Rethinking the question of Confederate monuments

Posted on 15 Aug 2017 at 2:59pm

What happened in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 12, when white supremacists and counter-protesters violently clashed — leaving a counter-protester and two state policeman dead and at least 36 injured — should give all of us here in Dallas pause.

The protest rally — staged by members of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other white extremists — erupted in an armed battle between the alt-right groups and anti-fascist activists and other civil rights proponents. They met in a city park, recently renamed Emancipation Park, where a statue of the park’s former namesake, Gen. Robert E. Lee, still stands — for now.

Law enforcement quickly ordered everyone to clear the Virginia park when it became clear both sides arrived ready to fight. But the melee merely moved to the streets of the small college town.

Television coverage of the riot showed both sides engaged in savagery, with baseball bats and other weapons drawn.

Before the day was over, one of the white supremacists drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters, killing one woman, and a helicopter carrying two state policemen monitoring the riot crashed.

Police arrested the driver, who had marched with one of the white supremacist groups, on a murder charge, and his compatriots immediately started distancing themselves from him for legal liability reasons.

Was the carnage preventable? Maybe.

As efforts to rename Dallas’ Lee Park in Oak Lawn , to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from that park and to remove other Confederate monuments in the city, including one near City Hall, gain momentum, we could find ourselves in a similar crisis. And it would probably dwarf the riot in Virginia because of our city’s greater size and long-simmering racial tensions.

I have long resisted the idea of removing the statue and renaming Lee Park, because the older I get the more important preserving history is to me. Anything built before my birth in 1949, I would like to see left standing when I die. And I am a Southerner.

Also, prominent African-Americans, such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have advocated leaving names and monuments in place as a reminder of progress.

“I want us to have a look at the names and recognize what they did, and be able to tell our kids what they did and have a sense of their own history,” rice said in an interview with the New York Daily News earlier this year.

I thought that the monuments might be modified to better explain the history of slavery, the Confederacy and the Civil War — something to make them less offensive to African-Americans whose ancestors suffered in slavery.

At least, that’s how I felt before the horrific events in Charlottesville. My feelings changed the day after the riot.

Looking at an image of Lee on his horse on television I saw it in a different light. It had become sort of frightening, considering that it had inspired white supremacists to rally.

Of course, getting the monuments removed without more violent confrontations could be a challenge.

I’ve noticed younger civil rights activists these days seem to be more prone to the idea of engaging in warfare to achieve their goals. And white supremacists seem to be more aggressive than in recent decades past, when they began a public relations campaign to sway public opinion in their favor.

These white supremacists now seem more emboldened to act brazenly during their rallies, which are designed to attract more white people to their cause. They want large, jeering crowds of counter-protesters because it gives them more publicity in newspapers and on television programs.

Charlottesville was a bonanza for the white supremacists.

Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote in an editorial the day of the Charlottesville riot that President Donald J. Trump energized the radical right movement from Day One of his presidential campaign with his racial and xenophobic rhetoric.

He noted that David Duke, a longtime leader in the white nationalist movement, views Trump as a champion of the alt right.

“This is a fascist movement that threatens not only extremist violence but our democracy as well,” Cohen said.

SPLC, which has monitored white supremacists for almost a half-century, recommends that counter protesters not engage with the groups at their rallies, but instead hold peace rallies in separate locations. Law enforcement should create a buffer between opposing groups to help prevent confrontations that begin with name-calling and quickly advance to shoving and the throwing of projectiles, that organization adds.

If they descend on Dallas, we should gather somewhere else for a big picnic — lots of fried chicken, potato salad and iced tea should be on the menu. Let the white supremacists eat crow — alone.

David Webb is a veteran journalist with more than four decades of experience, including a stint as a staff reporter for Dallas Voice. In 2016, he received the Press Club of Dallas’ Legends Award, bestowed in large part for his work with Dallas Voice. He now lives on Cedar Creek Lake and writes for publications nationwide.


Rawlings addresses Confederate monuments in Dallas

Posted on 15 Aug 2017 at 1:40pm

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

“Those statues are problematic for me,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a press conference in answer to a question about Confederate monuments in the city of Dallas. His original statement on the issue, during a press conference today (Aug. 15) wasn’t as clear that he, personally, would like them gone.

Rawlings said he was heartbroken about the violence in Charlottesville and the death of Heather Heyer and two police officers.

“The fact that a Dallas native played a part made it harder,” he said, referring to “alt-right” founder Richard Spencer, one of the neo-nazis who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

While the mayor called the monuments “dangerous totems because they divide,” he didn’t call for their immediate removal.

“It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon to tear them down,” he said. “I hesitate. … How do you go about making this decision for the city so that at the end of the process we are more united?”

