Tag Archives: Arkadelphia Arkansas

September 11th: 13 Years Changed

Never had Arkadelphia, Arkansas seen a sky more blue, or a day more beautiful.  Crossing the serene campus of Henderson State University for an early morning music theory class, I nor any of my peers had even a clue of what was to happen that morning.

After class, I visited with friends for just a minute, and then wandered to the student center.  That’s when the first news report caught my eye.  I stared at the monitor confused and fascinated, thinking that this was so surreal it could only be a movie.  I started watching when the first tower collapsed, and was paralyzed in below the screen until seeing the second tower meet the same fate.  Among the group of students around me, you could feel the shock sear through us as we all came to the realization… America was under attack.  Though we were over 1,000 miles from any of the crash sites, I kept thinking about how Arkadelphia and the East Coast started the day with those same crystal clear blue skies.  Only for those in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, their skies suddenly became filled with terror and complete uncertainty.  Here’s NBC news coverage of that day…

On September 11th, 2001, the United States of America changed.  In fact the whole world changed.  Many of us that remember that day will never process “safety” the same way again.  And of course for those of us personally affected with the loss of loved ones, 9-11 can’t even be put accurately into words.

But even if words fail and the pain still endures, September 11th is too important a day to ignore.  Commemorative events are being held across the nation today, including the city of Houston.  On the University of Houston campus stands one such commemoration… a beam from the World Trade Center in New York.  Here’s more on the memorial and today’s events from Mike Emery of UH News

Each day, members of the University of Houston community can reflect on this infamous day and pay tribute to those who lost their lives by visiting the UH World Trade Center Memorial and Reflection Garden – just outside of the south entrance of the New University Center (UC). The permanent memorial – obtained through a student campaign – contains a massive steel beam from the World Trade Center building that was destroyed by terrorists.

Community members will surely visit this campus site during this week’s 13th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people. To further pay tribute to those who lost their lives, as well as their surviving loved ones, the New UC will host several events and activities.

From 8 a.m. – 10 p.m., 9/11 photo exhibition will be on view in the hallway next to the UC Theater. At 4 p.m. in the theater, retired Marines Col. William Wiggins will share his military experiences following 9/11. Following Wiggins’ presentation, the theater will host a screening of the film “United 93,” which depicts the fate of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Stonycreek, Pennsylvania. All events are free and open to the public.

For many life events, thirteen years can sometimes seem pretty far removed.  September 11th is different… woven into the fabric of the nation.  The ripple effect of that day has resulted in the loss of thousands more lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and potentially more as we face growing threats from ISIS.  It is certain that we will never forget.  Facing new challenges, let’s that we have not only changed, but also learned.

9-11 UH5

(This permanent World Trade Center Memorial at the University of Houston is free and open to the public)

A Southern Strategy for LGBT Equality

If we could travel back in time just 5 years, it would seem impossible to imagine the pace at which marriage equality is occurring today.  To think that even less than 2 years ago, no popular vote granting same-sex marriage rights had been won in any state.  That didn’t occur until the November 2012 elections.

But since those first wins at the ballot box in Washington state, Maine and Maryland in 2012, large parts of the United have seen nothing short of a transfiguration on LGBT marriage rights.  Sometimes it seems like magic to sit and watch this play out from a southern state like Texas or Arkansas… it feels as though time is moving forward in other areas, yet we’re still stuck squarely in the past.  But this swift movement towards equality was anything but magic.  It was earned through the blood, sweat, voices, votes and tears of millions of people working to advance these rights.  For the past several years, marriage equality has been the central orb around which the country’s largest and most powerful Civil Rights organizations have revolved.  You throw all of your time and money into a cause, and hopefully you yield some results.

But a new report from The New York Times reveals that this singular focus on marriage equality is about to change.  The movement itself is now turning to those that have stood patiently on the sidelines…

The country’s leading gay rights groups and donors, after a decade focused on legalizing same-sex marriage, are embarking on a major drive to win more basic civil rights and workplace protections in Southern and Western states where the rapid progress of the movement has largely eluded millions of gay men and lesbians.

The effort will shift tens of millions of dollars in the next few years to what advocates described as the final frontier for gay rights: states like Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas and Texas, where Republicans dominate elected office and traditional cultural views on homosexuality still prevail.

The new strategy reflects the growing worry within the movement that recent legal and political successes have formed two quickly diverging worlds for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Americans: one centered on the coasts and major cities, and another stretching across the South and up through the Rocky Mountains, in states where gays enjoy virtually no legal protections against discrimination.

“We can’t allow two distinct gay Americas to exist,” said Tim Gill, a Colorado philanthropist whose foundation is putting about $25 million into a handful of mostly conservative-leaning states over the next five years. “Everybody should have the same rights and protections regardless of where they were born and where they live.”

The push is likely to encounter resistance. Gay rights groups will be engaging in communities where churches and other religious institutions are tightly woven into daily life, and where efforts to expand civil rights protections to gays are sometimes viewed as an attack on people of faith…

In some states, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union and groups Mr. Gill helps fund plan to lobby for nondiscrimination ordinances in housing and employment and for legislation allowing gay parents to adopt. In other states, they are building new grass-roots organizations and pushing for the election of openly gay and lesbian officials where there are none.

Those involved in the planning described it as the biggest realignment of gay rights activism in a decade, one that will shift the movement’s focus into territory where there is almost no unified network of support and where gay people are more likely to hide who they are, making them more difficult to reach.

Just the American Civil Rights movement two generations ago, today’s fight for equality has always been about much more than marriage.  In my opinion this shift in focus is welcome, and long overdue.  When they do get to the south, they will be able to build on the great work of groups like the Campaign for Southern Equality.  This fight is already being waged, but with the help of larger resources, it can be won decisively.

For this shift, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are in capable hands.  The group’s President, Chad Griffin, knows much of the territory to which he is taking this next great push.  He is a native Arkansan, and grew up in the small, bucolic college town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas (full disclosure, I went to college in the very same town).  Knowing the struggles that some of our most vulnerable LGBT Americans face, Griffin’s voice is sure to be an even greater attribute in this “new” frontier.

Arkansas Pride

(photo credit:  cogvv.com)