"Our guest this week on the 4 o'clock hour is the legendary activist, author, poet, and organizer, Tommi Avicolli Mecca.
He is, most recently, the editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation(City Lights Books, 2009), an anthology of writings about the post-Stonewall gay liberation movement."
"Tommi Avicolli Mecca was on the frontlines of action and thought during the Gay Liberation years immediately following the Stonewall Riots of 1969. He is still a firey activist and oftentimes a devil's advocate of sorts, challenging the direction and thinking of the current LGBTQ rights movement (described by Jeffrey Escoffier as the "gay citizenship movement") with the ideas and opinions of a liberationist and a revolutionary. Tommi and many of the activists of the late 1960s and 1970s were interested social justice and freedom across the board for all people, a complete paradigm shift for our entire society . . .
City Lights Books has just published Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca. Tommi collected essays from numerous activists of that era about Gay Liberation in the late 60s and into the mid-to late 70s. He has the essays divided into to four sections beginning with 'Out of the Bars and Into the Streets' and ending with '40 Years After Stonewall.' Many of the individual authors included their own analysis of the politics of the times as well as their reminiscences. Some also compared and contrasted then with now. The book is insightful and fascinating and at times enlightening especially in regards to divisions within the LGBTQ community along race and gender lines."
"Tommi Avicolli Mecca thinks the gay rights movement has gotten a little, well, boring. A veteran of its rowdiest days at the end of the '60s and into the '70s, he’s using the Stonewall anniversary as a springboard for veterans of the Gay Liberation Front to share their memories of that heady era.
"Smash the Church, Smash the State!: the Early Years of Gay Liberation" is a collection of essays by those who have first-hand memories to share of those years. Its title is taken from a chant that was commonly used by queer protesters of the time."
"TOMMI AVICOLLI MECCA was gay before it was fashionable, before 'Will & Grace' and Adam Lambert. The 57-year-old South Philadelphian-turned-San Franciscan was out there before most of us knew what out meant. If Tommi were any more gay, he'd burst into flames.
Radicalized while at Temple, where he earned a creative-writing degree in 1974, Mecca now works for a tenants'-rights group in the City by the Bay. In this 40th anniversary year of the uprising at New York's Stonewall Inn, where gays fought back against harassing cops, Mecca has produced a 303-page book of personal remembrances of the early gay days - Smash the Church, Smash the State. The title comes from a popular battle cry at the time, used by gays (and others, Mecca concedes) . . . As editor of the book, published by San Francisco's City Lights, that's what Mecca tried to capture by assembling three dozen writers - from Berkeley to Boston to New York to Philly - to offer revelations about the roots of what they call the 'revolution,' which looks to straight eyes more like slo-mo evolution."
-Stu Bykofsky, Philadelphia Daily News Jun 29, 2009
"'I think our movement could learn from what happened 40 years ago, but it looks like we haven't.'
So says gay writer and activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, speaking about his new book, 'Smash the Church, Smash the State!' a collection of essays from writers, artists and activists sharing their varied and diverse perspectives about the early days of the gay-rights movement.
'I was surprised by the fact that nobody really dredged up the old conflicts that we had,' he said. 'There were a lot of conflicts in the movement 40 years ago. I guess, when I was putting this together, I was a little worried that it was going to get too personal, but it really doesn't. People are really good at being able to put those battles in perspective. They are able to look back at them and reflect on them in a way that's constructive.'
'Smash' is both a celebratory and critical tome, as many of the writers, including Mecca, often lament the issues and divisions within the gay-rights movement that haven’t been resolved in the 40 years since the Stonewall Riots."
-Larry Nichols, Philadelphia Gay News Jun 25, 2009
"This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall 'Riots', 'rebellion' 'uprising' or 'revolution.' The myriad of words used to describe the events of those June nights of 1969 are proof that history is written by the survivors and as time goes on we need to listen to those writers of history who actually experienced it. This volume edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca provides fascinating glimpses of what the subtitle calls 'The Early Years of Gay Liberation.'"
This is an except from the book Smash the Church:
"GLFers were young, hot headed, sure of our own opinions. We quarreled with each other and dissolved into splinter groups: Radicalesbians, Red Butterfly, Third World Gay Revolution, the Effeminists, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, the Gay Activists Alliance. Utopian quests are always short lived. But if we hadn't exploded into existence, gays would still be pleading politely for acceptance, and the world would still be deaf to their pleas. (p.96)"
"I'm not against gay marriage. If queer couples want to be as miserable as straight ones, that's their choice. Marriage is a failed institution. With a 54.8 percent divorce rate nationally and a 60 percent rate here in California, there's no doubt in my mind that heterosexual "wedded bliss" is more of an oxymoron than a reality.
