Film reviews: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ and ’13th’

Posted on 03 Feb 2017 at 8:48am

James Baldwin was perhaps the most prominent African-American intellectual of the 20th century, and certainly one of the most unusual. Openly gay when few people were, he spent most of his life living abroad, particularly France. He wrote passionately in a variety of idioms — plays, essays (The Fire Next Time is necessary reading), novels (the semi-autobiographical Go Tell It On The Mountain) and poems. It was a social critic of race and sexuality, though, that he was distinguished for, in part because — unlike Malcolm X, Martin Luther King or Medgar Evers — he was not outwardly and actively political, but more an observer and commentator. He also didn’t feel that all white people were bad, as many black activists of his day professed.

After the assassinations of Malcolm, Martin and Medgar, though, Baldwin proposed to his editor a book-length analysis of how those very different men represented key elements of black experience. Baldwin got as far as a 30 page outline before he abandoned it; he died in 1987, the project never completely.

But now, it sort of has been completed. Filmmaker Raoul Peck has assembled archive footage of Baldwin and the men he knew, accumulated letters and the outline and cast Samuel L. Jackson to read them as Baldwin, and structured a masterful and shatteringly important film out of all of it — one that is as much about Baldwin himself as Malcolm, Martin and Medgar. I Am Not Your Negro, which has opened at the Magnolia Theatre (just as Black History Month begins), is a fascinating and thought-provoking film, and a testament to a time and person who valued thinking more than partisan name-calling.

The profundity of the film is Peck’s wisdom in allowing Baldwin’s words to do most of the heavy lifting. In an age of fake news, alternative facts, infantile presidential tweets and the cacophony of contemporary punditry, Baldwin’s writing was reasoned, measured, informed … and powerful. He dissects with a surgeon’s skill the influences in micronic parsing of these heroes of the civil rights era. And he leads us along unexpected paths. When, in 1968, Robert Kennedy predicted that the U.S. might have a black president in 40 years (significantly, Barack Obama was elected in 2008), Baldwin doesn’t stand by as a cheerleader rah-rahing the hopefulness, but expresses skepticism — as if the achievement wasn’t one earned, but a payment by whites to assuage their own guilt. (The fact Obama was often vilified with thinly-veiled racism and was succeeded by a race-baiting buffoon lends credence to his analysis.)

But rather than coming off as heady and dispassionate, I Am Not Your Negro is a bold and emotionally wrenching film, a plea for — if not civility — then at least rigor in our thought. It’s as powerful in its revelations about race as Cititizenfour was about U.S. intelligence. Don’t miss it. (Now playing at the Magnolia.)

You might also want to catch 13th, a Netflix original that, like Negro, is one of this year’s nominees for the Academy Award for best documentary feature. Director Ava DuVernay (Selma) takes a very different approach that Peck, compiling comments from nearly 40 politicians, activists and pundits (among them conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist, as well as more liberal voices), who weigh in on race politics in the past 50 years and beyond.

DuVernay’s premise is that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which effectively outlawed legal slavery, left a loophole that allowed the government to use the legal system to imprison and subjugate black Americans and achieve virtually the same results. (Black makes make up about 6 percent of the U.S. population, and account for about 40 percent of the more than 2 million incarcerated today.) It’s a staggering statistic and a compelling theory, for which there is substantial support … including from Gingrich himself, who says the war on drugs (punishing crack possession 10 times worse than powder cocaine) was a disaster for the the African-American community. It’s more of a hot-button style of filmmaking (crowded with data, employing rap music and personal histories to emphasize its impact) than the more contemplative I Am Not Your Negro, but there’s no denying its power. (Available for streaming on Netflix.)


Reality check

Posted on 03 Feb 2017 at 7:55am

Fight back, because they’ll come for us sooner or later

Haberman-Hardy-Here’s a great idea: Kick the Joint Chiefs of Staff off the National Security Council and install a neo-Nazi white supremacist instead!

