Weekly Update 06.17.19

"I connect with my culture through my family. I speak Portuguese to my parents so that I can practice. I stay engaged with my extended family through a lively group chat on WhatsApp. That sense of community and family is the heart of Brazilian culture, and staying engaged with my family is what keeps me connected….For me, being an 'American Latina' means identifying with and being influenced by both my American upbringing and my Latin heritage, and I have so much appreciation for how those two cultures have created who I am." 
Camila Mendes (b.1994)
American-Brazilian actress


     This June we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month, WeCAN Friends. A national observance, Immigrant Heritage Month highlights the diversity of immigrant communities. It also explores all that we have in common. We all know someone with an immigration experience or have an immigrant heritage story of our own. We invite you to amplify immigrant narratives and use #CelebrateImmigrants to spread your stories and support across social media this month. Even when politicians continue to block immigration reform and unjustly hold immigrants and asylum seekers in detention centers, we can validate the unheard voices of those most impacted by current immigration policies by speaking out loudly and often. 
     You can express support of immigrant voices by organizing or attending storytelling and community conversations, host or attend a film screening featuring immigrant casts and crews, and party with your new-to-America neighbors at street festivals and block parties in culturally diverse neighborhoods. You can support immigrant stories locally by attending A Night of Food Justice with Mark Bittman: Benefiting the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and the Food Chain Workers Alliance in Haydenville, MA this week (details are listed below) and not only post about your experience across social media, but also talk about it across the dinner table. 
     Do you have an immigrant heritage story you'd like to share? Email us at admin@wecantogether.net and we'll share your thoughts in next week's Weekly Email Update. 

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Weekly Update 06.10.19

"If we moved from industrialized agriculture to re-localized organic agriculture, we could sequester about one quarter of the carbon moving into the air and destroying our glaciers, oceans, forests and lands."
Winona LaDuke

a Native American environmentalist, economist, hemp grower, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development


     Activism options this week include a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Caucus, a Restorative Justice Community Workshop, a Democracy Forum highlighting modern Jim Crow America, and a Pride march in Greenfield, MA, amongst others. Consider attending an event outside of your comfort zone this week, Friends: bring a friend or make a new friend and get to work changing our County for the better. Have a great week!

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Weekly Update 6.2.19

"There remains afoot in Vermont prejudice against gay men and lesbians. ... I have been called names in this chamber, in this building, the likes of which I have never experienced in my life — my personal life or my political life. And I've watched come true what I have always known to be true: that those who stand beside gay and lesbian people as their allies ... they get targeted, too. ...I've had members of my committee say, 'I couldn't sleep at night; I've had knots in my stomach.' I wouldn't have wished this on any of them. Gay and lesbian Vermonters are your friends, neighbors and relatives who simply want the rights that everyone else has.”
Former VT State Representative William Lipert
Pro Civil-Union Speech, VT Statehouse, March 15, 2000

     Welcome to June, fellow WeCAN activists. This month we will acknowledge and celebrate LGBTQIA Pride Month,  Immigrant Heritage Month, and PTSD Awareness Month by listing some wonderful resources you can use for your own edification or that you may pass on to your groups/organizations so that they benefit. This month we offer resources pertaining to LGBTQIA Pride:

A Timeline of LGBTQ(IA) History in the United States of America: https://www.gsafewi.org/wp-content/uploads/US-LGBT-Timeline-UPDATED.pdf
     This interactive resource has primarily been adapted from PBS Online’s Out of the Past: 400 Years Lesbian and Gay History in America (Byard, E., 1997, www.pbs.org/outofthepast/). This timeline was designed as a starting point for classroom and student club discussions, exploration, and research. A sample lesson plan is included. However, there are many additional ways to use this resource. The timeline can be printed, copied, and posted in full or in part in the classroom, on a bulletin board, or in a display case.

A Comprehensive NPR Article: How VT's 'Civil War' Fueled the Gay Marriage Movement: https://www.npr.org/2013/03/27/174651233/how-vermonts-civil-war-fueled-the-gay-marriage-movement
     
Late in December 1999, Vermont's high court justices decided that two lesbian couples and one gay couple were correct in arguing that state law confining marriage to heterosexuals was discriminatory. 'Fix it now', the court told the Legislature, 'either by extending full marriage rights and benefits to all or by creating a parallel status that would essentially do the same.' Civil unions were born. 

Green Mountain Crossroads’ Andrew’s Inn Oral History Project: https://www.greenmountaincrossroads.org/andrews-inn-oral-history-project.html
   Andrew’s Inn, with its bars, discos and lodging, offered a gathering place for rural and urban LGBT people in the heart of downtown Bellows Falls, Vermont.  In operation from 1973 to 1984, its history brings to light the complex cross-currents of the 70s and early 80s and the power of shared social space in defining personal and collective identities.