He said he turned to the city charter to figure out how to “de-accession” the monuments and is appointing a task force that will study the issue for 90 days then present its findings to the city council.

Rawlings said he was turning to his truth, racial healing and transformation team as well as the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance to help move the process forward.

Rawlings summed up his feelings as he answered several questions: “We could just remove them, but how are we going to heal?”

Councilman Philip Kingston said after the press conference that the council needs to make a strong statement of disapproval now “then the task force can get us where we need to be.”


Claws out: Niecy Nash — the gay interview

Posted on 15 Aug 2017 at 11:25am

Niecy Nash doesn’t think she knows any gay prostitutes, but they — and every other kind of gay — most certainly know her.

From her rib-tickling portrayal of Deputy Raineesha Williams on Reno 911! to Getting On and the Ryan Murphy-created Scream Queens, the Emmy-nominated actress’ career is as fabulously queer as her latest show, Claws. In the TNT sisterhood-centric drama, Nash’s money-laundering badass of a character, Desna, is the powerful, leopard-print-wearing owner of a Florida nail salon that is a front for organized crime. (Season 1’s finale aired Sunday.)

And talk about powerful — we have Nash to thank for all the loud-and-proud clothing Desna dons like a boss. From her character’s scorchin’ drag-esque style to the possibility of her tough-as-nails character going lesbian in the second season — and the transformative power of Bacardi — Nash gave us queens plenty to scream about during our delicious new interview.

Dallas Voice: Why do you think gay audiences are loving Claws?  Nash: Desna, first of all, dresses like a superhero. She’s a modern-day shero, for sure; always with a jumpsuit and some sort of belt. She’s fabulous in a lot of ways.

Some might say she dresses like a drag queen, even.  You know what, I’ll take that too! ’Cause I can absolutely see that.

Do you know how many drag queens would kill for her wardrobe, though?  What’s funny is that the network wanted me to be in, like, a soccer mom bob with blonde highlights and it just felt wrong, and the wardrobe felt wrong. It was a little too pulled up and I was like, “Mmmm, this is not right.” So, I dressed myself like what I felt she looked like. Just big, natural hair, booty shorts, a body suit. All of it needed to match for no reason. So, I tried to give them what I felt like she was and, luckily, they agreed… because I was fightin’ a good fight of faith there for a second!

She is the Desna the gay community needs. How do you think gay audiences might be empowered by her?  Desna is 100 percent who she is, and she is a woman who is comfortable in her skin. I think that’s the thing that we all strive for. Be happy with what it is, figure out what’s working for you, accentuate that part and push through.


Texas A&M cancels Nazi demonstration on campus

Posted on 15 Aug 2017 at 10:07am

COLLEGE STATION — After consultation with law enforcement and considerable study, Texas A&M is cancelling the event scheduled by Preston Wiginton at Rudder Plaza on campus on Sept. 11 because of concerns about the safety of its students, faculty, staff, and the public.

Texas A&M changed its policy after December’s protests so that no outside individual or group could reserve campus facilities without the sponsorship of a university-sanctioned group. None of the 1200-plus campus organizations invited Preston Wiginton nor did they agree to sponsor his events in December 2016 or on Sept. 11 of this year. With no university facilities afforded him, he chose instead to plan his event outdoors for Sept. 11 at Rudder Plaza, in the middle of campus, during a school day, with a notification to the media under the headline “Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M.”

Linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus. Additionally, the daylong event would provide disruption to our class schedules and to student, faculty and staff movement (both bus system and pedestrian).

Texas A&M’s support of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech cannot be questioned. On Dec. 6, 2016 the university and law enforcement allowed the same speaker the opportunity to share his views, taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure a peaceful event. However, in this case, circumstances and information relating to the event have changed and the risks of threat to life and safety compel us to cancel the event.

Finally, the thoughts and prayers of Aggies here on campus and around the world are with those individuals affected by the tragedy in Charlottesville.

— From a press release


Dallas groups to demonstrate against neo-Nazis

Posted on 14 Aug 2017 at 2:40pm

Confederate monument outside the Dallas Convention Center

A coalition of groups is planning a protest in Dallas on Aug. 19 to speak out against the Nazis and white supremacists who demonstrated in Charlottesville on Saturday, Aug. 12.

The Dallas Against White-Supremacy rally will take place from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Confederate monument in the cemetery next to Dallas City Hall.

Northaven United Methodist Church minister Eric Folkerth is the rally’s first listed speaker.