It is a plot no Hollywood producer would ever buy. It’s just too implausible!

But it’s not too implausible for Donald Trump’s administration. We have entered the Bizarro World, where everything is possible and we have a narcissistic, petulant child as the ruler.

It is only a matter of time before Emperor Trump issues a decree affecting our LGBT community, despite his promise this week not to rescind President Obama’s executive order protecting LGBT federal employees against discrimination.

We must be vigilant.

I refer to Trump as “emperor” mainly because he has stepped outside the Constitution and has started ruling by decree. Congress seems impotent — or at least complicit — and has not resisted his actions in the least.

A few have postured and even offered lame bills that will never get out of committee. But the rest are sitting there watching our democracy be flushed down Trump’s golden toilet.

How could we be affected? Imagine the easy stuff first: a presidential decree that nullifies the same-sex ruling handed down by the Supreme Court.

That can’t happen you say? Well, neither could the travel ban. Except that it did, and it caused havoc.

Low-level bureaucrats will try diligently to carry out Emperor Trump’s orders and deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples as a start.

To sort it out will take legal action and months — perhaps years — of court battles. The executive branch could tie the litigation up in the courts for the next four years with no trouble at all.

What else? Imagine the worst: shuttering of all LGBT businesses citing “health concerns.” The tired trope that all gay people have AIDS will undoubtedly resurface as a scare tactic, and the lemmings of America will respond by complying.

Again, it will take court battles and money to refight the same fight we won years ago. All our progress could be wiped out with the stroke of a pen if our Congressmen and women continue to sit on their collective asses.

The stream of “alternate facts” vomiting from the White House will keep the press busy fact-checking and refuting while Trump, (actually Bannon and Pence) go their merry way, remaking our country in the image of Nazi Germany.  The Internet will burn up with indignation, accomplishing nothing, and we will all merrily tweet our way into oblivion.

Am I getting your attention now? Good.

It is time we made our elected representatives take notice, Democrat AND Republican. We must call, email and actually put pen to paper to write them.

And we must visit them in person.

Yes, you can.

Call their offices and get an appointment. It will be difficult, but they need to see a face, lots of faces.

Then we must continue to march, speak out and keep the pressure on them to do their job, which is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

And if they don’t, and if we still have elections in two years, we need to work to vote out of office every one of them who was complicit in this travesty.

Mid-term elections are more critical than ever before, and though not as sexy as the general election, they are what got us to this deplorable condition we are in.

Now comes the money part: We have to open our wallets and support candidates who resist Trump, and we have to support organizations that stand for true democracy and our freedoms.

This will come at an enormous cost, and the sad thing is we will be fighting our own government and depleting the coffers of the U.S.

Treasury as well as our own bank accounts to make it happen. Sad but true, and Trump’s advisors know this and figure we will run out of energy and money before they do.

We have to prove them wrong.

The alternative is to let this play out, hide in our basements behind our computer screens and do nothing.

Until they come for us.

And they will come for us.

I have told the story before of my grandfather’s advice to me about how to train a mule: “You train a mule by tapping it on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. But first you have to hit it over the head with a two-by-four to get its attention.”

I have my paper rolled up in my left hand and a two-by-four in my right.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2017.


Erased from our own debate

Posted on 03 Feb 2017 at 7:50am

Argue for us as human beings, not just against an economic hazard



Leslie McMurrayI’m seeing more and more stories pop up on my Facebook page that mention the impending “bathroom bills” popping up in this session of the Texas Legislature, such as Texas’ Senate Bill 6, which is deceptively named “The Privacy Protection Act.” While I’m exceedingly grateful to the various lobbying groups that have taken up the cause of defeating these bills, I’m troubled by some of the language being used to argue against them.

The most common argument is that passing these laws — laws that essentially punish transgender people for something we haven’t done, or worse, because of something a cisgender (non-transgender) person might do — is that they will effect the state economy in a negative way, as happened in North Carolina.