What's troubling to me as a queer activist of almost 40 years (much of that time spent on economic justice work) is that, with the tremendous amount of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment in our community, we are spending so much dough on the fight to give a minority of folks — those who opt for tying the knot — rights and privileges that straight married folks have."
-Tommi Avicolli Mecca, San Francisco Bay Guardian Jun 24, 2009
"He arrived in the Castro in October 1991 and eventually edited 'Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation,' a 40th anniversary anthology being released by City Lights Press. 'I wanted to mark it by remembering how radical we were,' he says."
-Sam Whiting, San Francisco Chronicle Jun 22, 2009
"The struggle for queer rights hasn't been a smooth ride—but as a 19-year-old Italian American in South Philly running around in halter top and platform shoes in 1970, I wouldn't have expected it to be!
None of us who participated in gay liberation protests in the early 70s expected an easy path—but we also didn't think that 40 years later some of the most important issues we raised would be ignored by the very movement we created."
"Forty years to the month after the Stonewall Riots sparked the gay liberation movement, a new volume edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca remembers the radical activism of the '60s and '70s and assesses the current state of LGBT organizing. Paola Bacchetta's essay recalls her involvement with a lesbian political group in Philadelphia."
"Then we'll ask the question, "Does California Need a Constitutional Convention?" In the second hour 40 Years Since the Stonewall Rebellion will be remembered with Tommi Avicolli Mecca, editor of 'Smash the Church, Smash the State!'"
"On so-called Columbus Day 2008, Keely Malone (co-host of Parapolitics) and Matt Dineen (host of Passions and Survival) interview San Francisco-based activist/writer Tommi Avicolli-Mecca about a new anthology of Italian-American writers "sailing beyond Columbus." http://www.avicollimecca.com/
"Gay liberation was a product of its times. Its birth at the end of the '60s was no accident. By the time street queens and others rioted outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in late June, 1969, the groundwork had been laid for one of America's most despised minorities to get militant.
Social change was in the air. The civil-rights movement had succeeded in passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Black Panthers, a militant black-power group, were feeding poor people and developing a strategy for black self-empowerment -- not to mention having run-ins with the police.
The women's movement had been reborn from the embers left by the struggle to gain the vote half a century before. The anti-Vietnam War movement was beginning to draw huge numbers of protesters into the streets. Campuses were igniting with student strikes and takeovers of administration offices."
"I am so sick and tired of hearing proponents of Prop 8, which will outlaw gay nuptials in California, talk about traditional marriage. What is this "traditional marriage" that the religious right thinks is the end-all and be-all of human existence?
In the 50 and 60s, it was glorified in sitcoms such as Ozzie and Harriet and the Donna Reed Show. Those popular comedies presented a portrait of white bread families that didn't look anything like my own very ethnic clan. I’m not sure that many families in America actually behaved like the Nelsons or the Reeds. They certainly don’t these days. A examination of some quick statistics shows that “traditional marriage” is not all that the Christian zealots make it out to be. It probably never was ..."
"How well I remember that horrible cold morning in early December 1980 when I turned on the radio to hear that John Lennon had been shot the night before.
Lennon was my hero. His musical contributions to the Beatles were among my favorites. Whether he was commenting on the apathy of the masses ('Day in the life'), the latest religious cult ('Sexy Sadie'), the proliferation of guns ('Happiness is a Warm Gun') or the counterculture ('Revolution'), Lennon spoke to my own dissatisfaction with the status quo or the 'establishment,' as we called it back then."
"Much to my surprise, our new President actually dared to go where no chief executive has gone before. Founding fathers may have said that they didn't like religion, but I don’t think (and I could be wrong) that any of the early Presidents actually made any public comments affirming that there are people like myself who don’t believe in the pie in the sky and the lightning throwing deity with the bad temper.
President Barack Obama, in talking about the rich diversity of our nation in his inauguration speech after being sworn-in on Tuesday morning, said it clearly: 'We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.' Amid the comments about the wonderful and rich ethnic fabric of this nation, Obama affirmed, by using the word 'non-believers,' that atheists and agnostics are part of 'our patchwork heritage' that is 'a strength, not a weakness.'"
-Tommi Avicolli-Mecca, BeyondChron Jan 22, 2009
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