Students for a Democratic Society forms at El Centro

STUDENT RADICALS | Deante Toombs, left, Stephen Benavides, standing, and Brashad Lewis helped revive the ’60s anti-war group SDS on college campuses in the Dallas area. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

LGBT rights are now a central issue for the anti-Vietnam War group revived in 2006

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Students at El Centro College and UT Arlington have organized new chapters of Students for a Democratic Society, and the group has popped up on as many as 90 college campuses around the country.

The reincarnation of SDS, a major force in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam era, began in 2006.

At the Equality March for LGBT rights held in Downtown Dallas on June 25, members of SDS marched for gay rights and spoke at the rally at the JFK Memorial. All of the SDS members participating were straight.

Brashad Lewis does public relations for the local groups and plans to start a group on a Tarrant County College campus that he’ll attend in the fall.

He said the group hopes to bring the national convention of SDS chapters to Dallas or Arlington in October. They’ve submitted their bids and will hear back soon.

But organizers say that should the Dallas bid win, one minor obstacle stands in the way: The El Centro group is currently without a faculty advisor.

Stephen Benavides, a graduate student at UTA, said that he was at El Centro and a Dallas County Community College officer motioned for him to come over and then assaulted him with a police baton.

Benavides said that a complaint has been filed.

Then four days later, the faculty advisor to the group abruptly quit.

Deante Toombs, an El Centro student, said that to reserve rooms for the conference, the group needs to be recognized, but finding another faculty advisor should be no problem.

Benavides said that the advisor at UTA is a former SDS member from the ’60s with tenure and has no fear of reprisals.

But he said that the incident at El Centro shows that the group is being followed and members being targeted despite the peaceful history of SDS.

In another incident, SDS organized a protest of cuts to teaching staff and financial aid and increased class size. Protesters planned to meet at Rosa Parks Plaza near El Centro. Rather than the peaceful demonstration planned, marchers were met with DART police on bicycles blocking entrance to the square. Marchers used streets and sidewalks instead and paraded on downtown streets to protest the cuts.

Toombs said that LGBT equality is a central issue for SDS.

“SDS stands in solidarity with issues affecting minorities, gays, women,” Toombs said.

“It’s 2011,” Benavides said. “Are we still having problems with this now?”

He said that’s why the group participated in the Equality March and may march in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.
Toombs said that the group is being targeted differently than it was in the ’60s. Then the FBI infiltrated with agitators to get information while trying to break the groups up through dissention.

Today, they’re being threatened with prosecution under the Patriot Act as if they’re a terrorist threat.

In addition to local campus issues, the original SDS organized nationally to protest the Vietnam War. Benavides said that local issues — LGBT rights, cuts in school funding — are important to SDS groups across the country, but the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya are why they came together.

Lewis said the attacks from campus police, reportedly instigated by federal authorities that want SDS disbanded, are using the divide and conquer method.

Toombs said that the group at El Centro has protested peacefully and exercised its right of free speech.

What has surprised him is the power the name still holds 40 years after the original group officially folded.

SDS is the model for all types of student groups based on causes that followed over succeeding decades — women’s rights, LGBT rights, AIDS, civil rights, environmental issues. These groups worked on a shoestring budget and used direct action to demand certain results. Without Facebook or the Internet to interact, SDS held annual national conventions to meet each other and exchange ideas.

At a convention in 1969, SDS officially ended, but a number of local campus groups lasted into the early to mid ’70s to continue protesting the war and to work on local campus issues.

Best known among early SDS organizers was Tom Hayden. Hayden later went on to serve in the California Legislature and ran for governor and mayor of Los Angeles and was a U.S. senator. But he is still best known as the first husband of Jane Fonda. At the time, Fonda was known more for her antiwar activism rather than her acting.

Bernadette Dohrn, another well-known SDS member, founded the radical wing known as the Weather Underground with her husband Bill Ayers. Dohrn is now an associate professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, but during the early ’70s, she was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.

Still, most of the actions of the group were peaceful. They staged draft-card burnings to protest the war. They did sit-ins to take over campus administration buildings. They marched and rallied.

Benavides said that if they took over a campus building today, they’d send in the SWAT team.

But Benavides, Toombs and Lewis have fashioned their campus groups on the model of the peaceful wing of the group.

“Education is a right,” Benavides said.

Toombs said that discrimination can’t be tolerated.

But none proposed any violent action to achieve their goals.

On July 27, SDS is sponsoring a conference on Islamophobia and the New McCarthyism at UTA. They’re working on a women’s conference in August and hope to host the national convention in October. David Taffet, who wrote this article, was a member of SDS at SUNY Albany in the early 1970s.

—  John Wright

PHOTOS and VIDEO: Dallas marks IDAHO

About 45 people attended a candlelight vigil in downtown Dallas on Tuesday night to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. A number of pedestrians also stopped along the sidewalk to listen to speakers at the JFK Memorial.

The evening began with singing and an invocation by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Maeve O’Connor spoke about transphobia. A video of her talk is below.

BiNet Dallas president Morgan O’Donnell and event organizer Elizabeth Jayne Webb addressed biphobia by the gay as well as straight communities. Jesse Garcia, Steven Sprinkle and Davlin Kerekes spoke about homophobia.

After the speakers, there was a candlelight vigil along several downtown blocks.

This is the first time Dallas participated in IDAHO. The event has been marked in Europe and Canada since 2004 and is held on May 17 because that is the date in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

No counterprotesters showed up at the vigil.

More photos and video after the jump.

—  David Taffet

Cuba marks IDAHO with drag pageant, parade

When I think of countries that are enlightened and progressive when it comes to LGBT rights, Cuba has never ranked very high on the list. But it looks like I need to rethink my attitudes.

Miss Trasvesti 2011 contestant

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, but Cuba got a jump on the celebration with the second annual Miss Trasvesti pageant, featuring a line-up of truly stunning drag queens, if the photos posted here on Huffington Post are any indication.

You can watch video from Cuba’s 2010 Miss Travesti pageant below.

The article also says that Cubanos celebrated IDAHO with “a colorful parade and other events throughout Havana,” and notes that Mariela Castro, niece of longtime president Fidel Castro (and daughter of current president Raul Castro), is head of Cuba’s National Sexual Education Center and a longtime advocate on LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS issues.

Although IDAHO has been around for seven years, this is the first time that Dallas will have an IDAHO event. Everyone is invited to gather at the JFK Memorial in downtown Dallas at 8 p.m. for a candlelight march followed by presentations by speakers.

—  admin

Hillary Clinton issues statement to mark IDAHO

Hillary Clinton

To mark the International Day Against Homophobia & Biphobia, also known as IDAHO, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement of support for the LGBT community.

Joe Bedos, international coordinator for IDAHO, said in a written statement, “An impressive global program for the 7th edition of the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia is taking place this week with hundreds of events planned in over 70 countries, reports the IDAHO Committee, the organisation which launched the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2004.”

The day has been more widely observed in Canada and Europe but this year has come to the U.S., with events going on in Texas. In Dallas, a candlelight vigil will be at 8 p.m. tonight at the JFK Memorial on Main Street across from Old Red. After a short sidewalk march, speakers will talk about homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

In Houston, the GLBT Community Center will host a round-table discussion at 7 p.m. The center is located at 1900 Kane St.

Below is Secretary Clinton’s statement:

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Texas Legislature may limit access to drugs for thousands with HIV/AIDS

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Today is the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, also known as IDAHO, which commemorates the World Health Organization’s removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders on May 17, 1990. Activists in Dallas will mark the event for the first time this year, with a march and candlelight vigil beginning at the JFK Memorial downtown. For more info, go here.

2. As a House-Senate conference committee works to finalize the state budget, funding for the Texas HIV Medication Program hangs in the balance. The program, which provides life-sustaining drugs to low-income people with HIV/AIDS, needs an additional $19.2 million over the next two years to serve 3,000 anticipated new clients. The House version of the budget leaves out the needed funds, while the Senate version includes them. Now it’s up to the conference committee to resolve the discrepancy. If the committee doesn’t include the $19.2 million in the final budget, the program likely will be forced to turn away clients or otherwise limit access. Contact members of the House-Senate conference committee and urge them to fully fund the Texas HIV Medication Program by going here.

3. Now that David Kunkle and Mike Rawlings have advanced to a runoff for Dallas mayor, we’re hosting an LGBT forum for the two candidates next week at the Cathedral of Hope. A large turnout for the forum will serve as a reminder to Kunkle and Rawlings that the LGBT community in Dallas is a force to be reckoned with. For details or to RSVP, go here.

—  John Wright

March against LGBT-phobia set in Dallas

Daniel Cates

Event is part of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and will include candlelight vigil and speakers

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Activists will gather at the JFK Memorial in downtown Dallas as part of the worldwide recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, known as IDAHO, on May 17.

The event began in 2004 but this is the first time Dallas will participate.

“It’s celebrated around the world and we’ve never had one here in Dallas,” said organizer Daniel Cates.

The May 17 date was chosen by the Paris-based IDAHO committee: Although U.S. groups like the American Psychological Association had already removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, the World Health Organization did so on May 17, 1990.

That was a major step for the LGBT community in many countries in gaining equality based on sexual orientation.

Cates said that the day is celebrated differently in different parts of the world.

“Some places it’s as simple as showing a film or having an art exhibit,” he said.

In countries where a Pride Day celebration is banned, a demonstration against homophobia might be permitted.

In Dallas, Cates said, “We’re doing a candlelight vigil, not a loud, screaming march. Chicago is doing a boisterous protest.”

Cates said the march through downtown would be on sidewalks with police escorts but would not close streets. The route is be short, about a half mile, Cates estimated.

He said the second Stonewall March set for June 25 will also be held downtown and will again close streets, as it did last year.

“The two events seem to be attracting two different groups,” Cates said.

He called the IDAHO event a more mature crowd.

“The march appeals to a younger crowd who wants to know, ‘Why the hell don’t I have my rights?’” he said.

Cates said the Dallas IDAHO vigil will concentrate on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Other cities have expanded their focus to include other groups also experiencing discrimination.

He cited Islamophobia as an issue that will be addressed in some places.

The march returns to the JFK Memoril where speakers will address the crowd, including Maeve O’Connor, a transgender member of the Resource Center Dallas board of directors. Her three-minute speech at Dallas County Commissioners Court is reportedly the story that convinced John Wiley Price to vote for the county nondiscrimination policy to gender identity and expression.

Elizabeth Jayne Webb, who is an event organizer as well as speaker, is an organizer of Walk for Choice.

She recently planned the Slut Walk to call for an end to blaming the victims in cases of in rape and violence.

Rainbow LULAC President Jesse Garcia will speak about building bridges between the Hispanic and LGBT communities. He hosts a morning talk show on KNON.

Other speakers will include Davlin Kerekes, an activist with the International Socialist Organization Dallas Branch, and Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, associate professor of religion at Brite Divinity School and theologian-in-residence at Cathedral of Hope. Sprinkle is also the author of Unfinished Lives, a book about LGBT hate crime victims.

Cates said the evening will also include songs and speakers will be followed by an open mic.

—  John Wright