In December, the Texas Association of Business held a press conference to announce results of a study the association commissioned that estimated a North Carolina-style bathroom bill could cost Texas more than $8 billion in economic impact and 100,000 jobs. Again, I appreciate the support — and while it may very well be true that business owners and GOP donors are against laws that discriminate, as they should be — I wish that transgender people weren’t erased from the discussion.

It’s bad enough that those who hide behind their religion or political agendas seek to erase transgender people from society by denying us jobs, healthcare, housing and access to public accommodations. Now, those who call themselves allies are erasing us from the political debate!

It saddens me deeply that the fact that young transgender kids taking their own lives, like 19-year-old Jai Bernstein, aren’t enough to get these idiot politicians to see the damage they are doing. It hurts me personally that even though I have not done anything wrong, broken no laws, yet I am targeted for scorn and labeled a “predator.”

I shouldn’t have to choose between going to jail or putting myself in danger of physical harm just to go to the restroom. And the danger is real: Threats against trans women have come from no less than the sheriff of Denton County, Tracy Murphree, who posted on Facebook that he would “beat the hell out of a transgender person who tried to piss in a bathroom where my daughter was peeing.”

Hopefully, someone will post pictures of his daughter around public restrooms so we can all avoid an ass-kicking.

I feel a little awkward even writing this because I run the risk of coming off as ungrateful, though I’m truly not. I appreciate all of the efforts from anyone willing to help because there just aren’t enough of us in the trans community alone to gather any kind of political critical mass. If we are going to get anything done, we need help.

I just feel like we are getting lost in all of this.

Here’s why I feel this is so important:

Passing laws that protect us would be great. Same with not passing laws that punish us for just existing.

But laws won’t bring equality to trans people. Visibility will.

Prior to Caitlyn Jenner coming out, only about 8 percent of Americans said they knew someone who was transgender. According to research commissioned by the Gill Foundation, when asked to picture someone who is transgender, the number one response was “RuPaul,” a male-identified drag performer.

Since Jenner came out, the number has risen to nearly a quarter of Americans. But to many, we are still a mystery or a perversion — or worse.

The best way to counter the misunderstandings that people have about us is to live our lives fearlessly. That’s not easy when there are so many things to be legitimately afraid of.

That’s why we need allies who know us to help spread the word that we share more in common with you than we do differences, that we aren’t a threat. Once people know us and understand us, they cease fearing or hating us.

Laws don’t do that.

So, when telling our story, or going to bat for us against hostile legislators, I ask you — I beg you — please don’t forget the transgender people who are real, live human beings. Human beings with hopes and dreams; who love, laugh, cry and want the same things everyone else does.

To have our lives, our human dignity defended not because it is our non-negotiable birthright as citizens of this country but because it might hurt tourism, whether true or not, hurts me in ways you just can’t imagine.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2017.


Stage review: ‘An American in Paris’

Posted on 02 Feb 2017 at 12:29pm

Garen Scribner and Sara Etsy in ‘An American in Paris.’ (Photos by Matthew Murphy)

The film version of An American in Paris is one of the signature musicals of MGM’s golden age (it won the Oscar for best picture in 1951), but by modern standards, it’s not great. Sure, there’s the music by George Gershwin and the dancing of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron (especially the centerpiece closing dream ballet), but the elements don’t always fit together well. And Kelly’s character — former G.I.-cum-starving-artist Jerry Mulligan — is pretty much a selfish prick. He allows himself to be a kept man by art patroness Milo Davenport while openly chasing gamine Lise, who is the fiancee of one of his friends. There’s not a lot of subtext there, no commentary about shell-shocked soldiers grappling with mortality or even the “lovable heel” angle of film noir. Nope, he’s just an asshole. When he gets with Lise at the end, you’re kinda mad.

These flaws are largely dispelled in Craig Lucas’ book for the original 2015 stage version of An American in Paris (now onstage at Fair Park Music Hall through Feb. 12, and moving to Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth on Feb. 14). There’s grit and personality and explanations that flesh out Jerry and several other characters … and Gershwin’s music and amazing dancing. It’s truly the best of all possible worlds: A delightful, old-fashionedly show-stopping musical with a lot of smarts.

