June is Gay Pride Month

Source: History.com

The movement for LGBTQ rights in the United States dates at least as far back as the 1920s, when the first documented gay rights organization was founded. Since then, various groups have advocated for LGBTQ rights and the movement accelerated in the wake of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Below is a list of surprising facts about Stonewall and the struggles and milestones of the gay rights movement.

1. The first documented U.S. gay rights organization was founded in Chicago in 1924.
Henry Gerber, a German immigrant, founded the Society for Human Rights, the first documented gay rights organization in the United States. During his U.S. Army service in World War I, Gerber was inspired to create his organization by the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, a “homosexual emancipation” group in Germany. Gerber’s small group published a few issues of its newsletter “Friendship and Freedom,” the country’s first gay-interest newsletter. Police raids forced the group to disband in 1925. But 90 years later, the U.S. government designated Gerber’s Chicago house a National Historic Landmark.

2. The pink triangle was co-opted from the Nazis and reclaimed as a badge of pride.
Before the pink triangle became a worldwide symbol of gay power, it was intended as a badge of shame. In Nazi Germany, a downward-pointing pink triangle was sewn onto the shirts of gay men in concentration camps—to identify and further dehumanize them.

In 1972, The Men with the Pink Triangle, the first autobiography of a gay concentration camp survivor, was published. The next year, post-war Germany’s first gay rights organization, Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW), reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol of liberation.

3. Three years before Stonewall, a protest for gay rights started in another New York City bar.
Julius’ Sip-In — After pouring their drinks, a bartender in Julius’s Bar refuses to serve John Timmins, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and Randy Wicker, members of the Mattachine Society who were protesting New York liquor laws that prevented serving gay customers, 1966.

In 1966, three members of the Mattachine Society, an early organization dedicated to fighting for gay rights, staged a “sip-in”—a twist on the “sit-in” protests of the 1960s. The trio visited taverns, declared themselves gay, and waited to be turned away so they could sue.

Although the State Liquor Authority initially denied the men’s discrimination claim, the Commission on Human Rights argued that gay individuals had the right to be served in bars. For the next few years in New York, the gay community felt empowered. police raids became less commonplace and gay bar patrons, while still oppressed in society, had recovered their safe havens.

4. The Mafia ran gay bars in NYC in the 1960s.
It was an unlikely partnership. But between New York’s LGBTQ community in the 1960s being forced to live on the outskirts of society and the Mafia’s disregard for the law, the two became a profitable, if uneasy, match.

The State Liquor Authority and the New York Police Department regularly raided bars that catered to gay patrons. Where the law saw deviance, the Mafia saw a golden business opportunity. A member of the Genovese family, Tony Lauria, a.k.a. “Fat Tony,” purchased the Stonewall Inn in 1966 and transformed it into a gay bar and nightclub.

To operate the Stonewall and its other gay bars, the Mafia bribed the NYPD to turn a blind eye to the “indecent conduct” occurring behind closed doors. They also blackmailed wealthy gay patrons by threatening to “out” them.

5. Police used a 19th-century masquerade law to arrest people dressed in drag.
Many men dressed as women were locked up on charges of masquerading and indecent exposure at the National Variety Artists’ Exotic Carnival and Ball held at the Manhattan Center in 1962. Police and detectives herded the costumed guests into police wagons in front of the ball.

In the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, LGBTQ people were regularly arrested for violating what became known as the three-article rule—or the three-piece law. The rule stipulated that a person was required to wear at least three gender-appropriate articles of clothing to avoid arrest for cross-dressing. It was referenced everywhere—including in reports about arrests in Greenwich Village in the weeks and months leading up to the 1969 Stonewall Riots.

The problem is, the law technically never existed!!! Instead, accounts suggest that police generally used old, often unrelated laws to target LGBT people. In New York, a law commonly used against the LGBTQ community dates to 1845 and was originally intended to punish rural farmers, who had taken to dressing like Native Americans to fight off tax collectors.

6. On the night of the Stonewall Riots, police barricaded themselves inside
After midnight on an unseasonably hot Friday night in 1969, the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village was packed when police officers entered the bar. As they began making arrests, patrons started to resist and push back.

What ensued was an uprising that would launch a new era of resistance and revolution.

Close to 4 a.m. on June 28, 1969 the mob of protestors outside the Stonewall had grown so large and unruly that the original NYPD raiding party retreated into the Stonewall itself and barricaded themselves inside. Some rioters used a parking meter as a battering ram to break through the door; others threw beer bottles, trash and other objects, or made impromptu firebombs.

No one died or was critically injured on the first night of the Stonewall Riots, though a few police officers reported injuries.

