35,000 Philadelphia Supporters Hail Obama’s Speech on Race

35,000 Philadelphia Supporters Hail Obama’s Speech on Race

Barack Obama was greeted by the largest crowd of his campaign on Friday night in Philadelphia.  It was the biggest gathering of Obama supporters that the campaign had ever seen, exceeding the 30,000 who greeted Obama and Oprah Winfrey in December in Columbia, S.C.  An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people pressed into Independence Park to hear the Democratic presidential candidate, four days before Pennsylvania’s crucial presidential primary on April 22nd.

Beyond the stunning fact that more people came out for Obama’s rally in front of Independence Hall than any other event since he announced his candidacy, there was a remarkable spontaneous demonstration of support that occurred when his speech ended.  At least 5,000 people had nowhere to go but up Market Street.  Obama’s charge of the night: “Declare independence!” was with them.  They started with the familiar “O-Bam-A.”  By 7th and Market Streets, they had graduated to “Yes we can!”   By 10th and Market Streets, with hundreds of supporters streaming in between cars on the road, they were just cheering.  At first, a few Philadelphia policemen cops tried to move the surging crowd to the sidewalks, but it didn’t work.  The police finally retreated to the sidewalks, and a full mile away from Independence Park, the Obama crowd was still marching.

Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech is now being hailed as one of the most powerful discourses on race ever given by a politician.  Obama’s speech on race recognized that some blacks and whites still harbor significant anger and resentment.  While condemning their hateful expression, he conceded that these feelings exist.  Obama spoke from the heart, from his true experience of living in both our black and white cultures.  His life, indeed his DNA, embodies a truly American experience.  Obama mapped out his vision for getting beyond the distractions of race toward solving the real problems Americans face: the war, the economy, health, education and the environment.

Obama told the crowd that the United States is at a critical moment in its history, not unlike what the founding fathers faced in Philadelphia.  “It was over 200 years ago that a group of patriots gathered in this city to do something that no one in the world believed they could do,” Obama said.  “After years of a government that didn’t listen to them, or speak for them, or represent their hopes and their dreams, a few humble colonists came to Philadelphia to declare their independence from the tyranny of the British throne.”

The Illinois senator called Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton a “tenacious” opponent but said that it was time to move beyond the old politics of the 1990s.   Hillary Clinton “is a tenacious campaigner and is a committed public servant,” he began.   But her message, he said, is “that we can’t really change the say anything, do anything special interest game of so we might as well choose a candidate who knows how to play the game.”  He mocked her “kitchen sink strategy” and then stated, “I’m not running to be the president who plays the same old game. I’m running to end the game.”

Barack Obama: “A More Perfect Union” (Full Speech on Race)

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In the Name of Faith and Love: For The Bible Tells Me So

In the Name of Faith and Love: For The Bible Tells Me So

An NPR Audio Discussion of For The Bible Tells Me So:

The Bible is the word of God through the word of human beings, speaking in the idiom of their time, and the richness of the Bible comes from the fact that we don’t take it as literally so that it was dictated by God,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Can the love between two people ever truly be an abomination? Is the schism that separates gay and lesbian persons from Christianity destined to be always too wide to cross? How can the Bible be used to justify hatred? These are the questions that are at the heart of For The Bible Tells Me So, an exploration of the religious right’s use of the Bible to justify shutting gay and lesbian people out of the faiths into which they’ve been born and in which they’ve grown up. One of the central figures in For The Bible Tells Me So is Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first-ever openly gay man to be elected a Bishop of the Episcopalian Church. Robinson’s consecration in 2003 (at which he had to wear a bullet-proof vest due to death threats against him) was a historical occasion, but also one that caused a rift within the Episcopal church. On a more personal level, the consecration was the quintessential moment of the path on which Robinson had first embarked some 20 years earlier when, with the support of his then-wife, Isabella, he came out of the closet after years of attempting to live as a straight man and seeking counseling to rid himself of his “gay feelings.”

The film explores, with various historians and religious figures, including Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the use of the Bible in the religous right’s attempts to portray gay and lesbian people as being abominations against God and nature. The film seeks to both put a face on the issue of religion and gay life, and to give people dealing with family and friends who rely upon the same old Bible verses about gays a Biblical perspective of their own from which to respond. But at its heart this is a film not about historical Biblical theory, but about the real lives of families with gay and lesbian sons and daughters, and how they have reconciled their faith with their love for their children.

It also narrates the story of Chrissy Gephardt, who finally came out as a lesbian to her family just as her father, former House minority leader Richard Gephardt, was about to embark on his campaign for the Presidency. Chrissy talks about enduring a sexless marriage to a man before falling in love with a lesbian friend, admitting the truth about herself, coming out and eventually joining her father on the campaign trail, with his support and encouragement.

The film also introduces the Poteats, an African-American family in which both parents are preachers still struggling to accept that their daughter, Tonia, is a lesbian. David Poteat, Tonia’s father, says in the film that when his children (a son and a daughter) were growing up, “I said God, please don’t let my son grow up to be a faggot and my daughter a slut.” He chuckles ironically and adds, “And he did not. He did not do that. He reversed it.” The Poteat family story resonates with the unmistakable sounds of truth, love, and pain. These are parents who have struggled to accept their daughter as a lesbian, but still love her immensely and have never cut off their relationship with her. But the Poteats aren’t all the way there yet. Tonia speaks longingly of a day when her parents would willingly and gladly come to her wedding with her partner. But at least they are working on it, and they haven’t rejected their daughter.

The film avoids demonizing the religious right, instead simply holding up the families who are at the heart of the story and saying: Here they are. These are the gay people you so fear, and they are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, the neighbors you’ve known for years. It speaks to the central point of the religious right’s objection to homosexuality without attacking those who hold those beliefs.

For The Bible Tells Me So made its world premiere in competition at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The film was also honored with Audience Awards at the 2007 Seattle and Provincetown International Film Festivals and The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at the 2007 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. This provocative, entertaining film concisely reconciles homosexuality and a literal interpretation of Biblical scripture. It offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone who desperately feels caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

For The Bible Tells Me So

There were many responses to the classroom killing of Larry King in Oxnard, California, and the ongoing violence against gay people that it so tragically represented, which included the now well-known statement that was made by Ellen DeGeneres on her television program. Be A Voice Against Violence is a Public Service Announcement video calling for all of us to take a stand against violence. The video includes appearances by Ashanti, Andre 3000, TR Knight, and Janet Jackson and was also created in response to the Larry King murder:

Be A Voice Against Violence

Remember The National Day of Silence on April 25, 2008. This year, The National Day of Silence is dedicated to the memory of Lawrence King:

The Day of Silence: Dedicated to the Memory of Lawrence King

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