers – Dorothy Allison, Blanche McCrary Boyd, and Judy Grahn, moderated by the incomparable Cheryl Head. They talked about lesbian literature then and now, shared stories of their lives and challenged us all.

  • Question from Judy Grahn on what drives the movement, “Power is ranged against us. How do we replace it?”
  • Questions from Dorothy Allison for us all: “Did I tell my truth? Did I take enough risks?”
  • Question from Blanche McCrary Boyd – “What is the next right thing to do?”

The festival ended on Sunday afternoon with the inductees of the Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame. Hosted by humorist Fay Jacobs, the ceremony saw Michael Cunningham, Judy Grahn, Cheryl Head and Frank Perez join an elite group that includes the following:

If I’ve made you jealous, consider coming to New Orleans next year. The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival for 2020 will be held on March 27-29. I hope to see you there!

safest.org

Made for Radio

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I had a lovely conversation last week on WHIV 102.3 FM. The PFLAG-New Orleans sponsored radio show is called Expanding the Rainbow. Hosts Sally Jackson and Joshua (Adonis) Carcabasis. led us in dialogue through the recent kerfuffle with the Orleans Parish School Board elections, the government shutdown and several other topics in between.

Here is the show: January 24, 2019 Expanding the Rainbow Show

Follow PFLAG New Orleans on Facebook and support their work in providing this community programming and those scholarships.

Thanks so much to Sally and Joshua for such a fun morning!

I am as independent as a hog on the ice

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On March 15, 1864, Lyons Wakeman marched with her unit some 700 miles from Washington, DC to Louisiana to take part in the Red River Campaign. The 153rd New York Infantry Regiment saw action at the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9, 1864. The Union army technically won but was forced to retreat back down the Red River near Natchitoches, fighting another engagement at Monett’s Bluff on April 23rd.

In a letter home, Wakeman wrote, “I was under fire about four hours and laid on the field of battle all night. There was three wounded in my Co. and one killed…”*

Because of tainted water, many soldiers of that time period who survived the battles, came down with dysentery. On May 3, Wakeman reported to the regimental hospital, suffering from chronic diarrhea. She was transferred to the hospital in New Orleans and on June 19, 1864, she died.

Yes, I wrote she died.

Lyons Wakeman was the name Sarah Rosetta Wakeman used to enlist and fight in the US Civil War. She was one of 400 women believed to have done so. They joined for many of the same reasons men did – adventure and opportunity, the money, love of country and/or love of another. Wakeman was impressed by the signing bonus of $152 and that she was able to send money home to help pay her family’s debts while still having spending money of her own.

She was also one of the 620,000 soldiers who died during the conflict. Most casualties and deaths in the Civil War were the result of non-combat-related disease. For every three soldiers killed in battle, five more died of disease.

She was buried under the name Private Lyons Wakeman in Section 52, plot 4066 at the Chalmette National Cemetery outside of New Orleans. Only when her letters home were discovered in an attic was her identity revealed. They give great insight into the daily life of a civil war soldier, who just happened to be a woman and who “could drill as well any man.”*

My friend, Charlotte, and I drove over to the cemetery the other day to find her burial place. It was a cold day but a good time to learn a little more about our history and how many different ways women contributed to the making of these United States.

I thank them all for their service.

 

*The blog title and quotes come from her letters home. Read more in An Uncommon Soldier by Lauren Cook Burgess

Survival Swimming for Democrats

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Tuesday’s midterms saw all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of 100 seats in the Senate up for grabs.

Democrats won the 218 seats needed to take control of the House of Representatives. More than 100 women will sit in Congress for the first time ever.

Additionally, Democrats won control of the governor’s offices in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

National turnout for the election was 49% of eligible voters. The last time a midterm election hit this level of turnout was 1966!

All of the above occurred in spite of GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts. In fact, ten million more people voted Democratic in this election. And yet, Republicans retained their Senate majority and still reelected many incumbents to House seats (like here in Louisiana).