7. Organizers of the first gay pride parade opted for the “Pride” slogan over “Gay Power.”
The Stonewall Riots made clear that the LGBTQ movement needed to be loud and visible to demand change. Five months after the riots, activists proposed a resolution at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations in Philadelphia that a march be held in New York City to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the raid. Their proposal was for an annual march on the last Saturday in June with “no dress or age regulations.”

When organizers were looking for a slogan for the event, a member of the planning committee, L. Craig Schoonmaker, suggested “Pride.” The idea of “Gay Power” was thrown around as well, but Schoonmaker argued that while gay individuals lacked power, one thing they did have was pride.

The official chant for the march became: “Say it loud, gay is proud.”

WATCH: Fight the Power: The Movements that Changed America, premieres Saturday, June 19 at 8/7c on The HISTORY® Channel.

Freedom Finally Granted in Texas

Juneteenth 2021, Saturday, June 19

Source: National Juneteenth Observance Foundation

Juneteenth is Friday, June 19, a holiday that is arguably as important to our nation as the Fourth of July, since it commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people of Texas, then the most remote region of the Confederacy, finally learned slavery had been abolished and that they were free.

Juneteenth is an annual observance to celebrate the date Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas. Texas was the last state in rebellion, following the end of the Civil War, to allow enslavement. Although the rumors of freedom were widespread prior to this, actual emancipation was not announced in the last state practicing enslavement until General Gordon Granger came to Galveston, and issued General Order #3, on the “19th of June”, almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States and has actually been an African American tradition since the late 19th century. Economic and cultural forces caused a decline in Juneteenth celebrations beginning in the early 20th century. The Depression forced many blacks off of farms and into the cities to find work. In these urban environments, employers were less eager to grant leaves to celebrate this date.

July 4th was the already established Independence holiday, and a rise in patriotism among black Americans steered more toward this celebration. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth away and into the struggle for racial equality, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors.

Again in 1968, Juneteenth received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor. Many of these attendees returned home and initiated Juneteenth celebrations in areas previously absent of such activity.

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s Juneteenth has continued to enjoy a growing and healthy interest from communities and organizations throughout the country as African Americans have a growing interest to see that the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten. Many see roots tying back to Texas soil from which all remaining American slaves were finally granted their freedom.

Most recently in 1994, the era of the “Modern Juneteenth Movement” began when a group of Juneteenth leaders from across the country gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana, at Christian Unity Baptist Church, Rev. Dwight Webster, Pastor, to work for greater national recognition of Juneteenth. The historic meeting was convened by Rev. John Mosley, Director of the New Orleans Juneteenth Freedom Celebration.

Several national Juneteenth organizations were ignited from this historic gathering beginning with the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage (NAJL), followed by the National Juneteenth Celebration Association (NJCA), the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC) and the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF). Shortly prior to this gathering, Juneteenth America, Inc., (JAI) was founded by John Thompson, who organized the first National Juneteenth Convention & Expo, and the National Juneteenth Celebraton Foundation (NJCF) founded by Ben Haith, the creator of the National Juneteenth Flag.

In 1997, through the leadership of Lula Briggs Galloway, President of the NAJL and Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., Chairman of the NAJL, the U.S. congress officially passed historic legislation recognizing Juneteenth as “Juneteenth Independence Day” in America.

Rev. Dr. Myers returned to Washington, DC in the year 2000, as Founder & Chairman of the NJOF, to establish the annual WASHINGTON JUNETEENTH National Holiday Observance and to began the campaign to establish Juneteenth Independence Day as a National Day of Observance and an official state holiday or state holiday observance in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

As of 2017, 45 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth. The annual Congressional Juneteenth Reception, hosted by members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, was also established as a part of the WASHINGTON JUNETEENTH National Holiday Observance.

The Rev. Dr. Myers, as Founder & Chairman of the NJCLC, also established the annual National Day of Reconciliation and Healing from the Legacy of Enslavement on the “18th of June” (www.NationalDayofReconciliation.com) and the National Juneteenth Black Holocaust “Maafa” Memorial Service, which later became the National Juneteenth Maafa Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony, as a part of the WASHINGTON JUNETEENTH National Holiday Observance.

On the “19th of June,” Juneteenth, 2000, Rev. Dr. Myers stood with Congressman Tony Hall (D-OH) as historic Apology For Slavery legislation was announced at the U.S. Capitol during the 1st National Day of Reconciliation & Healing From the Legacy of Enslavement.

Rev. Dr. Myers also established the World Day of Reconciliation and Healing from the Legacy of Enslavement on the “20th of August” (www.WorldDayofReconciliation.com), in Hampton, VA, in 2010.

As the National Juneteenth Jazz Artist, Rev. Dr. Myers also established “June Is Black Music Month!” – CELEBRATING JUNETEENTH JAZZ – “Preserving Our African American Jazz Legacy!” and “June Is Juneteenth African American Jazz Legacy Month!”, with a series of Junetenth Jazz Heritage & Arts Festivals, concerts, jam sessions and lectures throughout the country.

