July 28th, 2011I am outraged! I have to say that after the horrific murders that occurred two weeks ago in Grand Rapids, I have yet to submit a positive GR6 six word entry that one would expect from the President of this community foundation. I've had to just let it all sink in.
Well then this morning I was reading Facebook postings from overnight. I was thoroughly disgusted to learn that an assault was committed on a man who was leaving a welcoming party for Denise Brogan-Kator the Executive Director of *Equality Michigan.
Postings by my friends Terry Johnston and Tommy Allen alerted their followers to this horrible assault. Terry wrote: "Just learned that a friend of mine was physically and verbally assaulted by 2 young men after leaving an Equality Michigan reception. He was thrown up against a wall, punched in the stomach, called "faggot", told that "he doesn't deserve to live" and "doesn't belong on the face of the earth".
Beyond heartbreaking as it is simply ruthless and WRONG! This isn't just about "how to make Grand Rapids a more welcoming city and area" it is violence - it is prejudice - it is a crime against a human being!
We have been working so very hard on the issues of racism and sexism and all the isms! This discrimination and prejudice cannot continue! The rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation need to be protected.
And what an awful way to end what I am assuming was a joyous occasion introducing the Executive Director of Equality Michigan based in Detroit to many supporters here in Grand Rapids.
The physical attack was committed a half-block away from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and I just hope we can all work together to address these egregious crimes and to continue to embrace differences. This isn't just a case of "why can't we just all get along", it's an act of violence and it has to stop. And not just the outright acts of violence but the attitudes and behavior of some in our community. I know this happens more often than what is reported to the police. My GR6 entry today would read if submitted: Future: Inclusion. Magnetic. Welcoming. Aspirational. Hope.
* From the organization's website: "Equality Michigan works to achieve full equality and respect for all people in the state of Michigan, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. We're also a touch point for events, organizations, and information that are of interest to the community. We are a professional, active resource for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied community members."
There are no words . . .
July 13th, 2011that can adequately express our sorrow and concern six days after the horrific tragedy where 7 people were killed in the Grand Rapids community at the hand of a very troubled person. I cannot simply blog about philanthropy and the Foundation at this time as if nothing has happened. Doesn't seem quite right. Just like others, I have had many conversations with friends, family, colleagues and staff and everyone remains stunned by the events of Thursday, July 7th.
Paul Keep*, editor of The Grand Rapids Press, wrote a thoughtful column on Friday, July 8th which was a compassionate attempt to provide comfort in the aftermath of such a tragedy. The absolute vile that was spewed in the anonymous comments posted almost immediately once Paul's column appeared online was shocking. Much has been said and written about anonymous comments on media websites but the vitriol is beyond belief in this case. Frankly the nature of anonymous comments each and every day demonstrates ignorance and anger that is troubling.
I do realize that horrible things happen all the time and that this could have happened anywhere. I too was assaulted (not sexually) almost 40 years ago by a person who had a mental illness - diagnosed, not conjecture. While it was life threatening and took a long time to physically heal, I do have compassion for people with a mental illness and I know that the violence is rare. It was a random act and I happen to be walking up the stairs to my apartment at a time when the young man was agitated.
May we all heal and remember that human life is so precious and that our days on this earth are a gift. As a colleague said yesterday, "I've walked through the community and there is still a silence . . . a hush that shows how shocked we still are." Time to reach out and care for one another. My sympathies go out to all the loved ones of the families affected by this senseless act.
* Disclosure: Paul Keep is a member of the board of trustees of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.