October has become a month that encourages us to celebrate human potential. October challenges us to remember heroes so that we might discover heroic qualities in ourselves. October even calls us to work for justice where justice has been denied. October is a very special month!
There is a national holiday in October: Columbus Day. However, we now know that it is problematic to celebrate Christopher Columbus as the “discoverer” of North America, since Leif Ericson reached our continent 500 years before Columbus did, and the continent had been inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years. So, Johnny-Come-Lately Columbus was the second European to visit a long inhabited continent. Worse than the inaccuracy of calling Columbus the discoverer of North America, is Columbus’ own brutality. When Columbus landed in the Bahamas he and his crew were treated well by the native residents. Columbus rewarded their decency by seizing their land and enslaving them.
Now many of us call what has been known as Columbus Day, “Indigenous Peoples Day” to honor the peaceful people Columbus first encountered and soon betrayed and tormented. Indigenous Peoples Day reminds us to honor the peace lovers, to value kindness and generosity, and to speak out against injustice.
October is also LBGT History Month where we celebrate heroes from our beautiful and diverse Queer community. We honor such luminaries as lesbian Jane Addams (co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and first American woman Nobel Peace Prize winner), Miriam Ben-Shalom (discharged from the Army in the 1970s for being gay but she won a long court battle which resulted in her being reinstated in the 1980s), bisexual Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer Clive Davis (who helped the careers of such superstars as Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, and Carlos Santana), Arthur Dong (Academy Award nominee, Peabody Award winner, gay film-maker who features gay and Asian themes in his work), Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox (transgender actress, producer, and activist), and Richard Blanco (the youngest, first Latino, and first openly gay U.S. presidential inauguration poet – Blanco read one of his poems at President Obama’s second inauguration). We should be very proud of the many achievements that members of our community have shared with the world!
October also gives us National Coming Out Day which encourages us to leave behind closets of fear and shame and to live out loud as the gifted, wonderful members of the human family we are. October 6, 1968 is the founding date of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, reminding us to honor those who battle cancer, to remember those who lost their battle, and to wish and work for a cure. And sadly, October is the month in 1998 when Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard died from being attacked simply because he was gay.
October gives us a lot to think about, and opportunities to renew our commitment to make a difference. So, I call October holy, because in many ways it reminds us that we can be and ought to be angels of healing in our world.
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.
written for the Florida Agenda