On the Facebook invitation, the organizers wrote, “We’ll come together as a community to denounce white supremacy, neo-nazism, neo-confederates, the alt-right, and any other moniker you may know them by. At the end of the day, though, only one true name fits them all: racist. During their ‘Unite the Right’ march, they used chants that were anti-semite, anti-black, anti-muslim, and anti-lgbt, and claimed that ‘white lives matter.’”

Among the groups organizing the event are Faith Forward Dallas, NOW and Downtown Residents Against Confederate Glorification.

More about the event and reaction to Trump’s refusal to denounce Nazis in Friday’s Dallas Voice.


Advocates deliver signatures opposing bathroom bill to Patrick, Abbott, Straus

Posted on 14 Aug 2017 at 11:38am

Gov. Greg Abbott

With less than three full days left in the Texas Legislature’s special session, a group of LGBT and other civil rights organizations — including the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas, the Texas Freedom Network and the Transgender Education Network of Texas — this morning (that’s Monday, Aug. 14) delivered a list of more than 50,000 signatures from people who have this year opposed anti-transgender bathroom bills (in all their forms) and other anti-LGBT legislation.

Accusing some lawmakers of “working systematically to roll back the rights of LGBTQ Texans piece by piece,” a press release from the Texas Freedom Network said that the 50,000-plus Texans represented by the signatures come “from across the ideological spectrum” but area “united by a single belief: legislating discrimination is bad for Texans and bad for Texas.”

The list of names were delivered to Abbott, Patrick and Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

“We ask that these elected leaders hear what thousands of their constituents have taken direct action to say to them: Texas must stop wasting taxpayers’ time and money to pursue discriminatory legislation that would harm not only some of our most vulnerable Texans, but all Texans,” the press release declared.

The signatures were delivered after Abbott threatened over the weekend to call yet another special session if House lawmakers failed to pass more of the right-wing agenda he set for the this first session before it ends on Wednesday.


TLC’s Chilli and T-Boz — the gay interview

Posted on 14 Aug 2017 at 9:28am

TLC never had to go chasing their gay fans — we came to them. And not just because “Waterfalls,” one of pop history’s most prominent HIV/AIDS-awareness anthems, made a generation of LGBT people more sexually responsible, or because “Unpretty” affirmed you’re fine just the way you are. Ever since their debut dropped in 1992, the self-proclaimed “prissy tomboys” — nobody could wear condoms quite like Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas — led us all to embrace our own crazy, sexy, cool selves, gender norms be damned.

But when Lopes, the trio’s swagging rapper, was killed in a car accident in 2002, T-Boz, 47, and Chilli, 46, took a long break from the recording studio to tour and pursue solo ventures. Now, 15 years post TLC3D, and thanks to a Kickstarter that funded the project, one of pop music’s flyest girl groups is taking their final bow with their self-titled fifth studio album TLC and opening up to their gay fans.

And no, they didn’t just stick to the rivers and lakes they’re used to. During our nostalgic and, ahem, educational interview, TLC talked about how “No Scrubs” gets the queers “crunk”… and, you know, just casually reminisced on that time they got schooled on what it means to be a top and a bottom.

Dallas Voice: Have you ever been to a gay club when “No Scrubs” comes on? Because you’ve never seen anything gayer or more inspiring.  Chilli: You know what’s funny? One of my friends works for VH1 and, oh my gosh, it’s hilarious. He’s gay and I’m the only girl who could be his play girlfriend he tells me, and he always sends me — and, I mean, he just sent one the other day — video of when “No Scrubs” comes on, and he’s like, “Chilli, I love you!” And he’s singing and showing me everybody singing. It is crunk!

So, I take it you’re aware of your LGBT following?  T-Boz: Oh, very aware. Very, very, very! The thing I love about our fans is, we’ve grown with them and they’ve grown with us. Some of them have kids now, so we have generations there. But, yes, we are very, very, very aware of the community, honey, ’cause all of our friends let us know. I love it!

When did you first know you had a gay following?  T-Boz: I did a party around [1994’s] CrazySexyCool and that was one of the best parties I hosted. I learned so much! Like, I didn’t know there were certain terms and stuff! They hooked me up with a lot more knowledge of stuff that went on than I really realized. I was like, “Ohh?!” It was just such a free, fun party. No judging. No anything. It was just one of the best environments I had ever been in, so I thought that was cool. So, probably around ’95-ish when I was really aware.

What did you learn about the gay community that night?  T-Boz: I learned what a top was, a bottom was. And versatile! I learned all of those terms! I was like, “Oh my god — this is so cool.”

Chilli: Oh, Lord. Oh, Jesus. I wasn’t at that party!

Sounds like you really missed out, Chilli. When was your gay awakening then? Ha!  Chilli: I don’t know why I feel weird saying it now, ’cause you already said it! The bottom part. And you know… the top. I keep laughing!


