Update from OccupyEquality Nebraska!

Update from OccupyEquality Nebraska Community Meeting!

We met on January 3, 2012 at 7:30pm at Mcfoster’s Natural Kind Café. We discussed officially building a partnership with the LGBTQ civil rights group Forward Equality. That proposal was tabled until our next community meeting when we have a more diverse meeting. Instead, we took up working with Forward Equality on specific topics such as the LGBTQ Legal Protections rally at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the National Gay-Straight Alliance Day. The community meeting agreed to work with Forward Equality on these specific topics.

The LGBTQ Legal Protections rally will be on January 24, 2012 from 12pm to 1:30pm in front of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.  Forward Equality decided to hold this rally at the Chamber of Commerce because last year with City Council member Ben Gray introduced the nondiscrimination ordinance they opposed it. Ben Gray is this year introducing his nondiscrimination ordinance on February 7, 2012. Forward Equality is working on creating a solidarity rally on February 7, 2012 for the actual introduction of the employment nondiscrimination ordinance.

The National Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Day rally will be on January 25, 2012 near the Memorial Park Pedestrian Bridge from 3:30pm to 5:00pm in Omaha Nebraska. GSA Day is a time to strengthen the bond between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and straight allies (LGBTQA) and in particular recognize and honor student organizations called Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). These student-led groups work to educate their peers to stop homophobia, biphobia, queerphobia, transphobia, and violence in schools and colleges throughout the country and world. This day will serve as a “day of action” for these student groups employ creative ways to be visible. Honor those who have shown dedication in ensuring all students feel safe and supported, and prepare for the future. GSA day in Omaha is particularly relevant because the city still does not protect persons based on actual or perceived gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Forward Equality and local schools will join the following groups in supporting and celebrating the event: One Colorado, Iowa Pride Network, Washington State GSA Network, GLSEN, Georgia Equality, PFLAG, Campus Pride, GSA Network, Mathew Shepard Foundation, etc.

A member of OccupyEquality Nebraska Ken Riter has organized a protest for Sunday January 8, 2012 at 9am at the UNO Alumni Center because the Dominion Covenant church meets there on Sundays. The Dominion Covenant church is an anti-LGBTQ hate group. He asked OccupyEquality Nebraska to endorse the protest. The community meeting agreed to endorse it. He is some talk from Ken’s event:

“We are protesting the Dominion Covenant Church being allowed to conduct business on or near the UNO campus. Meet on north side of Dodge st directing across Dodge from the UNO Thompson Center.

http://progressiveoasis.com/2011/12/29/anti-lgbt-hate-group-conducts-church-services-at-uno

Signs expressing a distaste for the death penalty, bigotry, hate are welcome. Also, any signs supporting equal treatment for the LGBTQ community would also be greatly appreciated.”

The Community meeting agreed that OccupyEquality Nebraska should have at least two supporters at every Occupy Omaha General Assembly to help ensure the respect and enforcement of the nondiscrimination clause.

Direct Action against the Salvation Army! We consented on the creation of a comprehensive direct action campaign against the Salvation Army. It was discussed how the Salvation Army is a anti-LGBTQ hate group. The first phase of this comprehensive direct action campaign will be a direct action social media campaign against JCPenney for supporting the Salvation Army. It was agreed that we should cut off the Salvation Army’s supporters before we directly attack the Salvation Army for their anti-LGBTQ hateful views and actions.

Mika Covington is the organizer working on leading the campaign action JCPenney as a former JCP employee. Here are some words from Mika Covington:

“In 2011, JCPenney scored a 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index. During 2011, JCP formed a partnership with the Salvation Army that happens to b an Anti-LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) hate group.  Thus, HRC should reduce JCP’s score, nevertheless HRC has not taken any action against JCP, and even worse HRC has not raised any concerns about JCP’s actions!

I propose as an active member of OccupyEquality that we establish a direct action campaign against JCPenney for their support and partnership with the Salvation Army! I believe that this direct action campaign should include a boycott of JCP and a petition against JCP to pull their support and end their partnership with the Salvation Army.

I propose that in addition to the direct action campaign we should establish a social media campaign against JCPenney! I believe that this campaign should include but not be limited to posting on JCP’s Facebook page demanding that JCP remove their support of the Salvation Army and we should share their link while stating what JCP is doing.”

At the end of the meeting, we consented upon working on a Fuck the Police Demonstration and March in Solidarity with Occupy Oakland’s event.  Here is the info from their event:

“Public event for Occupy Oakland Bridge Caucus. Saturday at 7pm until Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 11:30pm. FUCK THE POLICE and fuck failbook for not allowing it to be used as an event name!

*** This event is being called by the Occupy Oakland Tactical Action Committee. It will continue weekly. ***

The Oakland Police Department has harassed and brutalized Occupy Oakland and participants in the vigil. Camps and liberated foreclosed building have been raided and shut down. OOers at the vigil have been arrested for as little as standing nearby when the police decided to raid, all the way up to the ridiculous charge of lynching. People have been physically assaulted by those supposed to protect and serve, but only do so in the interest of the 1%.

With Dozen of our comrades having been arrested in the past couple of weeks, and culminating in the city’s revocation of the vigil’s permit and the immediate threat of another police raid to clear the plaza, the time has come to rise up and let them know what we think of them and that we will no longer meekly accept their violationsof our civil and human rights.

1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612”

I am Mika Covington

My name is Mika Covington, and I am the 99! I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and I am genderqueer. I became an activist when I was in high school and was treated like shit for being queer.  I always have looked at the world with open eyes because of the treatment I received in high school.

