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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Friday, July 26, 2019

Howard Co. High School Students to Hold First Rainbow Conference

In June Howard County successfully held its first ever LGBTQ+ Pride whereby an estimated 10,000 people joined in the celebration. In 2020, the first ever Rainbow Conference for LGBTQIA+ students, parents, Howard County Public School System staff, community members and allies is scheduled for May 15 at Hammond High School.

According to the event’s website , “The Rainbow Conference came about as…an idea that arose from a need to connect with others who share a similar story, similar values, and a similar struggle. It is our hope that this first Rainbow Conference is the first of many conferences of its kind in our school system.”  This idea ostensibly originated from students and staff at Hammond H.S.

The conference will take place from Noon to 4 p.m. on May 15 and will include three concurrent workshop sessions. While some presenters have already been lined up, there is an opportunity for others to lead a concurrent session. Broadly, the topics may include literary focus, self-awareness, creative expression, activism, health curriculum and instruction and others. Those who may be interested in being a presenter should visit the Contact link of the website and complete the form.  

Planners are also seeking sponsors to cover the costs of the conference. If interested, please complete the Rainbow Conference Donation Form.

To request a table at the Exhibition Hall, the form to complete is here

Openly gay Mikah Meyer has already been selected as the Keynote Speaker.  He traveled on a record-breaking 3-year road trip to all 419 National Park Service sites making him the first to experience all those parks in a single journey.  For good measure, he took photos with the Pride flag at each of the sites.

In addition, there will be a literary component of the conference called Rainbow Vision 2020. Students who are currently attending a Howard County high school are encouraged to submit original art, poetry, essay or story on such matters as being an LGBTQIA+ teen or ally.  Selected submissions will be part of a countywide literary magazine, which will be distributed at the conference. The rules and methods for making a submission are included here

“The HoCo Rainbow Conference is going to be a great opportunity for members of the LGBTQ community in Howard County schools to come together to share experiences, show their unity, and continue to advocate for inclusive, accepting, and supportive school environment for all,” says PFLAG-Columbia Howard County President Max Crownover. “Our chapter is excited to be able to support the efforts of the conference’s planners.”

Adds local librarian Sarah Cooke, who is a scheduled presenter at the conference on the topic of LGBTQ+ authors and/or characters in a variety of genres:  “Having this conference in HoCo is significant on so many levels. First and foremost it shows our LGBTQ+ students that we see them, we love them and we support them.  Representation and visibility is so important, as is more education of our history and the celebration and respect for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Indeed, bringing high school students together to learn about issues that affect them and network with others is a positive and needed step.  LGBTQIA+ teens nationally continue to be bullied and harassed in schools and online. 

According to GLSEN’s 2018 National Schools Climate Survey  the environment for such students has not improved. In one key finding, the vast majority of LGBTQ students (87.3%) in 2017 experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender expression, gender, religion, race and ethnicity, and disability. Seven in ten LGBTQ students (70.1%) experienced verbal harassment at school based on sexual orientation, more than half based on gender expression (59.1%) or gender (53.2%).
“This report should serve as an alarm bell for advocates and a call to action for anyone who cares about students’ wellbeing,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director. 

“Fortunately, the evidence continues to show that key interventions are working to improve students’ lives. We must continue to push to see them implemented in more schools, and support students who are organizing to improve their communities. LGBTQ-affirming supports in our schools reduce violence, improve academic achievement, and help save lives. Who wouldn’t want LGBTQ youth to feel safe and do better in schools?”

The upcoming Rainbow Conference is akin to the recent “B’More Proud” series of conferences at the collegiate level involving Baltimore area colleges and universities. This inaugural conference of high school students in Howard County is similarly on the right path to success.

As additional information about the Rainbow Conference becomes available, I will provide updates. You can also email pride@hcpss.org or follow the Rainbow Conference on Instagram @hcpss_pride. 


UPDATE: This post was published last July. Since then the coronavirus and its stay-at-home mandate has altered the logistics of the conference. But it will go on regardless even if it will be a virtual event. For more information about signing up for the seminars and workshops, visit https://sites.google.com/hcpss.org/hcpssrainbowconference/home?authuser=0

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Should Trump Feel Optimistic About 2020?

The president is banking on a lot to break his way to overcome his unpopularity.

We’re more than 16 months away from the presidential election and the Democratic field of challengers exceeds 20. Therefore, so much can happen in that time span that could alter the political landscape one way or the other. 

I make no predictions as to who the eventual Democratic nominee will be nor do I speculate on whether or not Trump will ultimately be impeached. (It’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because I simply can’t.) These are all fluid developments. The one constant has been Donald Trump’s job approval ratings, which have ranged from the low- to mid- 40’s throughout his presidency. 

