Potomac Fever and the Importance of LGBT Pride Month

unPosted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Potomac Fever Performance Opening, Lviv, America Days, Philharmonic, May 27, 2016
Potomac Fever Performance Opening, Lviv, America Days, Philharmonic, May 27, 2016

Across the United States, each June we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. As representatives of the United States abroad, our diplomats do the same – offering educational and cultural programming that raises awareness about LGBT human rights issues both at home and abroad.

This year, I was proud to support a bold initiative by our Public Affairs team to bring an a capella ensemble from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington called “Potomac Fever.” At the end of May, as part of our America Days festival in Lviv, I was able to stand on the stage of the Philharmonic with Mayor Andriy Sadoviy and Governor Oleh Synyutka and introduce a gay chorus. Let that sink in for a minute. This was a big step for everyone involved. Just three months ago in Lviv, violent protests disrupted a planned LGBT event. And here I was introducing a 14-member gay singing group in one of Lviv’s most prestigious public venues. It was just more proof of how quickly Ukraine is changing for the better. And I could not be more proud.

Potomac Fever Performance, Lviv, America Days, Philharmonic, May 27, 2016
Potomac Fever Performance, Lviv, America Days, Philharmonic, May 27, 2016

For the U.S. Embassy, the program represented a unique and important opportunity to introduce Ukrainians to gay Americans not solely because they are gay Americans, but because they represent to the best of America – with all of its talents and diversity. While the G in LGBT is an important part of Potomac Fever’s identity, they are not singularly defined by it. And we wanted to Ukraine to see that. Their music and stories highlighted the LGBT human rights struggle, making it human and relatable. LGBT people in Ukraine are facing similar challenges every day and we hope that Potomac Fever’s program brought a sense of solidarity and hope.

Equality March, Kyiv, June 12, 2016
Equality March, Kyiv, June 12, 2016

 

The fact that a large and peace Equality March took place in Kyiv on June 12 makes me think that it did. It was such a huge accomplishment for everyone involved, from the local activists to city officials and law enforcement. By embracing European values of inclusiveness and tolerance, you showed the world that Ukraine is Europe. And that love wins.

 

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Local Kyiv School Gets Well Deserved Facelift

Posted by: Lyudmyla Kyrylenko, Office of Defense Cooperation

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IMG_5940For the students of School #168, a school dedicated to the integration of children with special needs, October 7, 2015 was not an ordinary day at school! On this date, approximately 600 kids assembled in the courtyard to witness a ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate their newly renovated school.  The event was attended by school staff as well as U.S. Military personnel which included Col. George Milton representing U.S. European Command (EUCOM), Mayor Vitali Klitschko and other distinguished guests.

The school has received a new façade which includes a mural of Taras Shevchenko, a famous Ukrainian poet. It also had all of the windows replaced, the roof repaired, a new elevator installed, handicap railings installed in the hallways, updated plumbing and a fantastic new auditorium. The renovation was carried out by a local contractor, ACE, who has successfully conducted one of the largest scale humanitarian assistance renovation projects in Ukraine. The work was overseen by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) and the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC). The school was winterized with new insulation which will help keep the school warm and dramatically improve energy savings, as well as quality of life and safety of the children.

IMG_5570The renovation costs exceeded $550,000 and were provided by EUCOM under its humanitarian assistance program. The local management and city authorities facilitated all required construction permits, arranged for additional internal renovations of the hallways and provided 2,000,000 hryvnias from the state budget to fund parts of the project not covered by the contract.

IMG_6521Obolon School #168 historically maintains a strong relationship with the U.S. Embassy within the “Access” program. The school itself partners with many national and international organizations that deal with inclusive education.  Representatives from various organizations were in attendance and brought gifts for the children. This project highlights how military officials and community leaders can work together, including international partnerships, public diplomacy, and civilian stability.

School #168, Before (2012) and After (2015)
School #168, Before (2012) and After (2015)

In his opening remarks, Milton noted that the ceremony was not only about the renovated facility, but what the school represents. He went on to say how the school represents the community and the very children it will serve.  In closing, he said that school #168 is about touching the lives of children and making their future brighter.

The United States Military Humanitarian Assistance projects are committed to the health, safety, and education of Ukrainian children and that doesn’t end after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The U.S. Military is investing in local communities and they plan to continue to support schools by delivering excess property to furnish renovated premises.

The U.S. Military is committed to giving back to communities and building a global partnership. This school is a perfect example of this commitment. It is through projects like this that communities are built!

Crimea: Kremlin Mistreats Minorities

Pasted by: IIP State

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This is the fifth of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

Under Russia’s broad extremism law, the Russian government has sought to declare that minority religious groups in Crimea are “extremists”. Crimean Tatars, Catholics, and Ukrainian Orthodox faithful face harassment and the confiscation of property simply because of their faith.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stand United for Ukraine.
Stop Russian Aggression.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Crimea: Forced into Russian Citizenship

Posted by ShareAmerica

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This is the fourth of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

It’s been one year since Russia began its aggressive occupation of Crimea. After the illegal referendum, it was nearly impossible for those Crimeans who wished to retain their Ukrainian citizenship to do so. They were forced instead to become Russian citizens.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stop Russian aggression.
Stand United for Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Crimea: Forced Disappearances

Posted by ShareAmerica

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This is the second of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

Since the start of Russia’s illegal occupation, Human Rights Watch has documented at least 15 cases in which Crimean Tatars or pro- Ukraine activists were, abducted or went missing in Crimea. They believe the true number is much higher.
The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stop Russian Aggression. Stand United for Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

The life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted by: ShareAmerica

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Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to the nonviolent struggle for racial equality in the United States. The third Monday in January marks Martin Luther King Day, a U.S. holiday that honors King’s legacy and challenges citizens to engage in volunteer service in their communities.

