For the past few years, I’ve been greatly disturbed by the growing rancor, divisiveness, and hatred on display in America. I’m not so naive as to believe that the parade of abject malevolence is anything new. Like several of you, I’ve long suspected the seeds of bigotry had been lying dormant just below the surface in need of only a fresh heaping of fertilizer and a climate of fear to take root, blossom, and overrun our sociopolitical garden with brambles, weeds, and rodents aplenty.
HGTV’s new “it” couple and hosts of the smash Home Town, Ben and Erin Napier, are back in a new limited series, Home Town Takeover (HGTV, Sundays, 8:00 p.m. ET/PT). This time around, the Napiers are using their home renovation talents to breathe life into the floundering small town of Wetumpka, Alabama, as seen in the Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney film, Big Fish. And if you’re not careful, you may just pick up a thing or two about inclusion and community along the way.
Home renovation shows are nothing new. HGTV has perfected the art of combining likable hosts, adventures in house hunting and home repair, and the requisite “unforeseen” bump in the road to create the enviable HGTV happy endings we’ve come to expect. But Home Town Takeover takes these familiar pieces and turns them into something bigger and more meaningful than the sum of its parts.
We, as a nation, have ignored the sneaking suspicion in the pit of our stomach that something just isn’t quite right in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We’ve been so caught up in trying to satisfy that nagging and empty feeling inside with food, booze, sex, toys, power, and anything else we can commodify that we’ve allowed the billows of smoke wafting throughout our country to go unattended.
Sweethearts, we’re way beyond the do-you-smell-something-burning phase. The whole of the United States of America is engulfed in the flames of systemic racism and codified injustice. Figuratively. And literally.
I was raised in a Christian home, attended Sunday school, and was active in my church. An active faith is something I’ve always had (except for those first couple years of college). Since my mid-twenties, I have considered myself an evangelical Christian. Evangelical defined as one who spreads the good news of Christ’s teachings—salvation, redemption, love one another, among others. That was until 2007 when conservative Christians began their power-grab with refashioning the Jesus of the Bible—the itinerant Jewish rabbi who railed against the powerful, the self-important, and the Haves, and taught the importance of caring for the marginalized, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised—into a political savior of their own making.
Within the last two months as many of my closest friends have died, Joel Strack and Ben Lane. The former’s passing came with the gift of a month of hospice care which afforded his friends the opportunity to reminisce about days long gone, when we had more hair, less excess weight, and our futures seemed boundless. It also granted his family time to see firsthand their beloved’s impact on Central Florida. With the latter’s passing, we were not so fortunate.
An Open Letter to an Our Human Family Reader
Thank you for your thoughtful and gracious letter regarding the efforts of the Our Human Family writers and editorial staff. I’m sure you didn’t know the email address to which you submitted your letter would lead back to me.
This essay is written in response to a thread about the importance of LGBT Christians speaking out and being visible and active congregantsdespite having been wounded by organized religion. There’s a tendency to throw Jesus out with the holy water, but I’d like to offer another option. What follows is a recounting of my firsthand experience dealing with those who would deny my invitation and rightful seat at the table. Peace be with you.
As a forty-eight-inch tall, gay, black man, I encounter plenty of people who think and demonstrate through their actions, “You don’t belong because — ” With that said, my need for a self-concept that is not tethered to a human perspective is integral for my well-being.
I will always remember my friend with red hair — not because of his red hair, or because he could be the most infuriating person I ever knew at times, or even because he was the first activist I ever knew; but because he is the reason I’m a whole person.
Harry P. Leu Gardens, 2019.
The two groups cleared a path down the center of the ballroom for the guest of honor and his court to make their grand entrance. Members of the Orlando Gay Chorus occupied half the room donning rainbows, kilts, and a requisite drag queen or two. And across the vacant center aisle, equally as festive, present and former pixie-dusted Disney entertainment employees mingled in wait. The line of demarcation was much less Jets versus Sharks in nature and more a function of an eclectic mix of people cut from a wide swath of humanity preparing for the unexpected.
I’m a guy who stands forty-eight inches tall in my stocking feet. I am not a halfling to be pitied, a pet to be pampered, or an object to be fetishized. I am not an inspiration. I am a human being trying to figure out this thing called life one step at a time, just like you. As for a politically correct label to affix to me; note — no one likes to be referred to by a label. My name will works almost every time, unless I’m trying to be subtle in avoiding you. But if you’re in search of a term to describe my most noticeable physical feature — hot is always welcome (just kidding) — short, short-statured work; but “Little Person” is the preferred term.
Recently, the Medium publication C(G) S N A P S H O T S issued a challenge in which participants were invited to submit images for their Snapshot Selfie Challenge. I submitted a snapshot of a few mementos that represented different periods of my life. Oddly enough, one object in my snapshot garnered more comments than other—my vintage Donald Duck bobblehead from the late 1960s/early 1970s, described in the accompanying text as “the symbol of my former alter-ego, vehicle of torture and self-discovery.”
In the original text I promised to—at some point in the future—reveal a little of the backstory of my adventures performing as Donald Duck at Walt Disney World in Florida. Well, the time has come for me to tell you about my life in fur.
This is the last in the seven-part series. Enjoy!
FROM THE DAY I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in communications, I focused my sights on a career within Walt Disney World that did not involve me wearing fur. I still had my eye on the company’s marketing department and talked to everyone who’d listen about how to make the transition to a more corporate position. The consensus was that the first thing I needed to do would was put together a portfolio. Great! But there was one small problem: I had no work, so no samples of work to cobble together.