The plot is less about a love triangle than a love rhombus: French ballerina Lise (Sara Esty) is engaged Frenchman Henri (Nick Spangler), whose family may have been collaborators with the Nazis (or maybe something else). Lise doesn’t love Henri (who may even be gay), but she’s devoted to him. Jerry (Garen Scribner) is smitten with Lise, and while she feels an attraction back, she is put off that he seems to be coupled with Milo (Emily Ferranti). Meanwhile, Jerry’s fellow-American-G.I.-in-Paris Adam (Etai Benson), a composer with a gloomy outlook, pines in silence for Lise.

Lise meets with Jerry. Jerry pursues Lise. Henri can’t work up the courage to propose. Adam struggles to find a voice. Heck, it’s almost like La La Land … maybe Le Le Land.

An American in Paris is simply gorgeous in every particular, from the nimble sets (including inventive projections), evocative costumes, sparkling lighting and stunning choreography. Director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has turned a big, vivid movie into something nearly as big but specific to the stage. One of the set-pieces from the film, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” famously includes a huge lighted staircase; the adaptation here does away with the stairs, but comes up with such a dazzling substitute you never miss it. And the closing ballet makes much more sense (a combination of dream and concert) that lasts 14 glorious minutes.

The principal actors are all deliciously ebullient and likable … even Jerry, whose treatment of Milo seems less awful (it helps that Milo is given to modern self-reflection). There aren’t enough musicals anymore that are just about being delightful. This is welcome to set the standard.

Visit here for Dallas or Fort Worth tickets.


LGBT rally and march set for this weekend

Posted on 02 Feb 2017 at 10:23am

An LGBT rally and march is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4 to send the message “We are not going back on our civil rights.” The rally begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Resource Center, 5750 Cedar Springs Road.

This week, Donald Trump announced he would not rescind an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that requires federal contractors to have nondiscrimination policies in place. That order forced ExxonMobil to put a nondiscrimination policy in place in order to continue doing business with the government. (That company’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, was sworn in as Secretary of State yesterday, Feb. 1.)

A different anti-LGBT executive order is still expected from Trump. That order would allow federal employees to refuse to serve people if it conflicted with their deeply held religious beliefs. The order is expected to be worded so that the discrimination is a one-way street. LGBT federal employees won’t be allowed to refuse service to bigots.

Activists have said that should the anti-LGBT executive order be issued, the community is asked to meet at the Legacy of Love monument at the corner of Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn at 7 p.m. on the day the order is signed.

Organizers for the Saturday rally include: Lambda Legal, Dallas Lgbtqia Front, Dallas Workers Front, Take Back Oak Lawn, QueerBomb Dallas, LULAC 4871 – The Dallas Rainbow Council, Cathedral of Hope, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance (DGLA), Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, Fight for Fifteen Dallas, Democratic Socialists of America- North Texas, Resource Center, HRC, Equality Texas and Congregation Beth El Binah.


Homophobic Exxon CEO confirmed as Secretary of State

Posted on 01 Feb 2017 at 2:43pm

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson, the paranoid, homophobic former CEO of ExxonMobil known for taking benefits away from LGBT Mobil employees when the two companies merged in 1999, was confirmed to be Secretary of State by a vote of 56 to 43.

Previously, the most contentious vote for a Secretary of State was Condoleeza Rice, who was confirmed by 85 to 13, according to the New York Times.

Tillerson worked diligently to prevent Exxon’s LGBT employees from having benefits and even illegally tried to keep a shareholder proposition off the agenda at one of its annual meetings. The company’s largest shareholder, the New York State pension fund administered by its state Comptroller, floated the proposition each year.

At one annual meeting of the corporation, Dallas Voice tried talking to a representative of the New York Comptroller’s office at the Meyerson in downtown Dallas where the meeting is held each year, Exxon had police follow us until we left and talked at the Winspear instead.