Beginning the journey

A two-story yellow house with brown shutters and wraparound porch (National Park Service)
A two-story yellow house with brown shutters and wraparound porch (National Park Service)

Born on January 15, 1929, to a long line of Baptist ministers, King grew up in Atlanta at a time when Jim Crow laws made segregation and discrimination a daily reality for blacks in the South.

King attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he came to view religion as a powerful catalyst for social change. He received his doctorate from Boston University’s School of Theology before returning to the South, where he served as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Today, King’s Atlanta birthplace is registered as a National Historical Site with the National Park Service.

Civil rights struggle in the 1950s

Martin Luther King with hand on boy's shoulder at head of line of demonstrators at street (© AP Images)
Martin Luther King with hand on boy’s shoulder at head of line of demonstrators at street (© AP Images)

King helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott, a yearlong campaign touched off when seamstress Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. After the Supreme Court overturned Alabama’s bus segregation laws in 1956, King co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and promoted nonviolent action for civil rights throughout the South. He was influenced by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and traveled to India in 1959.

An iconic figure of the 1960s

King seated, looking upward through jail cell bars (National Archives)
King seated, looking upward through jail cell bars (National Archives)

Joining his father as co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King continued to use his oratorical gifts to urge an end to segregation and legal inequality. Throughout the 1960s, he was arrested during nonviolent protests in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. While incarcerated after one such arrest, in 1963, King penned the Letter from Birmingham City Jail, outlining the moral basis for the civil rights movement. That August, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to more than 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington.

King leading throng of marchers across bridge (© AP Images)
King leading throng of marchers across bridge (© AP Images)

March 7, 1965, became known as Bloody Sunday because voting-rights marchers were beaten by state troopers and civilians as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The violence turned them back, but the ordeal led King to call for another, longer march (pictured) — an 87-kilometer-long, Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights.

Civil rights victories

King accepting signing pen from Lyndon Johnson, seated, as others look on (© AP Images)
King accepting signing pen from Lyndon Johnson, seated, as others look on (© AP Images)

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which banned discrimination in employment, public accommodations and other aspects of life. King attended the signing of the act into law (pictured). He continued to press for a law to ensure that blacks could not be denied the right to vote by discriminatory practices such as literacy tests, and, in 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

In the wake of assassination

Martin Luther King's coffin in wagon amid throng of mourners in street (© AP Images)
Martin Luther King’s coffin in wagon amid throng of mourners in street (© AP Images)

On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated on the balcony outside his Memphis, Tennessee, hotel room. At his funeral, thousands of mourners marched through Atlanta behind a mule-drawn wagon bearing his coffin.

In a posthumously published essay titled “A Testament of Hope,” King urged black Americans to continue their commitment to nonviolence, but also cautioned that “justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society.”

King’s legacy: Nonviolent protest

Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King with group of people (© AP Images)
Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King with group of people (© AP Images)

In a 1959 radio address during his visit to India, King said: “Today we no longer have a choice between violence and nonviolence; it is either nonviolence or nonexistence.” His philosophy was inspired by Gandhi’s nonviolent action to end British rule in India. In his turn, King inspired others to change their societies through nonviolent means, from the Solidarity movement’s cracking of Soviet occupation in Poland to Nelson Mandela’s struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.

King’s legacy: Fighting prejudice

Martin Luther King speaking at 1963 March on Washington (© AP Images)
Martin Luther King speaking at 1963 March on Washington (© AP Images)

During the 1963 March on Washington, King declared that all people should be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The King Center in Atlanta is a living memorial to King’s vision of a free and equal world dedicated to expanding opportunity, fighting racism and ending all forms of discrimination.

King’s legacy: Pursuing social justice

Martin Luther King in shirt sleeves, gesturing dramatically while speaking from the pulpit (© AP Images)
Martin Luther King in shirt sleeves, gesturing dramatically while speaking from the pulpit (© AP Images)

The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University is home to the King Papers Project, a comprehensive collection of all of King’s speeches, correspondence and other writings. The institute is also involved with the Liberation Curriculum Initiative and the Gandhi-King Community, both of which use King’s life and ideas to connect social activists around the world working to promote human rights.

King’s legacy: Service to others

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama paint Martin Luther King Jr. quotes as part of a volunteer community service project. (© AP Images)
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama paint Martin Luther King Jr. quotes as part of a volunteer community service project. (© AP Images)

In the U.S., Martin Luther King Day is designated a national day of service. Americans are urged to celebrate “a day on, not a day off” in honor of King’s commitment to improving the lives of others. President Obama promotes volunteerism as a way to help meet the challenges facing our world.

Keeping the dream alive

© AP Images
A black man putting his hand on the MLK Memorial, with bowed head (© AP Images)

A national memorial to King was built near the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. The memorial invites visitors to reflect on King’s life and legacy.

New U.S. Stamp Honors Harvey Milk, Who Championed LGBT Rights

June 1, 2014

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harvey-milk-stampA stamp honoring human rights activist Harvey Milk was dedicated at the White House May 22. Milk (1930–1978) became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

His achievements inspired the LGBT community in the United States and elsewhere at a time when its members experienced widespread hostility and discrimination.

Milk’s political career was tragically cut short less than a year after he took office when he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated on November 27, 1978. In 2009, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

The stamp image shows Milk in front of his San Francisco camera store around 1977.

At the dedication, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said that while President Obama is identified with two words — hope and change — “it is hard to think of words that more succinctly describe Harvey Milk the leader, the activist, the fighter, the elected official.”

“Hope and change,” Power said, are about envisioning “a world that is fairer, kinder, more just — not just for some people, but for all people.”

The HARVEY MILK® image is licensed by the Harvey Milk Foundation.

Source: IIP Digital | U.S. Department of State