In many states, the progressive vote was deliberately depressed by the way district maps were drawn after the last census. The good news is there is another census coming up. It is essential that Democrats are part of the process when new boundaries are discussed and that only happens if there are more Democrats in Governor mansions and state legislatures.

So what can we do?

Let’s start by taking a lesson from survival swimming. Even strong swimmers who get caught in ocean rip tides or river undercurrents can tire easily if they fight the water directly. There are several techniques swimmers can learn, from survival breathing to treading water to combat sidestroke in order to escape the dangerous current, without wasting excessive energy. Some of the same strategies will work for Democrats, too.

Concentrate on your breathing. Feeling like you’re drowning is a terrible sensation. Becoming mindful of your breathing leaves less room for things like panic, frustration and fear. So, breathe in for a count of four and hold it for a count of four. Then breathe out for another count of four. Wait for another count of four before breathing in again. Practice this breathing regularly and it will help you remain calm and rational when you feel like you’re being pummeled by the waves.

Celebrate how far we’ve come by looking at all the historic firsts. It gladdens my heart to see so many men and women of color, muslims, and LGBTQ candidates who jumped in feet first into unknown waters and just started swimming competitively. While not everything went smoothly, with this election, we are closer than ever before to having our elected representatives looking like the electorate they are supposed to serve. Plus, think of all those first time voters that took the plunge because of all the calls and outreach we did!

Capitalize on the current tidal momentum to increase voter registration. Our votes are our voices and thwarting attempts to disenfranchise voters matters. As an example, your local League of Women Voters will usually be able to send out folks to register voters if you give them enough lead time. Promote the businesses and groups who gave voters rides to the polls (like Lyft and Uber) so we can repeat for the next GOTV drive. Pay attention to efforts by the Secretary of State to close polling locations or locate them in remote, inaccessible locations. Call them out and drown them in a sea of bad publicity.

Collaborate with other progressives by joining Democratic political organizations. For instance, I’m active with the Independent Women’s Organization here in New Orleans. Being around like minded activists helps keep all of our heads above water. It also bring us allies in our individual battles and can be the difference between swimming and sinking. Showing up for each other is how we build movements and create change.

Become better candidates by working with organizations who develop campaign skills like Emerge (check out the one in your state, for example Emerge Louisiana) who focus on women or Democracy for America who train progressives. The Victory Institute trains LGBTQ candidates. Many state Democratic parties and the National Democratic Training Committee are also doing trainings. All these groups help candidates get their feet wet and become more viable by giving them the tools to run and win.

Don’t be discouraged that this election didn’t give us all the victories we hoped for. We are not a single wave. Instead, we are the ocean itself with many waves rising, cresting, falling and rising again. Political fortunes will ebb and flow but together, we can be the rising tide that lifts all the boats.

Who Is My Neighbor?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

For those who didn’t spend their childhood summers in Vacation Bible School, here is the Bible passage:

Luke 10:25-37 New King James Version 

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
So he answered and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certainSamaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

When I think of the priest passing the injured man by, I can’t help but think of the religious leaders who are providing cover and sanction to the current administration’s actions that are anything but merciful. They are very much guilty of crossing the road to avoid those wounded by the White House policies and the practical consequences of Trump’s bullying pulpit.

When I think of the Levite, I think of our lawgivers who showed such disdain and derision to survivors of sexual assault during the confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh. They, too, would walk on the other side from the injured. Heck, they might even think his condition is his fault for falling victim to thieves because of what he was wearing or if he had been drinking!

But when I think of the injured person, I can’t help but think of my transgender brothers and sisters who will be left as naked and vulnerable if the proposed change to federal legal protections becomes policy.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking to redefine sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.” The agency is promoting this redefinition of “sex” across other federal agencies, including the Departments of Justice, Housing, Education, and Labor, which implement and enforce key nondiscrimination laws across the country.

We who are cisgender are called now to step up to help create a safer and more just community for all LGBTQ people. We must express our personal support to our transgender friends and our opposition to elected officials and decision makers. During the comment period on the proposed federal regulations, follow the Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Transgender Equality for information on submitting comments opposing this policy change.