The Rev. Dr. Myers is also the leader of the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign, which is working to pass legislation in the U.S. Congress to make Juneteenth Independence Day a National Day of Observance.

A Glimpse of Stratford History

The Stratford Historical Society

Connecticut Open House Day
Saturday, June 12th

The Judson House will be open for tours from noon until 3pm for Connecticut Open House Day. Admission is free.

Connecticut Open House Day, now in its 17th year, is an annual event held on the second Saturday of June to inspire Connecticut residents to learn about all the experiences in their own backyard, anticipating that this will convert them into ambassadors who will recommend these experiences to other visitors.

The Captain David Judson House is a historic house at 967 Academy Hill in Stratford. It was built by David Judson about 1750. The “new house” was built on the stone foundation and incorporates the chimney of the original house built on the site in 1638 by Judson’s great grandfather William. William left the house to his son Joseph Judson in November 1660 when he moved to New Haven. Nine generations of Judson’s lived in the house until 1888, when the house was sold to John Wheeler. In 1891, it was sold to Celia and Cornelia Curtis, who willed it to the Stratford Historical Society in 1925.

The first floor, now the cellar, is above ground level and contains a massive central stone chimney which was built with lug poles. It is believed that the cellar was used as slave quarters in the early18th century. The new house is designed in the style of Georgian architecture, or colonial Georgian, found throughout the American colonies during this time.

The furnishings are entirely period pieces of Stratford origin, dating from the 18th century and includes a piano which belonged to William Samuel Johnson, framer of the United States Constitution, and also the second president of Columbia University. The piano has been on display at George Washington’s plantation Mount Vernon. The house also has various other works of historical and artistic significance, displayed for the public. The Judson House broken scroll pediment entry is one of the finest in Connecticut. An architectural drawing was used on the cover of J. Frederick Kelly’s Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut published in 1924.

Captain David Judson House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 20, 1973. It is also included in the Stratford Center Historic District, which was listed on the NRHP in 1978.

The house is open to the public and is operated as a historic house museum and research library by the Stratford Historical Society.

The wearing of masks is encouraged.

In Memory To All Those Who Served and Gave Their Lives for Us

Memorial Day is an American holiday honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Source: History.com

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Early Observances of Memorial Day
The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.

After the American Civil War, a battered United States was faced with the task of burying and honoring the 600,000 to 800,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in the single bloodiest military conflict in American history. The first national commemoration of Memorial Day was held in Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868, where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried.

By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time. It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. And some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. In 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

Waterloo—which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Decoration Day:
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.

Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor the dead on separate days until after World War I.

History of Memorial Day:
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date General Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Memorial Day Traditions:
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem.

In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because Memorial Day weekend—the long weekend comprising the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself—unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies Was Held by Formerly Enslaved People:
One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies Was Held by Freed African Americans: people recently freed from enslavement in Charleston honored fallen Union soldiers.

In a dusty Harvard University archive the late 1990s historians learned about a Memorial Day commemoration organized by a group of Black people freed from enslavement less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

In 1996, David Blight, a professor of American History at Yale University, was researching a book on the Civil War when he had one of those once-in-a-career eureka moments. A curator at Harvard’s Houghton Library asked if he wanted to look through two boxes of unsorted material from Union veterans.

“There was a file labeled ‘First Decoration Day,’” remembers Blight, still amazed at his good fortune. “And inside on a piece of cardboard was a narrative handwritten by an old veteran, plus a date referencing an article in The New York Tribune.

“The clubhouse at the Charleston racetrack where the 1865 Memorial Day events took place was the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club in Charleston, South Carolina. In the late stages of the Civil War, the Confederate army transformed the formerly posh country club into a makeshift prison for Union captives. More than 260 Union soldiers died from disease and exposure while being held in the race track’s open-air infield. Their bodies were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.

When Charleston fell and Confederate troops evacuated the badly damaged city, those freed from enslavement remained. One of the first things those emancipated men and women did was to give the fallen Union prisoners a proper burial. They exhumed the mass grave and reinterred the bodies in a new cemetery with a tall whitewashed fence inscribed with the words: “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

And then on May 1, 1865, something even more extraordinary happened. According to two reports that Blight found in The New York Tribune and The Charleston Courier, a crowd of 10,000 people, mostly freed slaves with some white missionaries, staged a parade around the race track. Three thousand Black schoolchildren carried bouquets of flowers and sang “John Brown’s Body.” Members of the famed 54th Massachusetts and other Black Union regiments were in attendance and performed double-time marches. Black ministers recited verses from the Bible.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Saturday, May 1 and ends on Monday, May 31

Sources: Wikipedia, Bonusly, U.S. Census Bureau

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated during the month of May and recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

So, why May? It commemorates the first Japanese people to immigrate to the United States, on May 7, 1843, and also is a nod toward the May 10, 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad.