Despite what has been characterized as a good economy, his numbers do not portend success in the election as he has shown to be president of his base only and not the country as a whole. The failure to expand upon his base is his likely undoing, but after 2016, who knows?  He won the Electoral College with some 46 percent of the vote. 

Accordingly, Trump is banking on a number of conditions to exist up to the election to overcome his being the most unpopular president in a more than a generation.  Some of these are legit but others are far-fetched.  I handicap each of these with “diamond” ratings—one diamond being next to impossible and five being a slam-dunk certainty—in no particular order.

The Economy. Most any incumbent president would see their reelection chances soar if the economy is good (“It’s the economy, stupid.”). However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While certain statistics like growth, unemployment and the stock market appear to be favorable, not everyone in the country is benefitting directly. Wages are stagnant necessitating people to work multiple jobs to keep up with rising prescription drug prices among other expenses.  Factory jobs continue to be lost, and the Trump-created trade war has hurt many farmers.

As for the stock market, most people in the know understand that the law of gravity is king here.  The markets are due for a correction and could tank at any time between now and November 2020.  A recession is certainly possible as well, according to some economists..

So, will the economy remain favorable to Trump as election nears?  ♦ ♦

Democratic Infighting. Make no mistake there is considerable tension among Democrats regarding priorities.  Is it more important to defeat Trump or push for policies that bend leftward?  Is a single payer for health insurance and scrapping private insurers preferable to massaging Obamacare?  What bold policies are desirable versus what can actually be accomplished?  Should Congress impeach the president based on evidence contained in the Mueller Report or should it assume such an action would benefit Trump in the general election? And, of course, the conflict between Speaker Pelosi and four freshman women of color still festers.  These are just a few of the issues that divide Democrats at this time.

Nonetheless, I believe 2016 is fresh in the minds of Democrats.  We saw what happened when the party was not unified.  Dems now understand the inherent hazards of Trump being re-elected, and they will likely get behind the eventual nominee. But you never know what the Dems are capable of when it comes to elections.

Should Trump bank on a Democratic circular firing squad?   ♦ ♦ ♦

The Socialist Label. Trump is a master of messaging and name-calling, and it helps to keep his supporters in line.  More precisely, Republicans in Congress are so terrified of Trump and the power of his tweets that they have sold their souls to him.

There is no secret Trump plans to roll out the “Socialist” brand on Democrats regardless of the nominee.  Radical, left, socialist Democrats will be the mantra.  Even Trump lapdog Lindsey Graham referred to the four women of color involved in the Pelosi controversy as “Communists” underscores how low they will go.

Though popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security can be considered socialist by some definitions, the moniker is treated now as a weapon.  To be clear, the term socialist was used against Barack Obama in 2008 without success.

Can this scare tactic be successful? ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Image: American Prospect
 Us Against Them: Donald Trump’s continuation of his long-held racist and xenophobic beliefs is a winning strategy, according to people in Trump’s orbit.  

Immigration will likely be a major issue in the general as Trump stokes fear, resentment and division.  But images are more powerful than anything Trump can tweet, and the footage showing inhumanely overcrowded cages on the border and children separated from their families are devastating.   

His tweet that that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Talib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” is yet another manifestation of Trump’s ignorance and desire to divide Americans.  Believing that incendiary tweets like this will firm up the bigoted elements of his base is safe to assume. 

However, Trump did not expect the blowback to be so harsh (though hardly a peep from the Trump-intimidated GOP Representatives and Senators) from the media, Democrats and independents that it seemed to have backfired and caused feuding Democrats to close ranks in unity against the profound racism emanating from Trump.

Remember Trump claimed that U.S.-born Judge Curiel could not be fair in presiding over a case involving Trump University because of his Mexican heritage. Then there are these:  “Mexicans are rapists”, the Gold Star Khan family, Charlottesville comments, the attack on some African-American celebrities as “low IQ”, "shithole countries",  etc.  Nevermind his examples of racism prior to his running for president. The racism and xenophobia are palpable and ongoing.  Yes, his bigoted base will be motivated to vote, and this serves to keep them enthused.  But will it work in the general election? ♦ ♦

Russia, Russia Russia! In my view, Trump doesn’t become president if Russia hadn’t interfered by particularly shaping and reaffirming people’s attitudes against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump.  Robert Mueller was very clear about that after the multi-year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump had the audacity to side with Putin’s version of events over that of our intelligence community (some patriot!). He doesn’t take the interference seriously because he knew it helped him and other Republicans as well. Even worse, he has done next to nothing to prevent a similar attempt by Russia to plant doubts in the minds of Americans regarding the reliability of the election results.

Can Trump count on Russia to help him win again? ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