Archive for June 2011
Sometimes specific holidays can take on special and personal meanings for people -- Memorial Day for the family of a fallen soldier, Labor Day for a refugee that used to work 14-hour days in a sweatshop. For me, the 4th of July has a special meaning -- not because I'm a born-and-bred American, but rather because that is precisely what I am not. The U.S. is my country because I chose it.
Late on Friday evening, June 24, 2011, the State Senate of New York passed the Marriage Equality Bill, granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the Empire State. The most populous state to legalize same-sex marriage, New York joins Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, and Washington D.C.
Passage of the bill gave New Yorkers something new to cheer about during their 42nd Annual Gay Pride Parade on Sunday. An estimated 6,000 people from the LGBT community along with their supporters celebrated as floats rode by, one holding Governor Andrew Cuomo, signer of the landmark legislation. "Cuomo was the parade's rock star, eliciting loud cheers and shrieks as he made his way down Fifth Avenue, " the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "The roar became almost deafening as the parade turned onto the narrow Christopher Street." Christopher Street, home of the Stonewall Inn and site of the Stonewall Riots, has remained a cradle for the LGBT community of New York since the 1960s.
On June 14, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released a study that claimed only 9% of fourth graders were able to both identify Abraham Lincoln and give two reasons why he was significant to American history.
The results of the study have prompted a barrage of criticism for the American educational system, yet many are quick to point out that, historically speaking, history has always been students’ worst subject. NPR’s All Things Considered ran a story on June 19 that pointed out that on a similar test in 1943, only 22% of students could answer the same question about Lincoln. NPR said that students “face rote textbooks and a system dominated by multiple-choice testing that encourages ‘teaching to the test’ instead of deeper, contextual learning.”
In 1961, 436 Freedom Riders risked their lives in the name of equality. In the case of the Freedom Riders, that equality came in the form of desegregated buses, trains and travel facilities in the Deep South. Each one of them demonstrated unimaginable courage and dignity and all deserve deep gratitude and recognition. But in the beginning, there were just 13 Riders -- 13 people who didn't know what they would face, didn't know if the movement would gain any traction, and didn't know if they'd even live to see the results. June 6 marked the passing of one of those original 13 Freedom Riders, the Reverend Benjamin Elton Cox, who died at the age of 79.
Over the past 42 years annual gay pride parades have become tradition in dozens of cities worldwide. They have evolved from radical marches into festive parades with elaborate floats and notable participants including politicians and well-known entertainers. In most cities, the parades are part of a larger celebration known as Pride week, typically filled with events celebrating the diversity of LGBT communities such as Pride Idol, film festivals, dance parties, and "best dressed in drag" contests. The annual celebrations have become a pivotal way of celebrating LGBT history and diversity. This year on June 26th, New York City will be celebrating its 42nd gay pride march with an estimated 500,000 participants.