By Joanie Juster–
Groundbreaking elections, a growing trend toward banning books and diminishing young minds, and some truly great news about a cartoon show by a local legend are all front and center. Win, lose, or draw, there is plenty going on this week.
You Win Some
First Kansas, then … Alaska??
In August, the state of Kansas sent shockwaves through the political universe by voting very decisively to protect a woman’s right to choose. Kansas was the first state to vote on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling inDobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization. The state’s 59–41% vote gave hope to women everywhere: if a state with a voting record as red as Kansas could produce such a lopsided win for women’s rights, there could be hope for other states. Activists and voters throughout the country were re-energized.
And now another state traditionally written off by the pundits has given more hope for the midterms ahead. On August 31, staunchly pro-choice Democrat Mary Peltola was declared the winner of Alaska’s special election to fill the congressional seat left vacant after the death of longtime congressman Don Young last March. Peltola’s victory is historic for several reasons. First, Peltola, a Yup’ik woman, will become the first Native Alaskan in Congress. Second, she will be the first woman to represent Alaska in the House of Representatives. Third, she will be the first Democrat to win a U.S. House election in Alaska since 1972—the year that Roe v. Wade made abortion legal throughout the land.
And then, for bonus points, she also defeated Sarah Palin.
As someone who has spent a lot of time in Alaska for almost 30 years, I can vouch for the fact that Alaskan politics can be wild, weird, fascinating, and often unpredictable. Folks in what Alaskans call the Lower 48 often forget that Alaska began as a Democratic state. And to many Alaskans, being a good neighbor—someone you can rely on—is more important than political ideology. Alaskans across the political spectrum have simply never forgiven Palin for quitting her job halfway through her term as governor. That came back to haunt her in this election.
Mary Peltola’s victory in this special election certainly gives Democrats some momentum, but she still has to face opponents again in the midterm elections. This is going to be one fascinating and important race to watch.
And You Lose Some
Every day news comes in of the latest legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ people. Some are so bizarre that the mind reels. Example: for the first time in 15 years, Sarasota schools are turning down hundreds of free dictionaries from the local Rotary Club. The Rotary Club. What could possibly be provocative about dictionaries from the Rotary Club? Well, under the new rules, the district cannot buy or accept any new books until it hires someone to make sure they comply with Florida’s insane censorship regulations. So, the district is in danger of violating a radical new law that is part of Governor Ron DeSantis’s war on inclusive curricula. The idea of banning dictionaries is so absurd that it almost seems like a joke, but instead of being funny, the implications are chilling, and far-reaching.
Florida is far from alone. More and more state and local legislatures and school districts are passing laws to make it easier to ban books, prohibit teachers from talking about anything that touches on racism, sexism, or gender issues, and prohibit librarians from stocking or distributing books that don’t fit their extremely narrow definition of what is “acceptable.” Forty-two states have now enacted limits on what teachers can say about racism or sexism in the classroom.
Let that sink in a minute. Forty-two states.
It’s an all-out, coordinated, well-funded attack on the freedom to learn, with the attackers becoming bolder and more threatening every day.
What to do? Fight back. Support candidates for your local school board and other legislative seats who actually believe students have a right to learn about the world they live in. Attend school board meetings and speak out for the freedom to learn. And provide students with books.
One positive effort has been in the news: The Brooklyn Public Library has started a program called Books UnBanned. For a limited time, they are offering individuals all over the country, ages 13–21, the opportunity to apply for a free Brooklyn Public Library card, providing access to their full eBook collection as well as learning databases. Read more about how BPL is supporting teens here: https://tinyurl.com/BPLlink
And Then There’s the Drawing
Heads up, cartoon fans: here comes a show you won’t want to miss. For over four decades, community leader and activist Leslie Ewing has been drawing cartoons that cover topics both political and personal, but always through her unique lens that ranges from trenchant to quirky to hilarious. Read more about Leslie and her artwork elsewhere in our next edition of the San Francisco Bay Times, but in the meantime, be sure to stop by the Rockridge Café to see her work from September 15 through October 26 (8:30 am to 2 pm daily).
Leslie’s record of activism and leadership is legendary in the Bay Area and beyond. Trained as an artist and designer at Occidental College and UCLA, she pursued a career in merchandising for over 20 years, but never stopped documenting her life and times through her cartoons.
Political activism and the AIDS crisis found Leslie taking on more leadership roles at the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, AIDS Emergency Fund, Under One Roof, Lyon-Martin Health Services, and a ten-year stint as Executive Director of the Pacific Center in Oakland. She officially retired from full-time work before the pandemic, but has never stopped giving back to the community, currently serving on the board of the National AIDS Memorial. And in the midst of all that service, she drew cartoons that captured the tumultuous times through which she lived, as well musings about life in general.
Rockridge Café (5492 College Avenue, Oakland) is a small, cozy café that is famous for breakfast and lunch classics. While there won’t be an opening reception for Leslie’s show, you can meet the artist each Saturday at 1 pm, so pop in, enjoy the show, and say hi.
The leather community will be celebrating this month. Here are some of the highlights:
On Sunday, September 18, LeatherWalk will return as the traditional launch to San Francisco’s Leather Week. Produced by the LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District, the walk will commence at the Polk Street steps of City Hall at 11:30 am, then stop at several historic locations and watering holes along the route to its culmination at Leather Pride Fest at Eagle Plaza, sponsored by the SF Eagle. The Leather Pride Fest will include the raising of the historic Leather Pride Flag, and a beer/soda bust from 3 to 6 pm.
LeatherWalk 2022, which benefits the LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District’s mission of keeping South of Market queer and kinky, is the official kick-off for San Francisco’s Leather Week, which culminates one week later at the2022 Folsom Street Fair on September 25.
For more info, and to support your favorite LeatherWalker: https://sfleatherdistrict.org/
Remembering Jim DeLange
When the news came out that Reverend Jim DeLange had passed away on August 20, my mind was flooded with memories of the early days of the AIDS crisis, because DeLange was everywhere: at vigils and marches and AIDS Walks, ministering to the sick and dying, comforting the mourners, and making sure that those who had been spurned by other churches found a welcome home in his. A straight ally, he devoted much of his life to caring for both the physical and spiritual needs of the LGBTQ+ community, and fighting on behalf of their rights in the church, and in society. His leadership at St. Francis Lutheran Church, the Interfaith Council of San Francisco, and more made profound changes in countless lives. He was a true hero, and will be missed.
Don’t forget that both COVID-19 and monkeypox are still with us. Please take sensible precautions, and stay safe.
Joanie Juster is a long-time community volunteer, activist, and ally.
In Case You Missed It
Published on September 8, 2022