Friday, April 28, 2017

Thanks Ross, Garcelle, Ali, Tanner, and Amanda

How many of you know who Ross Mathews, Garcelle Beauvais, Ali Landry, Tanner Thomason, and Amanda Salas are? How many know they host a television program called Hollywood Today Live?  How many of you would expect me to be writing about it though?  This blog is about the hometown heroes who make a difference in our world - about giving back.  When I am not writing about specific people or organizations, I'm making suggestions about how we ALL can make a difference, so why this tv show?

If you are from a marginalized group like people of color, gay, transgender, or foreign-born, you might not have a lot of role models on television.  While things are changing for the better, they aren't changing nearly fast enough for me.  Often folks seem to wince when a gay or lesbian reference is made, especially on live tv.  In 2015 along came a daytime telecast with pop culture stories and entertainment news and lots of interviews with folks who might not have made it on other shows.  We heard references to the lack of diversity in both the small screen and the big one.  Male guests mentioned their husbands, and it wasn't part of a joke.  People were allowed to be people.  The program hosts have such great chemistry that you would think they were life-long friends.  In short, everyone feels at home here, and isn't it about time?

Today it all ends.  Hollywood Today Live will do their final program.  In tv land, programs always come and go - this is nothing new, but when it's a show and people who are making a difference, it's a little sad.  I know many folks probably dismiss this show as more mindless fluff, but where else could you get a good laugh every day with people just like you?  Where else could you see wedding pictures from two men and not have it as a put-down?  Where would you see so much diversity without it being staged and fake?  For one hour a day, these three women and two men, and the tv show they bring us offer a connection that has made a difference in my life, and hopefully in yours as well. 

It was twenty years ago that Ellen DeGeneres came out as gay, both in real life and on her sitcom.  Today on her talk show, she is paying tribute to that moment with many of the cast from that history making show.  Where I live, that's on the air immediately before the last Hollywood Today Live.  This will be a special two hours for me, and I am grateful to both shows for making a difference!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Empty Blog

If you come here every day expecting to find some little gem, today will likely disappoint you.  The blog entry was not going to even happen, but then I realized that some of you might just think I was being lazy and didn't even touch my keyboard.  So here I am.  It's an empty blog post though.  There is no message.
 
I decided to do this because I'm not really certain I am even reaching anyone.  Are you reading these words?  Are you out there?  Year after year I write here about making a difference in the world, but seldom is there any comment.  The counter says that people click on this site.  The counter can only say that people came here though.  It cannot say if they actually read the message.  It cannot say if they agreed or disagreed with what I wrote.
 
And so I write nothing at all today.  Actually I suppose I am writing something.  Can you make a difference in the content of this blog?  We talk here all the time about changing the world.  Perhaps we should start out smaller.  Perhaps.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

suicidal crisis

Many times in this space, I have written about suicide.  Yesterday I was saying that we need more understanding.  People don't talk about suicide often enough -it's one of those topics that just isn't discussed, but it should be.  Lives can be saved.  The national hotline in the US is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-TALK.  If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone who does, use this number.

Of course a telephone number doesn't solve everything.  I am not just talking about those in crisis too.  We ALL need to have a better understanding of suicide and we ALL need to value every human life.  Even though this blog is NOT about me, it's my opinions and my thoughts you get in a situation like this.  My opinion is, we need to care more.  Years ago in Nashville, I volunteered at a suicide prevention hotline, and each day we saw results.  Each day we helped people in crisis.  I'm not a doctor and I'm not close enough to the Robin Williams investigation to say that intervention would have saved him, but I can tell you of many cases where it has saved lives and I urge you to learn a few basic things.  The first thing is you are not alone!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest suicide rate is among adults between 45 and 64 years of age, and the second highest rate is persons 85 years or older.  That may be surprising, because we so often hear about youth suicides, but elders take their own lives far more often.

All lives are precious though and nobody should feel that things are hopeless or that they are all alone. Again, if you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. I urge everyone to become better informed too. We should all understand why people take their lives and how this can be avoided. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is an excellent place to begin. Check out their website at https://afsp.org/

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Suicide is not a laughing matter

Aaron Josef Hernandez is dead. It appears that it happened at his own hand, just as the deaths of others appear to have been. He was found guilty of one of those murders and was serving time. I understand all of that. Still, I am not in agreement at all with the folks who are applauding his suicide or make what I consider inappropriate "jokes." I am not here to praise Hernandez - far from it, but he was a human being and I am saddened when anyone loses their way. It is possible to loathe and to denounce the things he did and feel some sympathy for him and for his family. 

Two days after a murder that another killer recorded on video and posted to Facebook, that alleged killer apparently took his own life. During the abc-tv program The View yesterday, Whoppi Goldberg announced that they had just heard of the apparent suicide.  The audience applauded, until Whoppi held up her hands and asked for quiet. We know little about this man, but I know one thing. Like Hernandez, he was a human being. Please don't misunderstand. Randomly killing that 74-year-old was a horrible thing, but then taking his own life was not something to be cheered or joked about either.
 
