Openly Gay Native American Woman Elected to State Legislature

A friend just alerted me to this article posted on Jezebel.com by Erin Gloria Ryan – It’s definitely worth a read!

According to Allen’s campaign site, Susan Allen is “Lakota, Dakota and Anishinabe. She is an experienced tax and tribal law attorney. She is public spirited and community minded as seen by her considerable nonprofit and pro bono work. As a Native woman and a lesbian, Susan has faced barriers and overcome discrimination throughout her life. She is ready to be a strong voice at the State Legislature.”

#NativeGirlPower!

I’d love to interview Ms. Allen one of these days and post a Q. & A. here on NativeJournalist.  What do y’all think?

-NativeJournalist

“Kickass Openly Gay Native American Woman Elected to State Legislature

Nine Native Americans have served in the Minnesota state legislature since the state’s founding, and all of them have been men. But on Tuesday, The Land of 10,000 Lakes chose via special election its first ever Native American woman to serve on its state legislature, and the first Native American lesbian to ever serve in any state legislature anywhere.

Susan Allen (not to be confused with the wife of Republican Virginia Senator George Allen) is the polar opposite of her fellow Minnesota countrywoman Michele Bachmann. She’s a progressive rather than a Tea Partier, she lives in a mixed income Minneapolis neighborhood rather than a McMansion in the exurbs, and she’s a lesbian rather than a lesbian-fixer. Additionally, Allen has vowed to fight for defeat of Minnesota’s constitutional marriage amendment, which would effectively make same-sex marriage illegal in the state. Michele Bachmann is one of the leading architects of a previous failed attempt to legally define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Allen’s credentials are the sort of thing that makes the average privileged person living in comfort feel like a slouch. MPR reported back in December that Allen, now 48, grew up on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one of the most poverty-stricken swaths of untenable land in the US. Her father was an Evangelical priest, and the family frequently moved. When she was a single mother in her early 20’s and on government assistance, she relied public transportation to get to and from her law school classes. She’s got experience working in tribal and tax law, and as of last year was a partner in her firm. By all accounts, she’s an all-around intimidatingly kickass, groundbreaking lady.

She doesn’t get to rest on her laurels for long, though. Allen’s up for reelection already in November.

If Michele Bachmann and Susan Allen are ever in the same room at the same time, they’re fated to an epic arm wrestling match. My money’s on Allen.”

 

White House Announces Second Tribal Nations Conference

Obama visiting the Crow Nation in May 2008. (Photo credit: http://www.DailyYonder.com)

The White House announced on Monday that President Obama will hold the second White House Tribal Nations Conference on Dec. 16, 2010.

According to a White House Press Release:

As part of President Obama’s ongoing outreach to the American people, this conference will provide leaders from the 565 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration. Each federally recognized tribe will be invited to send one representative to the conference. This will be the second White House Tribal Nations Conference for the Obama Administration, and continues to build upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the nation to nation relationship with Indian Country.

Editorial note: While I am excited about the opportunity for Indian Tribes to meet with the President, it would be even better if representatives from state recognized Tribes could attend as well. However, I do understand the politics behind why the White House would not extend the invitation.

-NativeJournalist

Happy Halloween: A Superhero (Not an Ethnic Minority) is a Halloween Costume

I love Halloween…but I don’t love racist Halloween costumes. And, sadly, it seems like the “go to” Halloween costume is often an “Indian Chief” or a scantily clad “Indian Princess.” When in doubt, wear something brown, cut some fringe, put a headband around your head and attach a feather. Now, you’re an Indian!…??!!

image credit: jenmust.blogspot.com
Click the photo to read a great article at Colorlines.com

What kind of statement are we making when we dress up as a marginalized people? What makes us think we own their culture in this way?

I thought I was the only one who felt sick to my stomach seeing someone dressed up in costume as an “Indian Chief” or “Muslim,” but to my surprise, I’m not! There is quite a bit of buzz online about racist Halloween costumes and how to avoid being racially/ethnically offensive, while still having fun.

As ClayCane.net explained,

I saw people dressed as Mexicans, Asians and sporting the ever popular Afro wig. Putting on an Afro wig or a sombrero is not a costume. Batman or Superman is a costume, being ethnic for a night isn’t—it’s offensive.

