Waving my pride flag

no tolerance for hate

How is it that things have moved backward in America? I feel a greater need to wave my pride flag, at least metaphorically, than I have in years.

Just last month, I quoted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about the xenophobia that targets many folks. “They started by finding marginalized groups to demonize to unite people around a common enemy… to hate. Then they launched overwhelming campaigns of disinformation that ensured the people didn’t know what actually was happening in the world, only what they wanted them to know.”

It’s astounding how much misinformation – strike that: DISINFORMATION – is being spread about LGBTQ+ people.


An NBC News story on June 1: Companies under fire as Pride Month kicks off. “Some corporations are stepping into a fierce fight over transgender issues in the U.S. Target, Bud Light and Kohl’s are just a few of the companies getting backlash. ” And so is Chick-Fil-A?

To that end, this is from the Boston Globe. “From campy to controversial: How drag queens became a target of conservative lawmakers. The performers have gone from being the life of the party to facing tough restrictions and open animosity.”

From the LA Times on June 2: Police stepped in to split up protesters in a tense scene outside a North Hollywood elementary school as more than 100 parents rallied against a Pride Day assembly, bringing to a head weeks of turmoil that saw a transgender teacher’s LGBTQ+ Pride flag burned.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ civil rights group, issued its first State of Emergency in its 40-plus year history, citing a record number of bills across state legislatures targeted at regulating the lives of queer people. 

Several media outlets report that the Proud Boys plan to escalate their presence during Pride Month. “In private Telegram groups, Proud Boys have planned to counter Pride events by ‘taking back June’ with a so-called ‘Proud Month’ that would, as one militia member put it, ‘challenge this perversion of the Nuclear Family and Gender.” Proud Boys also plan to disrupt and co-opt Juneteenth celebrations with coordinated ‘Proud Day’ events “to break the chains of Pride Month” on June 17, two days before.”

The fight continues

Thus it becomes incumbent for allies to stay vocal and visible. The straight, cisgender Weekly Sift guy, notes, “I have attended Pride parades or seen drag shows. I’ve always found such events uplifting and life-affirming. I’ve never felt like anyone was telling me I should be gay or trans or anything else. The point is that we can all be what we are, and maybe even what we want to be.

“I see LGBTQ Pride as a little like ‘Black Lives Matter’; it’s a response to a negative. So often, our society sends the message that Black lives don’t matter, or that being anything other than heterosexual is shameful or sinful. Simply saying ‘I’m not ashamed of what I am’ doesn’t seem nearly strong enough, so I fully support people expressing pride in themselves.”

The AFL-CIO notes:  “We fight for all working people—no matter the gender, race, ethnicity or any other identity. Those identities intersect with your own identity as a worker, as a parent, as a sibling.  In America, we believe all people should be able to work without fear of discrimination or violence… LGBTQ+ people still lack basic federal legal protections in the workplace, which make them vulnerable to recent appalling and shameful actions by state legislatures. We have no tolerance for hate in our movement.” Amen.

My dad did what? Said what?

labor relations and safety coordination

Les Green.age 5I’ve mentioned that I’ve been pouring over my 1972 diaries. Mostly, I’ve noted my foibles. But now and then, I say, “My dad did what?”

Tuesday, August 1: Premiere of Compendium on CV7 (I assume public access cable) at 10 pm. “Barbara and Dad were hosts.” Surely, Barbara was the very active Barbara Oldwine, who died in 2014. the topic was The Black Family. I have ZERO recollection of this.

Friday, August 4: In the presence of his friends John and April, who had come over for dinner, he announced he would run for mayor of Binghamton in 1973. Three young black men from Highland Falls, Orange County, came over. Nope, don’t remember that either. And since he had JUST moved to Johnson City, I don’t know HOW he could run. Ultimately, he did not.

Checking Newspapers.com

One of my sisters suggested I look up Newspapers.com to see if he ever made any overtures toward the political office. I searched for him on Newspapers.com for 1972 and 1973. He was elected to a couple of boards involving the Broome County’s Red Cross and a group involved with housing for children.