Tillerson was paranoid about offering those benefits. He was adamant in a meeting arranged by Resource Center that the only reason Exxon was not offering the benefits was no one was going to tell him what to do.

Despite Exxon winning the ballot fight to not offer benefits each year for 16 years, the company offered those same benefits to employees who lived in other countries where those benefits were mandated. When marriage equality became law, Exxon changed its policy in the U.S. immediately.

Serving as president of the Boy Scouts of America, Tillerson was also instrumental in preventing the organization from updating its policy to allow gay Scouts and Scout leaders.


Dallas Opera, DSM and PAFW reveal upcoming seasons

Posted on 01 Feb 2017 at 12:55pm

‘The Lion King’ returns as part of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2018 season.

Several companies have announced their upcoming seasons this week, in whole or part.

The Dallas Opera’s 61st season will feature five productions, including a U.S. premiere and three popular operas in the mainstream canon.

It starts with Samson and Dalila by Camille Saint-Saens (Oct. 20, 22, 25, 28 and Nov. 5). That’s performed in repertory with Verdi’s enduring tragedy La Traviata (Oct. 27, 29, Nov. 1, 4 and 10). 2018 kicks off with a rarely-seen one-act opera composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold when he was just 16: The Ring of Polykrates (Feb. 9, 11, 14 and 17, 2018). That will be accompanied by a recital of his acclaimed Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 35), written to commemorate the fall of Nazism.

That’s followed by the U.S. premiere of modern composer Michel van der Aa’s Sunken Garden (March. 9, 11, 14 and 17), a technological wonder that employs 3D projections (yes, opera audiences will wear 3D glasses). The season concludes with Mozart’s Don Giovanni (April 13, 15, 18, 21, 27 and 29), one of the darkest and most musically complex operas every created.

In addition, the season will feature the opening gala, a fashion show, simulcasts, family performances and other community outreach. Performances will be at the Winspear Opera House. Tickets are available at

You may have heard already that Hamilton will be part of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2018-19 season, but before we get there, the 2017-18 season stands in the way… or facilitates it. If you subscribe to the upcoming season, you get first crack at Hamilton the following year (as well as Disney’s Aladdin, which has also been announced).

Dec. 5–10: White Christmas. This add-on show returns.

Jan. 23–Feb. 4, 2018: The Color Purple. The recent Broadway revival took best actress in a musical away from Hamilton. The original production also won for best actress. Based on Alice Walker’s novel, it features a lesbian relationship in the early 20th century South.

Feb. 27–March 11: On Your Feet. The popular jukebox musical featuring the songs of Gloria Estefan.

March 28–April 8: Waitress. Sara Bareilles’ acclaimed Broadway debut as a composer, based upon the charming indie film.

April 24–May 6: Les Miserables. The sensation is back again.

June 13–July 8: The Lion King. Disney’s long-running hit, featuring the puppetry and brilliant staging of Julie Taymor.

July 24–Aug. 5: Love Never Dies. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, set in Coney Island.

Aug. 15–26: School of Rock. Webber’s latest musical, about a teacher who instructs kids on how to be headbangers.

All shows at Fair Park Music Hall; tickets available at

As has been the case in recent years, many of the DSM shows are part of Performing Arts Fort Worth’s season at Bass Hall as well:

Jan. 17-21, 2018: Something Rotten. The comic telling of merriment in Olde Europe.

Feb. 16–18: Chicago. A season add-on of the long-running smash.

March 20–25: Finding Neverland. The behind-the-scenes telling of the inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

June 19–24: Waitress (see above).

Aug. 7–12: Love Never Dies (see above).

Aug. 28–Sept. 2: School of Rock (see above).

All performances at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Tickets available at

In addition, the Dallas Theater Center will not release its full 2017-18 season until next month, but it has revealed the titled of four shows that will be included in it, among them The Trials of Sam Houston, Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, The Great Society — Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to his award-winning LBJ drama All the Way, which DTC staged last year — and the counter-culture musical Hair. We’ll have the scoop on the full season later this month.