"Native American boy" costume

Check out Gawker’s list of offensive Halloween costumes including the “Geisha girl,” “Samurai Warrior” and “Alaskan ‘Eskimo.'” TheRoot.com also has a great slideshow of wigs and masks (and glasses like the pair below) that made my jaw drop.

This is not okay.

Please think critically when you pick your Halloween costume. Just because your friend who is Native American/Black/Asian/Latino/whatever is not offended, does not mean the costume is not offensive to others! Halloween is about fun…not disrespect.

-NativeJournalist

Reconsider Columbus Day

I would normally write something here, but I think the video speaks for itself.

Note: I would love to give credit to the makers of the above video, but the ReconsiderColumbusDay.org website is no longer working. If you find any further information on this organization, please send it my way!

Also, take a minute and check out an article I just found by Aisha Brown about why we should consider renaming Columbus Day.

…So, what are your thoughts about Columbus Day? If you feel we should be celebrating Native American Day instead, you can sign a petition here.

-NativeJournalist

Rangel Lends Support to NY Assembly Candidate Robert J. Rodriguez

Rep. Charles B. Rangel and New York state 68th district candidate Robert J. Rodriguez (D) greet early morning commuters on Wednesday (Photo by: Amy Stretten)
“It’s a beautiful day in El Barrio,” a campaign volunteer shouted over a blaringly loud megaphone to early morning passers-by walking near the No. 6 subway line entrance. “Meet Harlem’s new dream team.”

Wearing pressed suits, snazzy ties, campaign buttons and large, unnaturally perky smiles, state assembly Democratic candidate Robert J. Rodriguez (D) and Rep. Charles Rangel shook hands with commuters while wishing them a good day on their way into the 116th and Lexington Avenue subway station early Wednesday morning.

Rangel, who had won the primary against Adam Clayton Powell IV, was there to support Rodriguez, a candidate who is running to fill Powell’s empty seat as well as campaign for his own reelection. Ironically, Powell stepped down as state Assemblyman representing the 68th Assembly district – the same seat Rodriguez hopes to fill – in order to run against Rangel. To add an even bigger twist, Rangel had supported Rodriguez’s opponent, John Ruiz, during the primaries. Ruiz is now on the Working Families ticket, though he is not expected to win the race.

While he had held meet-and-greet events with morning commuters during the primary, this was Rangel’s first appearance with Rodriguez, according to Bob Liff, Rangel’s press contact.

Rangel expressed his confidence in the duo’s campaigns. “We’re running hard and we don’t take anything for granted. That’s why we’re out here,” Rangel said. “We’re out here asking the people for their support in the general election.”

Volunteers in plain clothes only identifiable by their matching Rangel and Rodriguez campaign buttons accompanied the candidates. The squad eagerly ushered passers-by to shake hands and take photos with the two local politicians. Many hesitantly met the two men while others eagerly pleaded strangers to take a photo of them with the “dream team” despite the fact that they would probably never see the photo again.

Yale educated Rodriguez, who is a native of East Harlem and of Puerto Rican decent, made his commitment to his community clear. “State government in Albany has been ignoring the needs of New Yorkers – particularly New Yorkers in this area. I think there’s no question, the demographics don’t lie. We still have the lowest income levels, the highest rate of health disparities. We can’t continue to have the highest percentages within all of those categories and say that those issues are being suitably addressed,” Rodriguez said.

East Harlem’s unemployment rate currently rests at a staggering 14%, while the national unemployment rate is 9.5%. Rodriguez hopes to lower the community’s unemployment rate to at least that of the national average.

Rodriguez, who’s campaign website gives only a few pieces of information about the candidate, comes from a political family. His late father, Robert Rodriguez Sr., represented City Council district 8. In 2009 Robert J. Rodriguez unsuccessfully ran for his father’s seat.

As chairman of Community Board 11, Rodriguez helped pass the East River Plaza mall project in hopes of bringing jobs to East Harlem. Campaign volunteer, Emma Jackson, believes that projects such as this do bring jobs to East Harlem – but to outsiders – not to community members. She hopes Rodriguez will change things for the better.

“He’s young. He’s got energy. He comes with the least amount of personal and professional and political baggage, which means he doesn’t have to give into a lot of things that some of the other candidates have to,” Jackson said. “And, I think he can be more open and listen to the people and hear their concerns.”