He became the labor relations and compliance officer and safety coordinator for Edward L. Nezelek, Inc. around 9 Jan 1973.

Several articles about difficulties between the State Division of Human Rights and its Binghamton-Broome advisory committee, chaired by Les Green, were reported. By 17 March 1973, things were getting better. Dad was one of those “trusted voices” asked to comment on whatever racial tension occurring in Binghamton.

The house fire in August 1973 at 29 Ackley Avenue in Johnson City was reported. My sister Marcia’s name is misspelled as Marsha. The fire marshall said a “cigarette from an ashtray emptied into a trash basket next to the stove may have caused the fire.” There was damage to the kitchen, bathroom, attic, and roof.

No mention of political ambition. But what’s this? Here’s a classified ad for 28 July through 1 August 1973: “GOOD SLIGHTLY USED folk guitar, price negotiable.” He was going to sell his beloved 1958 Gibson guitar? THIS shocked me. As it turned out, he didn’t sell it but took it to Charlotte, NC, when he, mom, and Marcia moved, and it stayed with him until his death. My sister Leslie now owns it.

The picture

This is a picture of my father, approximately at age five, in Binghamton, NY, circa 1932. I had never seen the photo until February 2022. It is the earliest pic I have seen of him by about a decade. But I don’t know where it is except for the word Calvary. A church? A daycare?

There is a Calvary Baptist on Chenango St, which had a kids program. But what’s with the outfits? Christian service brigade and/or pioneer club? Binghamton history folks: do you have any thoughts? He was probably living at 339 Court St at the time; he was there two years earlier. Or he could have been at 10 Tudor St, off of Susquehanna St.

BTW, tomorrow, my father would have been 96.

Book review: We Return Fighting

Shaping African American identity.

We Return FightingWe Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity is a physically beautiful book. It was published by The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History in 2019. It was a century after black soldiers returned from the war overseas only to fight a different type of battle at home.

One of the ongoing themes in the tome is the fact that black soldiers served the United States, in part, to try to prove yet again their worthiness as citizens. As in most previous conflicts, black soldiers were assigned to segregated units. They were often relegated to support duties rather than direct combat, at least at first. Given the opportunity, though, they often shone as warriors, even underequipped.

Specifically, in WWI, blacks in the military received the respect they deserved from French allies but not their US comrades. This disconnect incentivized them to return to the states and continue the fight for their rights. Black soldiers and black citizens on the home worked to lay the framework for advances in the civil rights movement.

There are scads of photos and illustrations of significant people and artifacts. In other words, it is the history of the black soldier from the Civil War forward. We read also about the horrific Red Summer of 1919 when black veterans were particularly targeted by the Ku Klux Klan and other racist entities. The war and its aftermath shaped African American identity.

Over There

An interesting paradox for me: the book discussed World War I broadly far more than I expected or was especially interested in. Yet I learned a great deal about the great world war. Notably, it was the event that first made the United States a world power.

The book appears to be an outgrowth of the We Return Fighting exhibit at the NMAAH that closed on September 6, 2020. But you can still see elements of that show. I am a founding contributor to this museum, and I hope to visit it someday. My daughter, BTW, has been there twice.

Incidentally, there was a 2002 book called We Return Fighting: The Civil Rights Movement in the Jazz Age by Mark Robert Schneider. I have not seen it.


The race for the jobs

But the South!

race-and-ethnicity-main-imageIn the many jobs that I’ve had, I never thought my race was a factor. Some of them were affected by previous relationships. Being a page at Binghamton Public Library, doing bookkeeping at the Schenectady Arts Council, managing at FantaCo, for instance.

In each case, there were people I knew, one black, two white, who undoubtedly helped me secure employment. Something that I really like about my jobs is that usually they gave me a work uniform in this way I do not have to worry about buying cloth. 

In all the jobs I have been, the companies have used free background check to make sure that candidate is suitable for the position. 

