Live from Occupy LA: It’s the General Assembly! With Special Guest Lt. Dan Choi!


updated – The livestream feed has been replaced by a recording of the event.

We’ve livestreaming from Occupy LA, where during the day solar panels on the south lawn fuel the media tent, because, well this is Los Angeles. And it has been well over 80 degrees the past two days, which makes for lots of opportunity to charge the solar panels, but keeps me indoors until the sun begins to dip.

There are over 250 tents encamped during the week, expect the numbers to go up on weekends when people come out as a brief vacation, an experiment in a new form of society.

Tonight we’re bringing you my first livestream of Occupy LA, this of the General Assembly, where Lt. Dan Choi will be speaking. Hope you enjoy this. I’ll be livestreaming regularly and hopefully will get better at it as time goes on.

Lt Dan Choi Evokes Love, Courage for National Coming Out Day

PFC Hugo Valencia and Lt. Dan Choi

Lt. Dan Choi spoke at Cal State Northridge Tuesday night for National Coming Out Day. Wow. Wow. Wow. His speech took us from the Triangle of Death in Iraq to his parents’ home in Orange County, California and back again, through his falling in love for the first time at age 27 to his split with his Southern Baptist parents; heart wrenching stories, witty asides, skillful humor and pop culture references aligned alongside the poetry of al-Mutanabbi and quotations from the Bible and Christian scholars, giving the audience a full look at Dan’s life during and after his coming out, his experiences under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and since its repeal, as well as orating with beauty and grace the reasons for coming out as LGBT. Or as a straight ally.

I was typing as fast as could–no video was allowed, though CSPAN did record the event. The president of CSUN’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance, Hugo Valencia introduced Lt. Choi. A private first class in the National Guard who joined at 17, Hugo who stood proudly on stage last night in his uniform, came out when DADT was repealed.

Lt Choi began his speech by telling us that he was proud to stand before us in his uniform

to tell all of you this uniform is now the uniform of all Americans.

He also honored the memory of activist Frank Kameny, who served in World War II and led the fight for gay rights since the early 1960s,  who died yesterday, but lived to see the repeal of DADT.

Lt. Choi’s wry exhortation to the non-LGBT in the audience was met with laughter and applause:

It’s is time for all you straight people to come out as allies. Gays wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for heterosexuals. You literally gave birth to us!

Lt. Choi’s skill as an orator and his roots in the Southern Baptist Church (his father is a minister who started several congregations and worked as missionary) shone as he took us through the six months he spent living with his parents after coming out, his father repeatedly telling him that homosexuality was the number one sin. Lt. Choi countered with:

Love they neighbor as thyself.  Love they neighbor as you love yourself.  Gay people are blessed to be able to show how important love is…

Honor thy father and mother, honor them by telling them the truth, do not bear false witness…I am not going to let someone I love die being a homophobe. Love them to teach them. Under all that hatred is a loving spirit.

Lt. Choi then lead us in a powerful call and response:

I am somebody! I am somebody! I am somebody!  I deserve full equality! Now!

and referenced the Occupy movement as an example of people who are standing up and saying

I am somebody!

After his speech, Lt. Choi took questions from the audience, responding to one

Prince William invited his best friend from his unit to his wedding. His best friend who is transgendered and undergoing gender reassignment paid for by the British armed forces…I am queer inclusive. That is what America fights for, freedom and justice. Yes, I am a queer activist. I learned as an activist why I fought. These skills are transferable. My being a soldier has made me a better activist, and my being an activist has made me a better soldier.

At the reception afterwards, Lt. Choi spoke with students and faculty members, posed for photos with veterans and active members who attend CSUN, as well as with members of Gamma Rho Lambda, the campus’ queer sorority.

This was one of the most inspirational and profound speeches I have ever heard. As soon as I get the link from CSPAN I will post it up.

Lt Choi poses with CSUN veterans.

With Gamma Rho Lamda members


Photo 1 courtesy of PFC Hugo Valencia, photos 2 & 6: John Saringo, CSUN

Occupy LA Day 11: Lt. Dan Choi Drops By

Tuesday October 11 was National Coming Out Day, and on his way to speak at Cal State University Northridge, Lt. Dan Choi stopped by Occupy LA. While he was there he ran into activist friends and when lunch arrived he jumped to help carry pans of food to the tented cafeteria. Lt. Choi was asked to do a livestream broadcast with his friend and fellow activist Arturo, and gave several spontaneous interviews.

The Conrad Murry trial is across the street at the Superior Court, and news vans are parked across the street.  Today a plane flew over head trailing a banner with a picture of Michael Jackson declaring

China Demands Justice

Yesterday the banner read

Spain Demands Justice

It’s surreal because at Occupy LA, that’s what everyone wants, justice. Not justice for Michael Jackson, but justice, fairness equality for all Americans.

The teachers union made a substantial donation and the SEIU has 50 people planning to camp out. And the woman  camper who has her clothes stashed in a Louis Vuitton garment bag in her tent has turned it over so the logos don’t show!


ENDA Protest Shuts Down Las Vegas Blvd.

I wish I had taken an earlier flight to Las Vegas Tuesday for Netroots Nation 2010 so I could join the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) demonstration in front of the Statue of Liberty that adorns New York New York’s exterior. Yes, it was 106 degrees, and that shows total commitment to get workplace equality passed. So does getting arrested which is what happened to Lt. Dan Choi and seven other demonstration participants. Lt. Choi was discharged from the military because of his arrest during a DADT rally earlier this year.

Lt. Choi was released by early afternoon and joined us at the LGBT caucus pre-sessions.

Me and Lt Choi. He is so awesome.

Dan Choi, Constance McMillen, Judy Shepard: NYC Pride Grand Marshals

(photo: kurafire)

Three faces of Pride will ride as Grand Marshals in this year’s New York City Pride March, June 27:

Judy Shepard, mother of hate-slain gay teen Matthew Shepard, co-founded with her husband Dennis the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which is dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice, diversity awareness and education, and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Lt. Dan Choi, West Point graduate and Iraq veteran fluent in Arabic, received a notice of  discharge from the United States Army for announcing “I am gay” on the Rachel Maddow show, a direct challenge to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. (That discharge is still classified as “pending.”) A  tireless champion of equal rights, Lt. Choi was recently arrested for chaining himself to the White House fence during a demonstration for LGBT rights.

Constance McMillen, who wanted to wear a tuxedo and take her girlfriend to the prom at her Mississippi high school. When those rights were denied by the administration at Itawamba Agricultural High School, McMillen’s case was taken up by the ACLU, and a federal judge ruled that Constance’s rights were violated. While the school went ahead and organized a prom, the majority of her classmates attended a private “dance party” several miles away. Previously, Constance had stood up for the rights of trans classmate Juin Baize.