Keyboard Activist

When people, scholars, and advocates are told about the Civil Rights Movement, there are plenty of stories and references to share. Some prominent civil rights leaders naturally overshadow others that played a significant part. Most leaders we remember is either from lessons taught to us or the information we gather. Civil rights advocacy wasn’t solely on those who marched, spoke and wrote the most. Civil rights, to become a successful campaign and separate being labeled thugs or hostile people, introduced the practice of satyagraha. Satyagraha originated as a conceptual faith introduced and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi as a form of nonviolent resistance. Its use in India led to the nation claiming independence from the British Empire. The practice of satyagraha extends to others such as Nelson Mandela, Alice Paul, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Each of those leaders helped in ending apartheid, women’s rights, and equal access for all.

Satyagraha (sat·ya·gra·ha) noun – a policy of passive political resistance, especially that advocated by Mahatma Gandhi against British rule in India.

In all of the cases where nonviolent resistance was applied, harsh laws were created to suppress particular groups it affected. The number of arrests from all nonviolent resistance movements is too overwhelming to comprehend. The total number of deaths attributed cannot be accurately measured. The number of participants that took part in any form of civil, human and equality cannot be measured. Was satyagraha successful in its methods? That would much depend on which demonstration or protest that took place. Some were successful, and some weren’t.

In the early 90’s I began my journey as a protester, marcher, and activist for gay equality and rights. My first task was a database administrator for a group known as Digital Queers. While Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, and countless others before me laid the groundwork for LGBT rights, I began to understand a determined message of unity despite policy or personal indifferences. I was refused service at restaurants, endured random physical attacks, detained during demonstrations, shot at, was the target of a firebombing, fired for suspected of being gay, served trespass notifications, and outed by others within the gay community while they continued acting as a straight to be accepted without suspicion. These were just a few of the issues not only I personally endured, but many others standing beside me. But I embraced a non-violent or amended version of satyagraha to keep at peace that what I was doing was just. It wasn’t a journey for my gay rights. It was a journey for the rights of others afraid to come out. At every instance where my rights were either discarded, stripped, or placed me in fear I made it a habit to pray for others. I avoided a melancholy expression as not to give an impression of vulnerability by others. It may sound ridiculous for some but non-violence must be a mental conditioning of inner peace. I am not suggesting that everyone find their medicament or take up yoga. Instead, I am suggesting that peaceful methods of activism must instill healthy and composed well-being.

Digital Queers – a national nonprofit network founded in 1992 of gay techies working to provide access to the community. The first organization to partner with and implement an all Apple Computer Server Network. Many of the original members are senior level Apple employees.

Whether your advocacy is for equality, justice reforms, ending the sex registry, legalization of cannabis, or anything else that is dear to your heart being mindful, respectful, and comfortable goes a long way. Being aware that you are mentally up for the challenge is critical maintaining a sense of sanity. Do you want to be the face of the movement, a face in the crowd, or a face behind the curtain? It is your choice in how you wish to engage effectively. Most new activists seek an action plan, agenda, talking points, organizational reference, visibility markers to identify other allies or supporters. Respect for others is crucial to deescalate conflict. Every protest has some form of counter-protest. Respect must be a part of advocacy both internally and externally. Freedoms are foundations that everyone has a particular right and belief system. Being respectful in most occasions allows moments of diplomacy and perhaps new opportunities. Comfort embraces self and where your value add is most applicable. There have been protests where a few participants march but lots of spectators are in fact supporters. This is where mindful and respectfulness incorporates significant opportunities ahead. Often it is the crowd that assumes the visible measurability outcome more than leaders, opposition, supporters, or other factors.

There were and still are groups within the LGBT community that took measures to another level. The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) perhaps became the unfiltered voice of how leaders and communities were ignoring the AIDS crisis in the ’80s. ACT UP was very successful in many campaigns to tackle misinformation by effectively shutting down businesses and sponsors by intensive internet campaigns designed by Digital Queers and many other LGBT organizations. Leaders, politicians, and journalists were prime targets by ACT UP anywhere a media camera was rolling for any forms of recording. ACT UP would interrupt any reporting to inject its message. It became so intense that many news reporters couldn’t go live or had to voiceover back inside a studio. It was tremendously effective. It still falls within the bounds of non-violent but more of an aggressive tactic. Many LGBT members had mixed views. But ACT UP served its useful purpose to target its focus on AIDS leaving other LGBT issues in the hands of respective organizations properly organized to handle them.

AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is an international direct action advocacy group that began in 1987 working to impact the lives of people with AIDS (PWAs) and the AIDS pandemic to bring about legislation, medical research and treatment and policies to ultimately bring an end to the disease by mitigating loss of health and lives. To make a donation to ACT UP visit https://actupny.com

Fast forward today, and the world has witnessed a transformation where gay marriage, open military service, employment rights, and other LGBT issues are widely accepted where once was thought to be impossible to achieve. As soon as the champaign, glitter, and outrageous costumes were swept up and stored away so did the opposition to retread the tires creating another momentum to reintroducing a reformed path to keep their agenda alive. All forms of rights will inevitably be tested in every generation. Civil rights are continuously challenged today. Women’s rights are still relevant in society. Social justice became talking points for the right to health care, and prison reforms suddenly became justice reforms. No matter what you call it, rights will have a pro and con advocacy armed and organized to voice its strong opinion, and both will have leaders not readily identifiable by name today.

Advocacy is a serious business for some. It is what motivates them to get up each day to perform something with passion, life, and gives them the energy to live life. To others, advocacy is ad hoc and doesn’t necessitate a priority in their life, and that too is completely fine. There will be bitter divisions, personal attacks of character, finger pointing, hostilities, and discourteous behaviors by the opposition and from within. Just as MLK is revered today as the leader of civil rights many forget the names of the sit-in protesters at a lunch counter in North Carolina. It may be harder for most to remember any member from the Black Panther Party? It is not to suggest that what they contributed to their own agenda was negative or unjust. Instead, quite the opposite. What they did was for a passionate plea to be recognized for that particular moment in time. It is up to us as people to research those that contribute and often extend a moment of gratitude for what everyone brings to the table.

Black Panther Party, original name Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, African American revolutionary party, founded in 1966 in Oakland, California, by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The party’s original purpose was to patrol African American neighbourhoods to protect residents from acts of police brutality.

At present, my education, research, family, pets, friends, and God are the most important values in my life. My days of protesting are still deep within me. But I resource my advocacy to prioritize in an ad hoc fashion so that I may be at peace with self, others and plan my time effectively. I have always been a James Bond movie fan. However, a quote from that movie sums up how effective my career has led me. In the movie Skyfall there is a line that others have shared and assessed the characterization of me. “I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of earl grey than you can do in a year in the field.” That is where I was in the ’90s with Digital Queers and where I belong today with university research and policy reforms with my laptop or iPad Pro ready to engage in this fast paced online world. I am grateful to those that undertake leadership roles. But I tend to root for those sitting in pajamas behind keyboards mistakenly viewed by some where they are also the ones changing and influencing the world by stealth and efficiency.

Poor, Poor N.C. State University Basketball

For some of my blog readers, today’s blog may not be filled with political discourse or general policy overviews. Instead, I again will once again write about the North Carolina State University athletics program. When I attended N.C. State I wrote for The Technician about the University piss poor athletics programs. In fact, during that reporting period, the athletics department was headed by athletics director Lee Fowler. Shortly after my scathing, but honest, assessment Fowler retired from the University. He was replaced by Debbie Yow, which is the sister of the late N.C. State basketball coach legend, Kay Yow.

 

First, to understand a typical dedicated Wolfpack fan comes with a standard set of guidelines. 1. The program has an incredible history. 2. The entire athletics program seems focused on only beating Carolina. 3. Preseasons are filled with hype only to dissipate as the season progresses. In other words, the Wolfpack doesn’t have the caliber programs found at Notre Dame, UNC, Arizona or Florida. Instead, it will throw millions of dollars into a “Field of Dreams” style building project to build a reputable and loyal fan base to immediately fail on the field or on the court. Granted, its athletics facilities are some of the best on the planet. Any athletics coach would be in awe to have equal access to such services. In fact, the recruitment is on par with just about any other major university program. Coaching staff typically has some remarkable stats at the initial phase. But once at N.C. State all that falls apart. It’s a university filled with hopes of athletic excellence that consistently fails to deliver.

 

The last time N.C. State basketball program went to the NCAA Elite Eight was in 1986. That program was led by the late Jim Valvano. Les Robinson took over the program after Valvano was forced to leave under athletics misconduct allegations. Then came Herb Sendek which took the Pack to a tournament for 9 out of 10 seasons before his firing and departure to Arizona State University. Sidney Lowe, a former N.C. State player became the next coach that never had one appearance at the NCAA tournament. Now we come to the current Wolfpack basketball coach, Mark Gottfried which seated the Pack at a NCAA Sweet Sixteen position at his first season as coach. As a coach for five seasons, Gottfried has been to the NCAA tournament four times. This season his Wolfpack is struggling. But the Wolfpack apparently, once again, want change. It is highly rumored that Gottfried will be fired after the end of this season. Why the Wolfpack hired Gottfried after being fired from Alabama is perplexing. Perhaps it’s because N.C. State athletics has issues securing good coaching talent. After all, it’s a trainwreck in the making.

