Friday, July 25, 2014

Musical Play Needs Sponsors (LGBTQ, Race, Religion, More)

My wife and I are from Central California. The region is hard to explain to outsiders, because people assume "California" means L.A. and San Francisco, yet geographically those are little dots within a sea of socially conservative counties. To this day, it feels more like the Deep South (circa 1976) than anywhere else I have been -- and I've been to the South.

I wrote the play The Gospel Singer many years ago, but it wasn't finished and developed until 2013. In a few short weeks, the play will premier in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania... in another region where race, religion, and daily life can seem stuck a couple of decades in the past.

We need to keep raising money to get this play and its message heard.

News Articles and Context

First, it helps to know the Tulare County, Calif., where the play is set, was home to the self-proclaimed "new KKK" of the 1980s and 90s. There were also active "Moral Majority" groups, drawing from the large Evangelical, conservative Catholic, and LDS (Mormon) communities. Thankfully, most of the religious leaders were disgusted and offended by the KKK, but that doesn't mean they didn't harbor prejudices rooted in the past.

From the L.A. Times:
In 1986, business owner Loren Lowdermilk announced that he would be named grand titan for the Ku Klux Klan in California and Visalia would become the KKK's headquarters. That set off demonstrations of protest by large crowds of townspeople outside Lowdermilk's auto-parts business. He keeps a low profile these days. 
The Gospel Singer is set in the late 1980s, but homophobia continues to be a problem in the Central Valley of California. 

From "The People Project" website:

These are some links to [2001] coverage of anti-gay and anti-lesbian harassment. We've detailed how the harassment was overlooked, what it does to students, a specific example of "FAG" written on a student's pickup, new laws, developments in a lawsuit against the school district, and how the district targeted the press after the stories ran.

LOCAL NEWS
The Ongoing Struggle
Former students who are gay or lesbian say they were harassed, ridiculed, threatened and attacked at area high schools while school personnel failed to intervene and disregarded their complaints.

LOCAL NEWS
Epithets scar student's truck
The words "fag" and "Pedro is gay" were found sprayed on a pickup on Nov. 14 in the eastern parking lot of Golden West High School in Visalia, and the school principal says he's "not familiar" with the incident.

LOCAL NEWS
New laws protect homosexuals on school campuses
Gov. Gray Davis signed two bills into law last year that would help curb on campus harassment based on sexual orientation, but Visalia Unified School District officials say they haven't yet become familiar with them.

LOCAL NEWS
Homosexual students live in constant fear
Suddenly, it seemed all of Golden West High School knew that [Student] was a lesbian.

LOCAL NEWS
Anti-gay bias suit has new plaintiff
Another plaintiff has joined a federal lawsuit that alleges Golden West High School personnel overlooked anti-gay harassment directed at a student, a move lawyers who filed the action say will solidify their case against the Visalia Unified School District.

LOCAL NEWS
School board promises legal look at media access to schools
Visalia Unified School District trustees announced Tuesday night they would look into restricting media access to schools.

EDUCATION
ACLU wants change in gay, lesbian policies
FRESNO -- The American Civil Liberties Union pledged Wednesday to force the Visalia Unified School District to protect its gay and lesbian students from harassment.

EDUCATION
Trustees call VUSD policy adequate
Measures already in place should address issues raised by gay and lesbian students in a Jan. 20 Times-Delta story, Visalia Unified School District board members say.

OPINION
Until All Are Safe
Local school districts, especially Visalia Unified School District, must take the lead in correcting the problem of hate-motivated conduct against gays and lesbians on high school campuses.

This Play Still Matters... Sadly

I wish this play didn't seem to have universal themes, but that appears to be the case. People still find reasons to hate others in religion, race, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, and other differences that should make the world more interesting, not dangerous.

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