I am home from The National Equality March in Washington, D. C.
The Equality March experience was powerful.
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-by Tommy News
My experiences at the National Equality March weekend were good ones. The Equality March experience was powerful. The events I helped to plan all happened beautifully, if just a little behind schedule due to some late arrivals and fantastic turnouts. There is an article I wrote and submitted to OpEd news and many media outlets prior to the march here:
National Equality March: Why We Are Marching On Washington
-by Tommy News
It reads in part:
Why We are Marching:
"We are guaranteed equal protection by the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. Free and equal people do not bargain for or prioritize our rights, so we are coming to DC this October 10-11 to demand equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. Now.
The march is not our final destination. It is our first step toward building a national grassroots network that will continue organizing until we have achieved full equality."
We ask you to join us in this effort as we execute this monumental and extremely important gathering of Activist Radical Faeries and friends from across the land and across the seas.
With our collective energies and empowered numbers, we can send a clear and strong message of positive energy and a call for equality to our government, across the nation, around the globe, and to our spiritual Universe.
The bus ride down to Washington Saturday Morning from New York with the Marriage Equality New York (MENY) group was a Magic Bus journey, with spirited discussions and a great deal of important information shared with new friends. We ended our trip with a rousing sing along of Tif's original song, written for the March, entitled "Equality" as the group clapped along and the US Capitol dome came into view.
There were many seminars and events on the official weekend schedule Saturday, and the first one we chose to attend was a seminar entitled "Old Divisions, New Coalitions: Race and The LGBT Movement." This well attended meeting had a panel discussion by diverse members of various minority groups, including Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Transgendered people, Women, and Gays, and poignant statements made by both panelists and attendees. The messages were powerful and inspiring. The resounding conclusion: we are all one people and we must celebrate our diversity and work together to end oppression and prejudice, change hearts and minds and achieve equality, full civil rights, and tolerance for all people.
Next we headed over to a bohemian restaurant and gathering space called "Busboys and Poets" for a "Workshop with Cleve Jones and Sherry Wolfon the Struggle for LGBT Liberation." Cleve Jones pretty much spearheaded the entire National Equality March, and the turnout for this event was huge. The crowd overflowed out of the Restaurant and onto the Plaza on K Street, and we used this opportunity to leaflet and invite people to our next day activist "Act On Principles" Breakfast and meeting Sunday. Cleve Jones gave a moving inspirational speech, and was given a rousing standing ovation.
After a quick meal at Busboys and Poets, we hailed a cab to our group's fist official event of the weekend. We asked the driver to pass by the Convention Center, where there were two concurrent protests taking place on the street outside the HRC dinner, where President Obama was soon to speak. When I saw the vile hatred and "God Hates Homosexuals" signs displayed by the first "religious" Reicht group, I opened the taxi window and began screaming "God Hates Hate" at them. I have a big mouth and they heard my message loud and clear. The next group was protesting President Obama and the Human Rights Campaign, and basically their message was the same as the overall theme of the March, "Equality Now!" and "Full Civil Rights for ALL Americans."
When I spotted the National Prayer Vigil tee-pees in front of the Washington Monument, they took my breath away. I had helped to organize a Radical Faerie Activist gathering and Drum Circle at this location, and I was right. The location was inspiring and iconic, just south of the White House on the National Mall, next to the towering Washington Monument. When we arrived, there was a Muslim drum and prayer sunset event in progress, which was extremely powerful the chants were haunting and stirring. Our drum group began to gather, and we walked the labyrinth, saged and greeted the sacred fire, and took in the beauty of the vigil. After a slightly late start, I called our group together and shouted "Radical Faeries are invited into the Forest".
I had selected a nearby grotto of trees for us to begin drumming and dancing under, and it was indeed the right selection. Our drummers began to play and the spiritual energy began to grow.
Many people came, danced, and watched, some passersby joined us and danced to our drums and bells. It was amazing and it was everything I had imagined and more.
I had alerted the "Prayer Vigil For The Earth" management that we were gathering nearby, and that we were there for the next day's National Equality March. As I had hoped, we were invited in to drum at the Sacred Fire, just as I had envisioned. We moved our group and joined together with the entire Prayer Vigil group around the Sacred fire and showed them what a Faerie Drum Circle is all about. There were people watching and dancing all around us, many others joined in, and the energy of our circle grew and grew as the sacred fire burned hotter and brighter and and sent a clear and strong spiritual message and a call for Equality up through the towering Washington Monument. I was struck by the sight of many, many beautiful women in long skirts dancing and trancing to our music and feeling the energy we created together as one people, united. It was surreal and sublime, and I was so very very proud to have helped plan and make it happen. It was exactly as I had envisioned it.
Sunday morning up at 6 AM for preparation for our planned "Community Strategy Breakfast: Movement Principles, Coalition Building, and Vote Counting." This was an Activist Breakfast and joint effort between the Radical Faerie Activists and the new "Act On Principles . org".