LGBTQIA Resources in VThttps://women.vermont.gov/LGBTQhttp://pridecentervt.org/resourceshttp://www.outrightvt.org/educationoutreach/education-and-legal-rights-resources/https://www.greenmountaincrossroads.org/social-and-community-resources.html; https://www.pridecentervt.org/trans-affirmative-medical-providers/windham-countyhttps://www.frogmeadow.com/gay-brattleboro-vermont-community-resources/

LGBTQIA Youth Statistics and Resources
https://www.med.uvm.edu/vchip/projects/lgbtq-transgender-health; https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/lgbtq-pride-monthhttps://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/WorkGroups/House%20Education/Bills/H.3/Written%20Testimony/H.3~Brenda%20Churchill~LGBTQIA%20Alliance%20of%20Vermont%20Testimony%20-%202~1-23-2019.pdf
     
This letter of support for H.3 is submitted on behalf of the LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont. The Alliance views passage of H.3 as being a necessary and critical component in providing support and education to VT’s LGBTQ youth.
  Yearly Youth Summit: http://www.outrightvt.org/youth-summit/.

LGBTQIA Worship Resources: http://religiousinstitute.org/resources/lgbtqworship/
     The Religious Institute is pleased to offer worship resources to assist clergy in speaking out in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens and young adults.

Editor's Note: This is by no means a comprehensive list of available resources. If you would like add an entry, please email admin@wecantogether.net with your suggestion. We are excited to hear from you!

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Weekly Update 5.27.19

"Ceremonies are important, but our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well."
Jennifer Mulhern Granholm
Canadian-American politician, lawyer, educator, author, political commentator and member of the Democratic Party who served as the Attorney General of Michigan from 1999 to 2003 and as the 47th Governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011

Memorial Day Origins: Decoration Day


     As we observe Memorial Day this Monday, WeCAN Friends, we'd like to share with you some little known information about the origins of the first celebrated "Memorial Day", then called "Decoration Day", celebrated in May of 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. Several towns and cities across America claim to have observed their own earlier versions of Memorial Day or “Decoration Day” as early as 1866, but it wasn’t until a discovery in a Harvard University archive the late 1990s that historians learned about a Memorial Day commemoration organized by a group of freed black slaves less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.
     Back in 1996, David Blight, a professor of American History at Yale University, was researching a book on the Civil War when he had a once-in-a-career eureka moment. A curator at Harvard’s Haughton Library asked if he wanted to look through two boxes of unsorted material from Union veterans. “There was a file labeled ‘First Decoration Day' and inside on a piece of cardboard was a narrative handwritten by an old veteran, plus a date referencing an article in The New York Tribune. That narrative told the essence of the story that I ended up telling in my book, of this march on the race track in 1865," said Professor Blight. 
     The race track in question was the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club in Charleston, South Carolina. In the late stages of the Civil War, the Confederate army transformed the formerly posh country club into a makeshift prison for Union captives. More than 260 Union soldiers died from disease and exposure while being held in the race track’s open-air infield. Their bodies were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.

The clubhouse at the Charleston racetrack where the 1865 Memorial Day events took place.
The clubhouse at the Charleston racetrack where the 1865 Memorial Day events took place.


     
When Charleston fell and Confederate troops evacuated the badly damaged city, freed slaves remained. One of the first things those emancipated men and women did was to give the fallen Union prisoners a proper burial. They exhumed the mass grave and reinterred the bodies in a new cemetery with a tall whitewashed fence inscribed with the words: “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
     Then, on May 1, 1865, something even more extraordinary happened. According to two reports that Blight found in The New York Tribune and The Charleston Courier, a crowd of 10,000 people, mostly freed slaves with some white missionaries, staged a parade around the race track. Three thousand black schoolchildren carried bouquets of flowers and sang “John Brown’s Body.” Members of the famed 54th Massachusetts and other black Union regiments were in attendance and performed double-time marches. Black ministers recited verses from the Bible.
     Blight excitedly called the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, looking for more information on the historic event.
     “‘I’ve never heard of it,’ they told me,” says Blight. “‘This never happened.’”
       It was clear from the newspaper reports, though, that a Memorial Day observance was organized by freed slaves in Charleston at least a year before other U.S. cities and three years before the first national observance. How had been lost to history for over a century?
     “This was a story that had really been suppressed both in the local memory and certainly the national memory,” says Blight. “But nobody who had witnessed it could ever have forgotten it.”
      Once the war was over and Charleston was rebuilt in the 1880s, the city’s white residents likely had little interest in remembering an event held by former slaves to celebrate the Union dead and, in time, the old horse track and country club were torn down. Thanks to a gift from a wealthy Northern patron, the Union soldiers' graves were moved from the humble white-fenced graveyard in Charleston to the Beaufort National Cemetery. By the time Blight was rummaging through the Harvard archives in 1996, the story of the first Memorial Day had been entirely forgotten. 
     For Blight, it’s less important whether the 1865 commemoration of the “Martyrs of the Race Course” is officially recognized as the first Memorial Day. “It’s the fact that this occurred in Charleston at a cemetery site for the Union dead in a city where the Civil war had begun,” says Blight, “and that it was organized and done by African-American former slaves is what gives it such poignancy.”*+

*https://www.history.com/news/memorial-day-civil-war-slavery-charleston
+https://justseeds.org/memorial-day-and-social-justice/

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