 

A problem for the Wolfpack is that its programs and fan base utilize the eligibility rule to secure a seat at playoffs. Nevermind about becoming a conference champion or a NCAA ranking. Instead, Pack fans and its program will ever endure the Cinderella syndrome of its only hope of being crowned Champion. The Cinderella method is fine for UTEP or Pepperdine but not N.C. State. The University is a Division 1 contender with Duke, UNC, and Virgina in its brackets. Yet, the Pack seems unconcerned or effortless in securing solid and robust wins against those adversaries. This is why the Wolfpack and all of its athletics won’t win championships. If the Wolfpack wants to begin winning, then its coaching staff must stop being a friend to its fan base and become autocratic, disciplined and focused leaders on the field and court. Until then, the Wolfpack athletic program will continue to be the hum-drum back pages issue filled with canned expectations and mediocre write-ups. After all, that has been the typical sports writing style since the departure of Valvano.

 

Mark my words, the Wolfpack will hire another coach, and you will hear the same canned commentary each and every time. “The new coach must be given several seasons to select his own players” or “the Wolfpack signed one of the best recruits for next season.”  The end result is that without a robust and disciplined coaching staff none of that will matter. The Wolfpack, in my opinion, will continue to rank between mediocre and below average regardless of what stellar facilities it builds. Go ahead and fire the Wolfpack basketball coach. It will only make it harder to find a better replacement. It only gives the university another poor excuse of additional time and recruiting to rebuild with same repeated insanity laced expectations that NC State fans have come to endure.

Message v. Audience

Tim Kaine and Mike Pence duked it out at the Vice Presidential Debate. My initial impression of Gov. Pence was he sounded like a confident baritone. However listing to Sen. Kaine was sadly similar to the television character Barnie Fife. Kaine’s tone was interrupting at times muddled with lots of information to provide in response to rhetoric delivered by Trump. Instead, the debate was lost in transit. Kaine seemed to fail on delivering an effective punch line despite having a dossier of Trump failures and past poor performances.

However, when it came to practical answers, Sen. Kaine connected with solid answers. This is where it is tricky. Kaine had the answers, but I feel he did not connect them well to the audience. Gov. Pence did not engage in response to some questions. In some instances, Gov. Pence was either speechless or quiescent. For example, during the debate, Sen. Kaine responded to a question about Mr. Trump and his contentious bias. Instead of responding, Gov. Pence turned away from the camera without providing any comment. It was an extraordinary and restrained moment that may raise further questions or inquiry. However, a remarkable silver lining appeared for Pence. I feel Pence was able to score well with the audience. While it may be true Pence was using up the clock a bit to agitate Kaine; it may prove to be effective and a solid overall tally that Pence may have won the debate.

Sen. Kaine did an excellent job of answering questions and was prepared. What I would have hoped for is for Sen. Kaine to speak to his audience as if he had to assume the role of the President and to slow his delivery in a calmer manner. I felt Kaine missed many opportunities to deliver a simple message. Instead, he sounded a bit like the “guy invited to prom by the girl making it sound as if it is his car in the parking lot- not his dad’s.”

Gov. Pence seemed just as prepared. What I found most interesting was his use of the camera, mannerisms, and control. Pence commanded the camera and audience tone. He delivered a very clear and straightforward message without any supporting plan, proof or confusing statistics. In fact, I felt comfortable with Pence that his performance was fresh and calm. In fact, it felt as if he should be running for President and Trump would be on the Vice Presidential ticket. Reality set in later and my notes could not provide one proof concrete plan by the Trump-Pence ticket. Pence repeatedly mentions to the audience about a “The Trump Plan” mixed with Trump’s enormous business successes without ever delivering validation that it exists for review. It somewhat felt like an episode of an old western movie where the snake oil salesman came to the town. However, what I did connect with is that Pence may have his sights on something greater after this election. Tonight I think he proved that he is a strong future candidate for President.

The poor moderator, Elaine Quijano, didn’t have much control over the debate. Her questions seemed ignored or rejected altogether because of back and forth nit picking. Nearly each issue that Quijano asked didn’t receive a proper answer because the standard answer by each candidate was, “can I respond to that last question?” A moderator should assume control like a good reporter and project manager by remaining focused on the agenda at hand. Maybe town hall debates might put candidates back on track and allow America to get to know candidates better.

Sure, both candidates appeared polished and scripted. However, the bigger issue at hand is not “a heartbeat away” from becoming the next President. However, how will they influence policy and the Senate as a presiding officer and powerful part of the administration? Instead, I think this debate may set the national tone and its impact. What is more important? Getting the message right or connecting with the audience? It should be interesting how poll numbers change after the debate to determine that strategy.

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