Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Something Different

My world is full of conflicting emotions right now. My spirit is heavy with the loss of my cousin. At the same time, my feelings around my relationship with David have me, at times, walking on clouds. The capability of the human psyche and spirit to process and feel a breadth of emotions at the same time is not only amazing it is terrifying.

I can honestly say that in this current relationship, I feel as if I have a friend. Our relationship started in a very new millenium way. We met via Facebook. My friend Bryan from Minneapolis e-introduced us. We started by talking about art, our lives, and sex. Oh yes there was much of that. After a while, it seemed that there was a mutual respect and a mutual desire for something more than what one typically finds in a relationship just moving through the world. There is an intentionality to our relationship that is reflective of the intentionality of my relationships with some of my best friends. From the beginning we have more or less communicated truthfully and honestly (there have been some stumbling blocks on both sides). Our relationship was one that necessarily, because of distance and our mode of meeting, was based on an psycho-emotional exploration.

Meeting David for the first time was one of the oddest experiences of my life.

When he walked into the airport in Minneapolis, his body was a stranger. I mean...I had "seen" his body, but I knew his mind. The first trip was as much about figuring out how we interacted to figuring out the connection between his mind and body. When he left after his first trip to see me, we both had tears in our eyes.

This last trip was a scary, amazing, challenging, and ultimately confirmed for me that I had not only made a new friend but also a great lover and someone that I truly want to see thrive and grow and achieve his dreams. And I know that he feels the same way about me. I mean I fundamentally know this in a way that I have not known in the past or not allowed myself to believe.

There is a lot to still figure out. The physical distance is not as important a factor for me. That can be dealt with in time and with planning. We have an open relationship, which, I think, is going to need more discussion and negotiation and patience with each other as we figure out how that is actually going to work for us. And, frankly, loving someone deeply and in a way that is about him as much as it is about me, is not something I am used to doing. Kjersten used to call me an IRA (I require attention), and I still do. But I also require that the universe bring good things to a good man that has come into my life, I hope, for good.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Seeing Frida

This is the poem I wrote for David for his birthday. It was inspired by a visit today to the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Seeing Frida
For David Berube for his birthday y para amor.

In the belly of Frida
I hear an echo of the first time
You said “I love you.”
Little nips (piquetas) into my chest
Those three words changed everything
Like Frida
I sat beside myself
My heart moved outward floating in the air
Connecting body and spirit by fragile veins
You my Diego Rivera
Standing tall beside me
Holding my hand
The veins pierce my throat
I find it hard to breathe with you there
It’s surreal surrounded by her self-portraits
I see myself in her
She found it hard to believe in love
Or believe that love
Could twist and turn and arch like the mistress
In Diego’s arms
Like Frida
I pour out through my eyes the memory of that first I love you
My cock hardening
My breath catching
Hoping that the lust I have seen in you for others
Will, from time to time, eclipse I love yous of the mind
Paint me I love yous of the body
On my canvas
On my all too willing brush
It remembers the first taste of your palette
Soft, wet shadings as I nervously prepared for the first stroke
Laying in your arms my heart cracked
Little nips torn out by honesty
Little nips that felt like a pole pushing through me
Like Frida
Laying in traction
Not knowing the depth and impact
Until attempting to rise
Until attempting to paint again
In the end Frida and Diego stood side by side
As they painted
And here surrounded by Frida,
I can see the ghost of Diego’s love in her eyes.

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-23 September 2008
-Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants
For David Berube

My spirit sings the song of the redwoods
Cracked notes like deep red bark that has seen years that stretch
Reaching, straining/splitting meaning
Giving depth and shading to every whisper every sighing of the wind
Photosynthesizing and manufacturing interpretations
Warped by grooves and trenches carved deep under the surface
By momentary vines
Bold enough to climb the branches
Brave experiences knotted into the warp of its being
Deep rooting parasites
Leafy green masking diabolical intent
They live and breathe the life of the redwoods
Davidian warriors they fell giants
Lay low red hearts that beat with the rhythm of centuries
Bore holes into helpless skin
Digesting flesh reasoning that in the end
Even the greatest fall
In the end even the powerful find the grave
And so the least of the least of these
strangle possibility
The powerless reaching for their only perceived choice
Consuming that which sustains them
Not knowing that the redwoods
Want only to live and grow
Willing to branch and change
Willing to reach roots into circumstance and dig deeper
Reaching beyond and behind
Reaching under and through
Reaching until breaking to a subsoil understanding
That on the other side of struggle
Is living.

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-19 September 2008
-Big Sur, California

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cousin Jimmy Final Chapter

Yesterday during the day I called my Aunt Char to check in on Jimmy. She told me that the family had decided to stop treatment and to let him move on. On the call she said that it would be days at most. It was less than five hours. At 8:20pm last night, James Wakefield, my cuz, my friend, my family left this world for whatever comes next.

My Aunt Char relayed to me that my Aunt Susie and Uncle Joe and Jim's brothers are extremely angry. I know the feeling. I have rarely felt powerless in my life. No matter what the circumstance or situation, I generally find that I have some choice. But in this, there was no choice. Jim fought and lost. And we all, from nearby or far away, could only hope and pray. Old folks say that "God always answers prayers, but sometimes the answer is no." And this time it was one hell of a no.