Background checks save you from hiring any dangerous or unsavory individuals. Reduce your company’s liability – Your company can lower insurance costs and avoid unnecessary lawsuits by only hiring people who clear a pre-employment screening. Avoid bad hires – Hiring the wrong person is costly and frustrating.  This also ensures any kind of legal liability and harm to the organization in future. Some of the major issues that could be avoided by performing proper Pre Employment Background Checks are: Any Sexual Harassment and Workplace Violations. Any Criminal Intention and harm to the organization. You can also find more about the using tools like these reverse phone lookup services you can get for free at the link. 

Then there was a slew of jobs where the employer just wanted a competent person for the position. my two stints as a janitor qualify. And BTW, I was pretty good at it, especially in Binghamton City Hall in 1975.

I graduated from library school in May 1992 and applied for several positions. The State Library offered me an interview in July of that year, but I was unsuccessful. Then I heard about this job at the New York Small Business Development Center. My friend Jennifer was interning there. They had just gotten a grant to provide library reference services, not just for the NYSBDC but for the whole country.

Michele, who had started the library as a half-time position became the director. Jennifer was the second librarian hired for what was dubbed the Research Network. I was interviewed and became the third librarian on October 19. Lynne was hired on October 22 and was the fourth. Since the program ostensibly began on October 1, we had a lot of work to do from the get-go, including getting the materials from the Georgia SBDC, which had the gig before New York.

How would they deal with it?

It was only five or seven years later that a person who would be in the know and impeccably reputable told me a story I found rather unsettling. I shan’t reveal who they are except to say they were most definitely in the know.

I had interviewed well enough. But apparently, there were one or more persons on the committee who were concerned about my race. Specifically, the job required that the librarian in that position create liaisons with the state directors and other staff in the other states’ lead centers. Many of them were in the South, of course. The search committee was afraid that these folks wouldn’t cotton to working with a black person. So I was rejected for that reason.

Then, someone up the State University of New York food chain told them, “You can’t do that!” SUNY is the host institution of the NY SBDC. I ended up getting the job after all.

The news, a half dozen years after the fact, was initially jaw-dropping. Then, thinking back on who was on the search committee, not so much. If a certain party hadn’t intervened, I would not have gotten the job. I would not have known why, either.

Of course, it got me to wonder about all the other people who didn’t get the job because of bias. Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, I have no doubt that racism has crept into the employment mix.

August 28 is just one of those dates

the next MLK

Emmett Till
Emmett Till

August 28 is a momentous date in US history. I was thinking about a question someone asked me earlier his year. It was whether someone – Bryan Stevenson, specifically, but it doesn’t matter – was the “new Martin Luther King, Jr.”

A couple of minutes later, I realized it was the wrong question. King gave the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC on this date in 1963. While he may have been a singularly gifted orator, HE wasn’t the Civil Rights Movement. There were a quarter of a million people at that demonstration alone. They all struggled to create racial justice back at home.

Millions have fought the fight since before the founding of the United States and still do so today. Most of them have names we don’t know. Some we’re familiar with because of the abuse they suffered. John Lewis, who was the youngest speaker on this date in 1963 in Washington, is recognized because he survived violence on several occasions, notably in Selma on March 7, 1965.

Others we know, probably better because they were killed. The deaths of Medgar Evers (1963) and James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (1964) are seared in my memory. But so are the murders of Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo, both in March 1965 in Alabama. Malcolm X’s 1965 death is being reinvestigated in 2020.


Emmett Till was murdered on August 28, 1955, in Mississippi. I’ve mentioned him more than once here. He might have been just another black kid killed by bigotry. But his mom had the courage to let his beaten corpse be shown to the world. My daughter went to the National Museum for African American History and Culture in February 2020 with a bunch of church folk. One of her friends was stunned by the inhumanity of his death.

Obviously, we haven’t achieved that “post-racial” nirvana some people – not I – predicted after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. BTW, he accepted the Democratic nomination on August 28 of that year. But it’s not going to be an Obama or a King or the mother of Emmett Till who will change the world. It’ll just have to be all of us.


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