I'm sure a good many of you will disagree with me today, and that is fine. I just don't understand cheering the demise of anyone. I don't understand that at all. Suicide is not a laughing matter and should not warrant applause. I have heard attacks on many famous people who have taken their own lives, and I think that is wrong. Suicidal tendencies need to be dealt with, and when we miss them and someone's life ends, we need to mourn, because we have lost - one death is too many. We need to learn and go forward, not with joy over the passing of a human being, but with determination to stop all killing,

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Singing the praises of Ellen

There are some people who always inspire you, and for me, Ellen DeGeneres is one of those people. I could easily write about her every single day and not get tired. Last year, in accepting the People's Choice Award for favorite humanitarian, Ellen said "I have to say, It's a little strange to actually get an award for being nice and generous and kind which is what we're all supposed to do with one another." Yup. You sure got that right Ellen, and thanks for the frequent reminders!

It has become difficult for me to turn on her daily talk-show. It's not that it isn't entertaining, but in addition to great guests, Ellen highlights some wonderful heroes on just about every one of her programs. She shows the world the beauty of being kind and caring, and she frequently rewards the hero with a nice gift or some cash with which they can continue doing good work. I joked recently that I should bill Ellen for my tissues because of all the tears of joy she has caused me to shed.

Besides giving folks a spotlight on her television program, Ellen DeGeneres is an activist for lgbt rights, a humanitarian, an animal rights advocate, and works on behalf on numerous causes including AIDS awareness. She has done work for dozens of charities including The Gentle Barn, UNICEF, Farm Sanctuary, PETA, Habitat For Humanity, The Trevor Project, and It Gets Better Project. Oh my! How does she find the time?

About twenty years ago I had the great joy and privilege of meeting her mother Betty. Someday I hope to meet Ellen too and thank her and tell her what she means to me. Until then, I'll just keep singing her praises here in my blog!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hopefully

Some of you may have heard about Monday's bombing in Russia's second-largest city, Saint Petersburg, that claimed fourteen lives and injured dozens of others. Some of you. It really didn't get that much attention on facebook or twitter. It wasn't even covered with the same intensity as other recent terrorist attacks. Some might wonder if it got less attention because it was in Russia.

Now I'm not going to write here about the attack itself. I just want to point out that violence against other people is always bad. Apparently we forget that sometimes. It's horrible when it happens in our country or certain others, but we can turn a blind eye if it happens some places. Nope. Wrong attitude. It is ALWAYS bad.

The bomber in Saint Petersburg took his own life and we don't know who else might have been involved. We do know that dozens of people were terrified and fourteen people lost their life. We know too that this kind of thing is happening more and more and at various places all around the world. Hopefully we can all acknowledge that these attacks are horrible and that something needs to be done to stop them. Hopefully we can all work together and bring peace to our world. Hopefully.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Forty-nine years ago

Forty-nine years ago an assassin's bullet ended the life of one of America's best known leaders, The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior. King had just turned 39, three months earlier, and in his short life did more than one can imagine. Yes, he was a leader, but not an elected politician. He led people to God and to freedom and to economic justice and to equality.

Almost everyone, even those who weren't alive back then, can quote portions of speeches by Dr King. The list of his famous sermons and addresses stirs a certain spirit inside us all: "Rediscovering Lost Values," "The Death of Evil Upon the Seashore," "Paul's Letter to American Christians," "I Have a Dream," "The Casualties of the War in Vietnam," "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," "I've Been to the Mountaintop," and "We Shall Overcome."

Each year on his birthday, his death day, and during the holiday that was created to honor him, I try to learn more about this man of non-violence and great faith. One thing I do is look at how we have viewed him since his violent murder. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was posthumously awarded to him in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. The citation read: "Martin Luther King Jr. was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet."

Monday, April 3, 2017

She's a rainbow

Sad news last Friday when I learned that Gilbert Baker, an artist and activist who created the rainbow flag, had died in his sleep. Gilbert, a military veteran, was in San Francisco when the gay-rights movement was beginning, and he designed banners and flags for numerous events. Over the years he organized numerous activities in San Francisco, and later in New York City, after he had moved there. He will always be best known I think for the flag which became an lgbt symbol.

Gilbert Baker made a difference in the world, in many ways. The flag was but one of them. Watching television coverage of his life over the weekend, it was interesting to see PBS NewHour anchor Hari Sreenivasan reported on him and CBS Sunday Morning to devote a segment. We don't see a lot of coverage of gay newsmakers.

It was Baker who gave drag queens more visibility when he organized the first San Francisco drag march back in 1999. Wearing a red, white, and blue "Betsy Ross" outfit and pink stilettos, Gilbert led the parade of cross-dressers through the streets of the city with the sound of the Rolling Stones singing "She's A Rainbow." This was just one of many events where Baker was front and center, but it was his iconic rainbow flag that is more recognized. The six color version of the rainbow, is what we have come to know, but the first version back in 1978 had two more stripes: hot pink and turquoise. They were removed because of both manufacturing needs, and the greater ease in hanging the six-stripe version.

In the 72 hours since the world found out that Gilbert had died, there has been an outpouring of memories from all over the world. California state senator Scott Wiener said Baker "helped define the modern LGBT movement." San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, hung a rainbow flag at half-staff from his City Hall balcony and said "The passing of gay rights activist Gilbert Baker is a loss for San Francisco and the LGBT community. Thank you for the lasting gift." Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who most recently gave us When We Rise (where Gilbert's character is shown sewing the flag) tweeted, "Rainbows weep. Our world is far less colorful without you, my love. Gilbert Baker gave us the rainbow flag to unite us. Unite again."