Plain and simple I want Jimmy back. I want to hang out with him while he makes fun my sexuality while I make fun of the fact that he was white as a snow. I want to hang out with my cousin that taught me how to ride a bike. My cousin that I stayed up late drinking with in Aunt Char's basement. I want back my cousin because he got me...we were cut from the same least the same fabric.

Yesterday I had a great lunch with David. Thank GOD David is visiting right now. But, soon after lunch, while sitting at my desk, I became so overwhelmed with such a horrible feeling that I threw up. My spirit knew that something was going to happen...when I was working for LIberty Tree, I took a test that details your strongest the top of my list was empathy...yesterday, I wanted to rip out every feeling in my body and the nerve endings along with them.

Jim decided that he did not want a funeral. The family is going to respect his wishes. There is going to be a dinner in Beloit for folks that knew Jim. There will be a gathering for family in Duluth at some point after that. I have no idea what I am going to say to my Aunt and Uncle. Any outrage, or grief, or pain, or anger that I have they can match a thousand times over.

Last night I even called my Dad. I don't think I have ever called my Dad for emotional support. But last night, I remembered that he lost his Mother to leukemia as well. She was only a year older than Jim. Dad answered the phone. And it was what I needed...or at least a part of it. The next few days are going to be rough. But I am trying to remind myself to do what I would want remember Jim, to celebrate his life, and to make sure that his work is not forgotten.

Goodbye Jimmy

My cousin Jim lost his fight with cancer today. I love you Jimmy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Is White Privilege?

Hey folks:

As much as possible, I try and do only original content on my page. But sometimes, as with Rocki's letter and this blog post, there shit that needs circulating. The following is one of those things.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise / September 13, 2008

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White. He has contributed essays to seventeen books, and is one of several persons featured in White Men Challenging Racism: Thirty-Five Personal Stories, from Duke University Press. A collection of his essays, Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male, will be released in fall 2008.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Open Letter to the HRC from Rocki Simoes

NOTE: I got this emailed letter today from my friend Rocki Simoes in Minneapolis. Rocki is one of the most brilliant, sweet, and caring people I know. She is founder of the Host Home program, and she has committed her professional career to making sure that queer homeless youth have safe places to live and are able to celebrate who they are while healing from where they have been. Thank you Rocki for your loving work and your dedication to moving us all forward together. I love you. I miss you.


As many of you know, the GLBT Host Home Program received the Brian Coyle Leadership Award from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). That award will be given at HRC's annual gala dinner on Sept. 13th. I am proud that HHP is being honored, and firmly believe that it and the community that stands behind it deserve recognition. There will be several HHP supporters there to receive the award.

I want to share with you an open letter (see below) I wrote to HRC that expresses my feelings and thoughts about this award and also explains why I will not be at the dinner on Sept. 13th. Feel free to share it with others and feel free to let me know what you think.

Sorry if you get this more than once!

Thank you so much,

Raquel (Rocki) Simões, MSW, LISW
GLBT Host Home Program Manager
Avenues for Homeless Youth
1708 Oak Park Avenue N.
Minneapolis, MN 55411
(612) 522-1690

An Open Letter to HRC

Dear Joe Solmonese and HRC Twin Cities Board of Governors,

I want to thank you for honoring the GLBT Host Home Program of Avenues for Homeless Youth with the Brian Coyle Leadership Award. I am proud of the GLBT Host Home Program and the large community that stands behind it - a community truly deserving of recognition and accolades. Thank you for wanting to put the spotlight on us. I especially want to thank Brian Gilligan for nominating our program and for being so engaged in conversations about where we go from here.

I want to share some of my thoughts and feelings regarding the Human Rights Campaign and movement building. I send this with the hope it invites an opportunity for further dialogue and for community building. Though there is excitement about receiving this award, I have also been having many conversations about how complicated this moment is. This award is personally and professionally difficult for me, and for many in the GLBT community. I cannot speak for the GLBT Host Home Program and all of its youth, hosts, volunteers and supporters on this, but I do want to let you know a bit about what I am thinking and struggling with.

In the past, I have felt that HRC has not represented me or most of my friends, colleagues and community. It has seemed that HRC has used a narrow lens from which to identify queer 'issues', a lens which rarely took in racial and economic justice. When I say “community,” I am including the youth that the GLBT Host Home Program serves, most of whom are of color and many of whom are trans-identified. I was very angry, though not surprised, that HRC decided to support an ENDA bill that was not inclusive of gender identity and expression. No matter how HRC politically and strategically justifies its decision, choosing to exclude a huge part of our community just seems so, well, wrong. I am not the most strategically savvy person around (far from it), but it has been very clear how much pain and divisiveness this decision has created in our community. I am not at all sure that a legal gain is worth a deliberately painful and problematic process. In my opinion, how we go about fighting for justice is as important, if not more, than what we get at the end.