Organizations like the Louisiana Trans Advocates have put forth petitions, like this one, for us to stand with transgender Louisianans in their fight for core human rights of self-determination and expression. Check in your area and support your local trans rights organization.

Many cities are having solidarity marches (here is the link to one to be held in New Orleans on Saturday, October 27) and they are a good way to show up for our trans and gender non-conforming colleagues and community beyond just words.

They need for us to be Good Samaritans: to show up, to fight anti-trans prejudice and violence and to put our best efforts toward healing our world by loving our neighbors.

Together, we can make sure our trans loved ones will not be erased.

We’ve Got the Power Ebook Giveaway!

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I’ve joined with a great group of authors in giving out a collection of short stories in an ebook “We’ve Got the Power: Stories by Lesbians Who Vote” to anyone who posts a 2-part proof of voting. You can post on social media and put the link to it in the comments to this post and I’ll email you the link to download the ebook. You can also tag me on Facebook or Twitter and I will message you the link.

Here are the basics:
(1) Every photo should include either YOU, your PET, or a BOOK to make it personal

(2) Every photo should include ONE of these things to prove you’re ready to vote or have already voted
– your polling place
– your mail-in ballot (but not how you marked it)
– if you’ve already sent your ballot in, the place where you dropped it off
– if you vote online, the home page
– your voter registration card (no identifying info)
– your candidate T-shirt, hat, bumper sticker, yard sign
– your I Voted sticker
– anything else you can think of to show us that you VOTE

*Non-US voters: If the items on this list don’t apply to you, think of something that does. Remember to include (1) with your photo.

Please do not post the link I give you anywhere – we want to make sure we are getting proof of voting for every ebook that goes out. Thanks in advance!

Geaux Vote!

 

LesFic the Midterms – Stories of Lesbians Who Vote

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We’ve Got the Power!

Sixteen of your favorite lesbian authors (including myself) are rocking the midterms with a FREE collection of short stories to be given to those who exercise their power to vote.

Our vote is our best chance to have a say in the direction of our country, of our world. We’ll show our thanks for your vote with this compilation of stories about the power of democracy, the strength of women and a little lesbian lovin’ too.

Are you ready to vote? Heck, maybe you’ve already voted by mail or online. In any event, take a photo to prove it, but DON’T POST IT YET. We’ll let you know when and where.

Your photo must contain TWO things.*

(1) Every photo should include either YOU, your PET, or a BOOK to make it personal
(2) Every photo should include ONE of these things to prove you’re ready to vote or have already voted:
– your polling place
– your mail-in ballot (but not how you marked it)
– if you’ve already sent your ballot in, the place where you dropped it off
– if you vote online, the home page
– your voter registration card (no identifying info)
– your candidate T-shirt, hat, bumper sticker, yard sign
– your I Voted sticker
– anything else you can think of to show us that you VOTE

*Non-US voters: If the items on this list don’t apply to you, think of something that does. Remember to include (1) with your photo.

So get your photo ready now. As soon as our short story collection is formatted for ebook, we’ll ask you to post your photo. Then we’ll send you the ebook FREE.

Here is the beautiful cover by the marvelous Ann McMan (who is so talented she also has a story in the collection).

Other authors include:
Tracey Richardson
KG MacGregor
Marianne K Martin
Celeste Castro
Carolyn Elizabeth
Liana Villeneuve
Cheryl A. Head
J.E. Knowles
Cade Haddock Strong
Susan X Meagher
Cindy Rizzo
Rachel Spangler
Me – Mary Griggs
Jaime Clevenger
Renée Bess

 

Make sure you’re registered to vote and #GeauxVote!

To get non-partisan election information, contact your local League of Women Voters

There are also LGBTQ equality organizations in every state (check out this list of member organizations from Equality Federation), many of whom provide endorsements. I serve on the board for Forum for Equality PAC in Louisiana and our endorsements can be found HERE.