PHOTOS: Trans Chorus of LA sings with the chorale

Posted on 13 Aug 2017 at 9:29am

The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles sang several times during the day at the Turtle Creek Chorale’s Sing-in for Dignity in support of the transgender community. The 24-hour concert was timed to coincide with the final week of the special session of the Texas Legislature.

The special session has wasted almost $1 million and passed only one bill that will require women to buy rape insurance. The lieutenant governor’s pet piece of legislation, the discriminatory, anti-transgender bathroom bill, is stuck in committee where it should die.

But back to the concert. Message to Chorale Artistic Director Sean Baugh, Executive Director Bruce Jaster and TCC board: Bring the Trans Chorus back for a mainstage season production. Not a request. More a: You’re out of your minds if you don’t do this.

Here are pictures from the afternoon of Sing-in for Dignity.


An Open Letter to the Clergy of America: Time to Decide. You Must Stand Up or Forfeit Your Spiritual Authority

Posted on 13 Aug 2017 at 6:26am

The Rev. Steve Sprinkle

In the name of the God who calls clergy to their ministries, this is a time of decision for the women and men who lead religious communities throughout America.

There is no longer any middle ground. Your voices, your actions and your ministries are vital for non-violent action against the strategies of white racist nationalism that are attacking our democracy in the United States. Do not fail to recognize the signs of the times: Attacks against the vulnerable in our society are assaults against every congregation, synagogue, temple and mosque in America.

We must take to our pulpits, our classrooms, social media, our chaplaincy posts and all our spheres of influence to denounce the forces of white supremacy as wrong, immoral, anti-democratic and heretical. We must do so now as well as for the long haul. And we must resolve to put our bodies and our deeds where our convictions call us to be in this struggle.

For too long, the majority of the pulpits of America have either remained silent or have aided and abetted theological malpractice in the name of “unity.” The only unity that counts is the common humanity of us all under God, not some sort of calculating institutional uniformity that causes clergy to deny the very faith that calls each of us to stand against violence perpetrated against racial/ethnic, gender/orientation and immigrant minorities who are the Beloved of God. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have showed us the way.

Now, it is up to us to decide whether we will remain “nice” and forfeit our spiritual authority, or to stand up against the ugliness and immorality of groups that have never been “right,” “alt right” or “patriotic.” No such movements or ideologies are welcome in our society. Tolerance of the intolerant is intolerable any longer for us as religious leaders. This is not a choice between “right” and “left” on a political spectrum. This is a time to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong.

When we were called to ministry, God didn’t promise us a rose garden of safety and ease, but the prospect of a cross. Jesus was clear on what is required and by what divine standard we shall all be held accountable for the gift of ministry given to us: “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16 NRSV). The clergy of America must show who we are now. God help us.

Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, ordained Alliance of Baptists Minister and Professor at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas


Chorale sings for dignity

Posted on 11 Aug 2017 at 11:58pm

Because so many people attended the opening of the Turtle Creek Chorale’s Sing-in for Dignity, the show moved from the Interfaith Peace Chapel to the main sanctuary for the evening.

The chorale is staging a 24-hour sing-in supporting the transgender community, which is under attack by elected officials in Austin.

Chorus director Sean Baugh said the day’s events include eight or nine speakers, four or five groups, four singers as well as 110 members of the chorale. One of the groups that performed was a quartet from the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles.

The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles is the only transgender chorale in the country. Director Lindsey Deaton said the group has more than 30 members and has been performing for two years. Deaton said every member is transgender or gender-nonconforming.

Deaton said for the first 14 months, she commuted from Ohio to L.A. until the group could support her moving to California. Now the chorus is performing an 11-concert season.

Deaton said the chorus is a safe place for trans people and compared the chorus to the gay men’s choruses that popped up in every major city during the AIDS crisis.

This was the first trip the chorus has taken and the first time the quartet performed together. The trip wasn’t confirmed until Thursday and its first rehearsal was on Friday, but they brought down the house.

The city of Dallas not only issued a proclamation for Sing-in for Dignity, but paid for the transportation and hotels for the L.A. singers from its arts budget.

Quartet member Katerick Lash said he’s come up with the perfect name for the quartet: The Von Trans Family Singers.

They’ll be performing on Saturday morning, Aug. 12 at 9 a.m. for the breakfast Cathedral of Hope serve to the homeless and again on Saturday afternoon.

Baugh said they brought over cartons of sheet music and the chorale will perform in the Interfaith Peace Chapel until 7 p.m. on Saturday. The event is free, but donations are being accepts for Lambda Legal, which will fight any anti-trans legislation that might pass in the last week of the legislature, and the Transgender Council of Cathedral of Hope.