I write this public letter as an effort to do some constructive organizing and to respectfully recognize the pain and disappointment many feel about HRC. My sincere hope is that HRC’s choice to honor this program is a sign that points to a shift in how it does organizing, a shift that is aligned with what the GLBT Host Home Program believes in and strives for - social justice and social change, for all.

Supporters of the GLBT Host Home Program, such as hosts and youth, will attend the event on September 13 to accept the award with great appreciation for the opportunity it gives us to promote the program and highlight the problem of queer youth homelessness. I am not able to attend, as I will be joining other community members at the Left Out Party, an event sponsored by the Minnesota Gender Advocates, supporting a fully inclusive ENDA.

Thank you for considering my comments and for recognizing the GLBT Host Home Program with the Brian Coyle Award. I look forward to further discussion with you.


Raquel (Rocki) Simões
GLBT Host Home Program Manager, Avenues for Homeless Youth

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The FCC Is Coming

So, two weeks ago tomorrow I started working for the Center for Media Justice. It is a kick ass organization that connects media reform and media justice to racial and economic justice. My position is the National Media Justice Organizer. Basically, I am run the national coalition, MAG-Net, which is coordinated by CMJ and ultimately, my role is to be the go to person for media justice policy. And, my colleague and boss is consciously trying to step back some within the organization and part of my job is to fill some of those national spokesperson spaces that she has previously occupied.

Now, I was very clear when I started my job that I had a strong policy background but that I did not have a strong background in media policy. I even asked for a packet of materials on media policy to be sent to me in advance of starting the job, so I could start doing some solo learning. Unfortunately, because of the transitions that were taking place before I came on board that did not happen. So, in the last two weeks, I have read hundreds of papers, notes, minutes, and articles on the policy issues with which we work. I have had, already, half a dozen meetings and as many again this week. I am just starting to get a handle on some of the most pressing media justice issues on the table right now...the primary issue of concern being the switch to Digital Television and the lack of outreach and support to low-income, fixed income, and disabled folks in the U.S. that rely on over-the-air signals for their information and news. While I have had a very solid crash course regarding the issues around DTV Transition, and I am just beginning to learn about "white spaces" and how that ties into the launch of DTV, I was neither wishing nor hoping, two weeks and a couple of days into the gig, to have to deal with a visit to the bay of the FCC!

Now in terms of the policy around which I work, it would be as if I worked around defense policy and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff showed up on your third day of work. This week, I will spend time at several FCC hearings in various communities on the transition. Thank GOD for Eloise Chen of Media Alliance. She has been the primary organizer of the various events and has deepened my understanding of the issues we are talking about. The last thing I want to do, as the national organizer for what is really the go to organization for outside the DC Beltway media justice and reform work, stand up in front of Commission Edelstein and have him realize that I don't know what the hell I am talking about.

I am loving my new job. My co-workers are a riot. My boss is no joke (she has jokes but homey DEFINITELY don't play that), and I have mad respect for her. This is an awesome place for me to grow and expand, and I look forward to it...I am even looking forward to the FCC visit...though I would have preferred if they could have September.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin aka Satana Queen of Darkness

I just finished watching Palin's acceptance speech last night. Thank you YouTube. Let me begin by saying that the woman is smooth as shit and can deliver snappy one liners with a flair that would make Richard Pryor proud. But the more she spoke, the more I wanted to find a of those big ass mallets with a five pound rubber head...and hit that woman in the back of the throat.

I do not advocate violence against women. Let me be clear about that. But the impulse was still there.

Instead of talking about what she brings to the ticket (besides being a hockey Mom that surely does not believe in population control) or policies that she and McCain would champion...she spent her entire speech throwing zingers at Obama. At first, I found her amusing...when she made the joke that the only difference between hockey moms and bulldogs is lipstick, I laughed out loud in agreement. But when she said the after Obama finished "parting the waters and healing the world..." comment I found her not only not amusing but a iconoclastic representation of walking irony. As she railed against Obama's experience as a community organizer, she failed to recognize that the only reason she stood on that platform as McCain's running mate is that for nearly a hundred years WOMEN organizers across this country from Seneca Falls to the streets of Oakland organized for the right to vote and concurrently the right of women to hold public office. This world and this country most certainly needs an organizer.

As she closed her statements, she brought up the fact that McCain was a prisoner of war. As a person who has two siblings that have fought multiple tours of duty in the current war, I understand the weight of war on a family. But, as my colleague Oshen said, "I am a prisoner of war. I live in East Oakland." For those of us that wear brown, black, yellow, and red skins, we are and have been in a constant state of war and captivity for five hundred years.

It was amazing to me that Palin could stand in a nearly all white room and claim to be on a ticket that is working for the people and the workers of this country. It was astounding to me that she could stand in front of a room and tell bold faced lies directly to us with absolutely no remorse and without a blink of an eye.

I understand that McCain is afraid. He should be. He is going to lose this race. It is obvious from his running mate selection that he does not believe that victory is achievable. And I guess it is asking the man too much to go out with some grace. Instead, he has chosen to make this campaign about a distorted fearful reality. Republicans have used fear as a tactic for years. It is time we stood up and organized folks so that they understand that fear will not win the day on November 4th.