Act On Principles is a new, free online tool set for achieving equality based on the "Dallas Principles", a call to action to demand that government officials act now to legislate and achieve full civil rights without delay. I ask you to visit and explore the new free website, sign up, and bookmark it here: www.actonprinciples.org
I am told that the politicians are very, very afraid of this new activism tool, and we see great promise for it to help turn vote counts in favor of legislation aimed at achieving full civil rights, championing equality activism, and getting this legislation passed and signed into law. We have the right Congress in place, the right Senate, and the right President who has promised to sign this legislation if and when the Civil Rights bills are sent to him. Our mission is to get those bills passed by Congress and on his desk. We concluded our breakfast with a ceremonial Faerie circle and invocation of the Dieties, Spirits, Angels,and Ancestors, in the Spirit of Harry Hay. We all joined hands as Tif drummed and I invited the spirit of Harvey Milk to join us in the blessed march, which was our next destination.
We slowly assembled our group, gathered, greeted, and drummed for Peace and Equality at the statue of General McPherson, just north of the White house. The pre-march energy was electric, and the energy grew and grew as diverse marchers from all over the land gathered in their regalia with drums, signs, flags, banners, anticipation, and hope. I was struck by the magic and joy of the moment, as we all joined together as one and prepared to march together as one.
As we lined up behind our "Radical Faeries" banner there was a magical aura in the air. To our amazement, a rainbow appeared in the blue sky and flocks of birds danced overhead in formations,as if the spirits we had called to the march were above us. As the sun approached her heavenly zenith, we joined our hands to circle and invoke the spiritual energy which would sustain us through the march and into the future. The groups ahead of and behind us rehearsed their march chants: "What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!" Cheers rang out ahead of us as the march stepped off and I heard the chorus of voices grow louder and stronger as we circled Lafayette Park and approached the White House. At first, the sight of the North Portico was a joyous sight, until I looked closer and spotted two armed snipers on the roof of the White House and what appeared to be a frightening military presence scattered across the White House Park. I left our group for a few minutes and I asked several police at the fence: "Why are there armed snipers standing on the White House Roof? That is absolutely disgusting!" This is a peaceful demonstration. It looked to me as if the Bush Administration and Darth Cheney were back in residence ready to invade yet another country. I just had to tell them how I felt about what I witnessed. We are peaceful people and there is no need to point guns at us. I rejoined my group, and as I reacted to the horrors of my memories of recent History of the White House It occurred to me that we marchers were at that very moment making History, with our powerful call for National Equality, full civil rights, and harmony among all people upon the Earth. And so we move into the future, together as one with a common purpose and a clear direction. Those thoughts carried me all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue as we took turns with drumming, bell ringing, pot banging, sign waving, calling Faerie "Yoo-Hoos" dancing, marching, and banner carrying.
The Capitol Lawn was crowded with thousands upon thousands of marchers coming off Pennsylvania Avenue as the rally speeches had begun. We had missed the invocation, in which two of our members were representing us on the stage. We had also missed Lady Gaga's performance, I was later told that the blond wig she wore was bigger than she is. Tif and Potporri had gone ahead of us to be backstage in time for the inter-faith invocation. I sat down on the grass to rest but stood up again moments later when Judy Shepard was introduced. As the co-owner of the "Matthew Shepard Pride and Tolerance" group, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MatthewShepardPrideandTolerance/
I have a personal interest in the work Judy Shepard and the Matthew Shepard foundation do, and so I was moved to see and hear Judy speak about her story, losing her beloved son to hatred, and the need for hate crimes legislation which has now passed the House again and is now moving to the Senate. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, I believe, will soon become law, if the Senate does not find some way to scuttle it again, as they did when the late Ted Kennedy was ill and unable to push it through. The next speaker was Lieutenant Dan Choi, a West Point graduate who is very near to being discharged from the Army under the failed "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, which has ruined many, many lives and careers and must be repealed.
It was time for lunch. Our group re-grouped by cell phone, and headed over to the Union Square Station food court for some much needed water and refreshment. At the very end of the rally, I went back to the Capitol to hear the end of it, and I had the honor and privilege of personally meeting Dan Choi and his partner. I sad to him with a strong handshake and a big smile "Hi, my name is Tommy. I have been reading about you, and I wanted to thank you for your important work. It is a pleasure to meet you, and please keep up the good work!" They both graciously gave me a warm thank you and a knowing smile. Don't Ask Don't Tell must be repealed. The time is now! DOMA must be repealed. The time is now. ENDA must be passed. The time is now. Equality for all people upon the Earth must be achieved. The time is now! The march is only the beginning. We have much work ahead of us. The time to start this work is now.
My journey home to New York with 1,400 marchers and twenty five buses from the "Broadway Impact" group gave me a chance to take a much needed rest, center, and reflect upon my amazing trip and my profound experiences. I will remember this march for the rest of my days, and I hope to use the lasting energy from the March to help me in my Activist efforts in achieving Equality for ALL Americans. I ask you to please join me in this effort, and in this group, which I founded and co-own. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Anti_Hate_Pride_League/
Love and Namaste, Tommy