There are a number of progressive organizations across the nation that provide endorsements. I also serve on the board of the Independent Women’s Organization and our endorsements can be found HERE.

Together, we can Crush the Midterms!

Words matter

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Whether you realize it or not, you are friends and family with sexual assault survivors.

  • 25% of girls will experience teen dating violence.
  • Twenty to 25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape while at college.
  • 57% of the rape or sexual assaults against females were committed by an offender whom they knew. Strangers committed about one third (31%) of all rape/sexual assaults.
  • At least 33% of all sexual assault victims are male
  • 1 in 3 girls/women and 1 in 6 boys/men experience sexual assault

Today of all days, please choose your words wisely. Speak with empathy. Be kind to one another.

For those who have bravely come forward, I believe you. I stand with you.

For those who cannot come forward, I support your decision and completely understand it. In light of the spectacle being made of Dr Blasey Ford, it is a wonder why any sexual assault survivor has ever broken their silence.

And, for all of us, please make sure on election day that you

For those who need it: The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) runs a 24/7 hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

https://www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline

Enemies to Lovers

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I’m not sure how many are playing Lesbian Book Bingo but Jae has posted the reading list for the “enemies to lovers” romance category on her blog. My book, Crash Stop, is one of the recommended reads.

Here’s the link to the blog post:

https://jae-fiction.com/enemies-to-lovers-romances-lesbian-book-bingo-17/

I hope you play to win the game!

Remarks at IWO Annual Brunch

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One of the organizations I belong to had its Annual Brunch today. The Independent Women’s Organization is a Democratic women’s organization that has its roots back to 1939. I joined when it revived after Hurricane Katrina and recently rejoined the board.

For our event, we had as keynote speaker, Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge. She gave a powerful talk that started with a recitation of the brilliant poem, “And the Women Gathered” by Gloria Wade-Gayles. From there, her speech covered everything from the biblical queen, Esther, to the fictional (but incredibly powerful) Dora Milaje, and served as a call to action for women and Democrats.

I was honored to give the closing remarks for the afternoon’s program.

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Photo Credit – Lynda Woolard

Thank you, Congresswoman Fudge.

Building on what she said, I will speak briefly on how we can best use our power heading into November.

Democracy itself is on the ballot. The 2020 census is just around the corner. Our state representatives are the ones who get to redraw the boundaries of their voting districts. And, when we get the chance, we need make sure we vote blue!

There is some good election news. The Louisiana Democratic party reports a Democrat running for Congress in each district. In fact, nearly 300 more Democrats qualified for the ballot than Republicans in the upcoming elections.

We must support Democrats running for office in November. They need our money, our making phone calls, our knocking on doors and mobilizing our friends and colleagues to get to the polls and vote.

Many of y’all are familiar with the phrase, “Vote early, vote often.” Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t mean getting the dead to vote. It means making voting a habit.

If we make it a habit to vote, we are much less likely to skip a trip to the polls in the future.

And all habits need feeding. We must make sure we re-register to vote every time we move and check our registration ahead of election season. We must take advantage of early voting hours if we think we’ll be busy or out of town on election day. Heck, we must build standing in line on election day into our lives.

Today’s voting population includes almost equal parts millennials and baby boomers. The big difference is in how many of them voted – in 2016, only 19 percent of those ages 18-29 cast their ballots in the presidential election. In contrast, 49 percent of 45-64-year-olds voted in 2016.

And we are living with the results of that election.

What can we do?

First off, check your voting status. If you have a smart phone, put the GeauxVote Mobile App on your home screen. When you meet your friends for coffee and conversation, have them check their voting status and find out if they know who is running to represent them.

Help them get registered to vote if they aren’t. Become voter buddies – look them in the eye to get a promise that they will vote. Give them the same pledge in return.

Make sure folks with mobility and transportation issues have a way to get to the polls. Check on the homebound in your neighborhood or volunteer for a few hours driving folks to their polling place.

At the heart, elections are decided by who shows up at the polls.

Let’s make sure that it is us.

Thank you!

Geaux Vote!