LEAGUE Foundation at AT&T offers LGBT scholarships

Posted on 01 Feb 2017 at 12:20pm

The LEAGUE Foundation 2017 LGBT Scholarship program is open for high school seniors to apply online. The application deadline for scholarships is midnight April 30 and awards will be dispersed during the summer. Since 1996, LEAGUE Foundation has awarded 120 college scholarships totaling $251,000 to self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer graduating U.S. high school students.

LEAGUE@AT&T is the company’s LGBT employee resource group.

LEAGUE Foundation has 4 awards for consideration:

The Laurel Hester Memorial Scholarship (1 award annually)
The Matthew Shepard Memorial Scholarship (1 award annually)
The Stonewall Empowerment Scholarship (1 award annually – new scholarship for 2017)
The LEAGUE Foundation Scholarship (typically 9 awards annually – new number of awards started in 2016 and continuing in 2017)

Scholarship Qualifications

Applications are usually accepted from January through April.  Decisions are usually made in July. The program is open to self-identified gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer graduating high school seniors meeting the prescribed criteria. Family members and mentors are encouraged to work with applicants to help ensure their submissions are complete.

The applicant must:
•  Be graduating from high school in the year he / she applies for a scholarship.
•  Be a United States Citizen or be a legal immigrant.
•  Be attending an accredited college, university, or vocational school within the United States or Canada. Proof of acceptance is required.
•  Provide an OFFICIAL copy of his / her high school transcript showing a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better using a 4.0 scale or equivalent. Weighted average can be used in this calculations. If the applicant’s high school does not use a numerical grading system, then a complete description of the measures of success and requirements for graduation is required.
•  Complete 2 personal essays as outlined on the application form.
•  Provide at least 2 letters of recommendation from non-family members.
•  Prepare a detailed list of community involvement. “Extra-Credit” is given to those activities and leadership roles relating directly to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities.
•  Sign an acknowledgement form agreeing to the outlined terms and conditions of the application.


SCOTUS nominee has history of anti-LGBT rulings

Posted on 01 Feb 2017 at 10:06am

Judge Neil Gorsuch

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch sits on the 10 Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Here’s how he ruled on some issues related to the LGBT community, according to research done by the Williams Institute.

Druley v. Patton: Judge Gorsuch joined an unpublished opinion ruling against a transgender inmate’s constitutional claims seeking hormone treatment and re-assignment from an all-male facility.

Kastl v. Maricopa County Community College District: Judge Gorsuch, sitting by designation on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, joined an unpublished opinion that, while recognizing that a transgender person can state a claim for sex discrimination under Title VII based on a theory of gender stereotyping, ultimately ruled against the plaintiff.  The employer had barred the plaintiff from using the female restroom until completing gender-confirmation surgery.  The court held that “restroom safety” was a non-discriminatory reason for the employer’s decision.

Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius: Judge Gorsuch joined an opinion in favor of companies alleging that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate violated their religious rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Judge Gorsuch authored a concurrence to explain his expansive view of religious liberty claims under RFRA.

Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation said, “Supreme Court Justices should be able to uphold the constitution without allowing personal prejudice against any group of people to cloud their decisions. Mr. Gorsuch has a troubling history of working against fairness for LGBTQ Americans.”

Lambda Legal CEO Rachel Tiven said, “We absolutely must not confirm a Supreme Court nominee who has ruled that the religious beliefs and moral judgments of employers can be forced upon their employees. It is a short hop from restrictions on birth control to restrictions on the intimate relationships and health care needs of LGBT people.”


Budweiser’s planning to piss off a bunch of Trump supporters for the Super Bowl

Posted on 31 Jan 2017 at 4:28pm

Seems like Budweiser’s not having any of Trump’s bullying immigrants crap. Or won’t they get the subtlety of it?

Here’s their Super Bowl ad: