How can we get the defense of Black churches on the gay agenda?

by Granate Sosnoff on 15th July, 2015

gay agenda

The power of the rainbow is in full glow this summer. The significance of the June 26 Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality is concretely meaningful for so many, and symbolically meaningful to everyone.

#LoveWins this summer, but not for everyone and not if you plan to get married in a Black church. Because it is a summer of hate this year as well.

Parallel to the civil rights victory of same-sex marriage is a growing state of emergency of violence against Black people in the U.S. Late this June, eight African-American churches were set on fire in a period of ten days in the South. It is a time of terror.

Race-motivated crimes are at a boiling point in this country. The church burnings, together with the race-hatred murders committed by Dylann Roof, and the ongoing and undocumented police murders and brutality of African Americans is bringing combatting racism to a priority need for any political group concerned about human rights.

A gigantic item is getting checked off for LGBT advocacy groups. Winning same-sex marriage in the highest court of the land is historic, but for many in this community it is also a relief to be able to shift gears and move on.

But there is no published gay agenda. And if there were, it would be created by leadership in organizations who do not always reflect our gender and racial diversity.

One of the largest and most powerful LGBT political groups is Human Rights Campaign, a group recently confirmed through their own commissioned report as riddled with discrimination and diversity problems, and essentially a “white men’s club.”

At this historic moment, where #LoveWins it would be an incredible shift to intentionally put LGBT money and power in support of Black organizing.

Without losing the mission of focusing on LGBT rights and equality… organizations have an opportunity to extend at this time and become real allies in the fight against police brutality, racially-motivated hate crimes, the burning of Black churches and other terrorism targeting Black lives and Black freedom.

Because we are not all white and male and in charge.

In the tradition of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, and so many other Black LGBTs we stand on the shoulders of, the gay political powerbase that’s emerged should find a supportive way to step into this battle and unleash some gay power into this arena in a meaningful way.

Granate Sosnoff is a Bay Area writer who directs Southpaw, a social change communications group supporting advocacy and social justice. @granate


UN ad campaign on women

by Granate Sosnoff on 23rd October, 2013
TAGS: , ,

Campaign so worth checking out – Actual Google autocomplete results. Take a look.

UN ad campaign

When the hometown hero’s a bad guy

by Granate Sosnoff on 17th April, 2013

We read about notorious incidents, not the least of which are recent cases involving the suicides of teenage girls from small towns who after being raped and shamed in social media, take their own lives.

We shake our heads at the inhumanity and awfulness of it all but also know that less broadcasted and personal hells are going on all the time.

I took a trip back to my hometown, a small city that still has an old-timely feel, but now also a few more malls, Pilates and micro-brews.

We met up with my sister’s friends including one who teaches math at our old high school. He told us about recently being granted the honor of introducing a local math and science teacher in a video project that played in the theatre.

It sounded like he gave a grand and appreciative speech for this teacher who played an important role in his life.

I remembered the teacher, not as a life-changer, but as someone who followed a friend’s progress in college, semi-stalked her via false impressions of scholastic interest and support and who later tried to convince/quasi-coerce her into having sex with him – much to her horror.

A gray area on the sexual abuse spectrum, for sure, but ON the spectrum I would say.

So in a held back tone fully expecting a “here she goes wrecking everything” stare I mentioned:

“You know that guy had a not-so-pretty flipside.”

A tense room change occurred. Two people responded with anxious defensiveness including a “we all have flaws” and some other similarly themed comment. I answered in my new calm way of arguing that I was well aware of being flawed myself but didn’t semi-stalk young people I knew in their teens.

One woman at the gathering spoke up and told the story of her friend who walked out of the theatre crying during the speech about this teacher. The woman was shaken and upset about the honoring of a man who had clearly done something “untoward” to her.

Even though there’s broader understanding that violence is often perpetrated by someone who knows their victim rather than a stranger, we are still caught in a mind loop of dismissing acquaintance-rape and abuse and amplifying stranger-rape.

Often it’s the case that many people know something is or has gone on when sexual abuse takes place. I don’t know if this math teacher was a rapist, I just know there was something very, very wrong with how he interacted with young women and girls.

So when I hear impassioned calls for ending “rape culture” I wonder at how we’ve all protected rather than spoken up or schooled someone when we had the chance – and hence participated in maintaining the status quo.

If this teacher was such a great guy deserved of accolades then why didn’t one of his fans let him know his “character flaw” (which many seemed to know about) could use some serious self-reflection and change.

Abusers are not usually one-dimensional creatures. Seemingly kind people do hideous things.

If we consider people part of our community – even in the broadest former-high-school teacher sense – then we have a role to play.

Too often we want to believe the best and do nothing, despite our hunches and intuition, until it’s too damn late.

Targeting indifference: Extending “see something – say something” to gender-based violence

by Granate Sosnoff on 15th January, 2013
Michael Nodianos, 18, was intoxicated when he participated in a vile video in which he mocks the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl last August. The video resurfaced last week after a hacktivist group posted it on YouTube.

Michael Nodianos, 18, participated in a video in which he mocks the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl last August. The video resurfaced last week after a hacktivist group posted it on YouTube.

The good people of Steubenville, Ohio are in the middle of a modern-day gang rape case that is disheartening in a number of ways. What strikes me about the story are the displays of indifference to the drugging, dragging and public gang rape of the 16-year-old West Virginian girl this past August.

This guy (see image) should be replaced with another guy. The guy I want to read about is the guy who sends his video to the police the night of the event and calls and reports the crime.

The parents I want to read about are the parents who say, “yes, well, we raised him to be a responsible ally, it’s no wonder he did what he did.”

We need a better strategy to engage bystanders when it comes to sexual violence so that when they see something – they actually “say something.”

As the story deepens (see New Yorker article) we learn that this isn’t the first time something as cruel, vicious and illegal has happened around Steubenville High (or other schools for that matter).

“Peer pressure” is something we made fun of when I was a teen but it’s at the crux of indifference to violent crime and probably why, given the many people who had opportunities to intervene, they did nothing.

The enormously popular author, Stieg Larson, who wrote the “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series fell victim to it as a teen.

Mr. Larson witnessed the gang rape of a girl, a real-life Lisbeth, by his friends. He didn’t intervene, and according to his longtime friend, this inaction haunted him the rest of his days.

Given the long life of a story on the web, I can only imagine Michael Nodianos’s future regret.

He could have been a hero.

Eric Cantor stomps his feet and VAWA doesn’t get ratified

by Granate Sosnoff on 11th January, 2013



One of the best books I read in 2012 was Louise Erdrich’s powerful, National Book Award-winning novel, The Round House. The central theme is that of a violent rape committed against an Ojibwe woman. What is important to note here is that where the rape occurs is of legal significance as well as who perpetrates the crime, since tribal courts have limited jurisdiction over crimes that occur on reservations by non-Natives.

The book is a complex exploration of the impact violence has on family, community, and of the limitations of legal recourse – all relevant to the issue of violence against women…

I bring this up because the reason why VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) didn’t pass this time around was because:

“At the eleventh hour…majority leader Eric Cantor dug in his heels over the Native American provision, which would have expanded tribal courts’ jurisdiction over domestic violence offenses committed on reservations against Native women by non-Native men.” Excerpted from The Nation article by Erica Eichelberger

Seems to me that a provision for extending tribal law is written in there for a reason. According to US government statistics (via Amnesty International) Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the U.S.

According to the US Department of Justice, 86% of this violence is perpetrated by non-Natives. Given the history of violence against Native Americans in the US it seems that tribal courts SHOULD have more jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Natives on reservations.

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Body talk in the women’s locker room

by Granate Sosnoff on 17th April, 2012

The young woman who started it all simply said: “I wish it didn’t matter to me so much.” “It” being how she felt about her body. She then talked about some pretty amazing accomplishments including making a documentary, getting an award, being accepted by Stanford graduate school, living abroad, climbing Kilimanjaro… But still, on a day-to-day basis, unhappiness with her body trumped achievements and talent.

Uh, argh?

What made the conversation different from the usual self-loathing conversations about bodies and body parts is that she was totally self-aware and dealing.

AND it wasn’t her displeasure with her looks – which most of us have to some degree – it was more the fact that she let it get to her.

I think a lot of us have this conflict – letting “it” matter too much.  Not the fact that we think we’re fat and ugly but that we let unhappiness with our bodies or looks matter too much. It’s almost embarrassing.

The responses she evoked were all positive and reassuring. Older women saying “you’re beautiful” (she was) and “it gets better as you get older,” and other kind things we say when someone lets on that they are bothered with their appearance.

We all want to make it go away.

I’d just seen an Italian movie where a lot of different kinds of women, with varying bodies, were portrayed as attractive and sexy as opposed to the perfection we’re served up in America, so I mentioned that. I also mentioned Ashley Judd’s recent postings about the backlash she’s gotten for looking “puffy” and how some of her worst, meany, critics were women and how crappy that was.

But honestly what can you tell a smart girl who isn’t happy with the fact that “it” matters so much.

Lecture about the patriarchy? Try to drum up some anger around how women are overly judged on our looks, etc., etc.

Smart gals know all that.

Luckily, brains and talent, two things she had in spades, are longer-term, important, sexy, and sort of win in the end.

But, yeah, the other thing, “it” I wish it didn’t matter so much either.



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