I began my activism when I worked to ensure all students at the high school I attended were protected under school policy. I worked on this with other students to form a high school gay-straight alliance. I did this by first asking my principle if I could start a new school club and was denied.  Once I was denied I choose to start a student/staff petition in support of the GSA where I collected several hundred signatures and brought that petition to my principle which he then sent me to the activists director which told me I would have to wait a year before officially creating a new student club.  The following year I went back to the activists director and he gave me a form to fill out and then told me the board of directors would have to approve the club and then I did not hear from him for months until he called me into his office and told me that the school cannot have a GSA that year and that I should try back next year. I decided to contact the American Civil Liberates Union of Nebraska, I informed them of my situation, they intervened, and the school allowed me to form a GSA.

A couple months after the GSA was formed the GSA decided to start a campaign called, “My Life, My Rights” where we worked to get the Board of Directors to pass an inclusive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policy. We ended up failing.

Later that year, we held the first National Day of Silence at that school. It was just amazing. Almost half of the student population took part in the event by either wearing pink tape or a NDOS sticker. There were also armbands, pins, and speaking cards for those whom wished to take the pledge to not speak the entire day. The school officials even recognized the event and asked teachers to allow the students to not speak in the class.

Later, I joined the Iowa Pride Network and volunteered for their College Leadership team where I helped run the Iowa Pride Networks Regional Southwest Iowa Gay-Straight Alliance Coalition. I did that for about two years then decided to work full time for Forward Equality. Forward Equality is the brand new LGBTQ civil rights/economic justice non-profit organization I created in early 2011 with several other friends.

At Forward Equality, I am the Executive Director and acting President. Forward Equality has several current projects. The first and the most important is our project to pass the nondiscrimination ordinance that would protect persons based on their gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Forward Equality’s next project  is our economic justice projects where we will work with local occupy groups.

My more personal life, I was born with Nephropathic Cystinosis. Nephropathic Cystinosis is a lysosomal storage disease characterized by the abnormal accumulation of the amino acid cystine. It is a genetic disorder that typically follows an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern. Cystinosis is the most common cause of Fanconi syndrome in the pediatric age group. Fanconi syndrome occurs when the function of cells in renal tubules are impaired, leading to abnormal amounts of carbohydrates and amino acids in the urine, excessive urination, and low blood levels of potassium and phosphates. Cystinosis is a rare genetic disorder that causes an accumulation of the amino acid cystine within cells, forming crystals that can build up and damage the cells. These crystals negatively affect many systems in the body, especially the kidneys and eyes. There are three distinct types of cystinosis each with slightly different symptoms: nephropathic cystinosis, intermediate cystinosis, and non-nephropathic or ocular cystinosis. Infants affected by nephropathic cystinosis initially exhibit poor growth and particular kidney problems (sometimes called renal Fanconi syndrome). The kidney problems lead to the loss of important minerals, salts, fluids, and other nutrients. The loss of nutrients not only impairs growth, but may result in soft, bowed bones (hypophosphatemic rickets), especially in the legs. The nutrient imbalances in the body lead to increased urination, thirst, dehydration, and abnormally acidic blood (acidosis).

By about age two, cystine crystals may also be present in the cornea. The buildup of these crystals in the eye causes an increased sensitivity to light (photophobia). Without treatment, children with cystinosis are likely to experience complete kidney failure by about age ten. Other signs and symptoms that may occur in untreated patients include muscle deterioration, blindness, inability to swallow, diabetes, and thyroid and nervous system problems.

The signs and symptoms of intermediate cystinosis are the same as nephropathic cystinosis, but they occur at a later age. Intermediate cystinosis typically begins to affect individuals around age twelve to fifteen. Malfunctioning kidneys and corneal crystals are the main initial features of this disorder. If intermediate cystinosis is left, untreated, complete kidney failure will occur, but usually not until the late teens to mid-twenties. People with non-nephropathic or ocular cystinosis do not usually experience growth impairment or kidney malfunction. The only symptom is photophobia due to cystine crystals in the cornea. It is currently being researched at UC San Diego, The University of Michigan, Tulane University School of Medicine, and at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland as well as at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and in Sunderland, UK as well as the Necker Hospital in Paris.

Cystinosis is normally treated with a drug called cysteamine (brand name Cystagon).[6] The administration of cysteamine can reduce the intracellular cystine content. Cysteamine concentrates inside the lysosomes and reacts with cystine to form both cysteine and a cysteine-cysteamine complex, which are able to leave the lysosomes. When administered regularly, cysteamine decreases the amount of cystine stored in lysosomes and correlates with conservation of renal function and improved growth.[6] Cysteamine eyedrops remove the cystine crystals in the cornea that can cause photophobia if left unchecked. Patients with cystinosis are also often given sodium citrate to treat the blood acidosis, as well as potassium and phosphorus supplements. If the kidneys become significantly impaired or fail, then treatment must be begun to ensure continued survival, up to and including renal transplantation. (Information was copied directly from Wikipedia because my medical records were used in creating these documents.) There are about 50 individuals in the United States with Cystinosis. There are around 2,000 worldwide with Cystinosis.

I am currently in stage five of Nephropathic Cystinosis and I am on hemodialysis. I was scheduled for a kidney transplant on for December 20, 2011 but some complications came up and it was canceled. These complications are that I now have cardio problems. Thus, I have a new medication. I am working with the UNMC Nebraska Medical Center Lied Transplant Center to get the transplant rescheduled for this summer.