History:
In 1976, congressional staffer Jeanie Jew witnessed the United States’ bicentennial celebration (it’d been 200 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed) and was troubled by the lack of recognition for AAPI contributions. Her great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee, had immigrated to the United States in the 1800s to help build the transcontinental railroad—a tremendous accomplishment that was blighted by violent anti-Asian discrimination and the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

She’d mentioned her concerns to New York Congressman Frank Horton, and it took until 1992—more than 15 years later—before the legislation to permanently designate May as AAPI Heritage Month passed through Congress.

“The revelations about Mr. Lee and the story of Asian Americans led [Jeanie Jew] to believe that not only should Asians understand their own heritage, but that all Americans must know about the contributions and histories of the Asian-Pacific American experience in the United States.” –New York Congressman Frank Horton

Now, 23 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with their own unique histories and cultural practices. This area includes, for example, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Samoa; and in South Asia, includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Singapore and Bhutan.” The AAPI community consists of more than 50 ethnic groups, grouped together as a demographic purely because of vague geographic borders; it’s impossible to capture a singular “Asian-American” experience.

Often seen as a monolithic “model minority,” you should first understand that “Employment and economic status among members of the AAPI community are also far from uniform: While some AAPI subpopulations are heavily concentrated in higher-wage professional and management occupations, others are heavily concentrated in lower-wage service occupations.”

Bonus Facts:

Why many AAPI People have been in America before our ancestors:
The first Asians documented in the Americas arrived in 1587, when Filipinos landed in California; from 1898 to 1946, the Philippines was an American possession.

The next group of Asians documented in what would be the United States were Indians in Jamestown, documented as early as 1635.

In 1778, the first Chinese to reach what would be the United States, arrived in Hawaii. In 1788, the first Native Hawaiian arrived on the continental United States, in Oregon; in 1900, Hawaii was annexed by the United States.

The next group of Asians documented in what would be the United States were Japanese, who arrived in Hawaii in 1806.  In 1884, the first Koreans arrived in the United States.

In 1898, Guam was ceded to the United States; beginning in the 1900s
Chamorro’s (indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, politically divided between the United States territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Micronesia) began to migrate to California and Hawaii.

In 1904, what is now American Samoa was ceded to the United States; beginning in the 1920s, Samoans began to migrate to Hawaii and the continental United States, with the first Samoans documented in Hawaii in 1920.

In 1912, the first Vietnamese was documented in the United States.

Today there are more than 300,000 living Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander American veterans.

Did You Know?

22.9 million: The estimated number of Asian alone-or-in-combination residents in the United States in 2019.

5.2 million: The estimated number of the Asian population of Chinese, except Taiwanese, descent in the United States in 2019. The Chinese (except Taiwanese) population was the largest Asian group, followed by Asian Indian (4.6 million), Filipino (4.2 million), Vietnamese (2.2 million), Korean (1.9 million) and Japanese (1.5 million). These estimates represent the number of people who reported a specific detailed Asian group alone, as well as people who reported that detailed Asian group in combination with one or more other detailed Asian groups or another race(s).

54.6%: The percentage of the Asian alone-or-in-combination population age 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education in 2019.

88.3%: The percentage of the Asian alone-or-in-combination population age 25 and older who had at least a high school diploma or equivalency in 2019.

577,835: The estimated number of Asian-owned employer firms in the United States in 2018.
For further information go to https://asianpacificheritage.gov/images/

There you will find virtural exhibits and collections celebrating AAPI.

Fasting and Faith

Acknowledgement of Ramadan 2021 for our Muslim Friends

Ramadan April 13 through Tuesday, May 1

Sources: The Atlanta Journal Constitution

In the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is the ninth month and according to the BBC, it counted among the holiest months. Throughout the holiday, observers fast from sunrise to sunset and partake in nightly feasts. This month is a period of fasting and prayer. It is believed to be the month in which Mohammad, whom Muslims consider a prophet, revealed the holy book — Quran — to Muslims. The word “Ramadan” itself is taken from the Arabic word, “ramad,” an adjective describing something scorchingly dry or intensely heated by the sun.

Since the Islamic calendar adheres to the lunar calendar of 12 months rather than the Gregorian calendar, a solar calendar used in the Western part of the globe, every month starts as the new crescent moon emerges. It continues for 29 or 30 days. Each year, this makes Ramadan start 10 to 12 days earlier. To determine when exactly the holy month will begin, Muslim-majority countries look to local moon sighters, according to Al Jazeera.

Fasting hours will vary around the world, according to Al Jazeera. Muslims who live in the Northern Hemisphere will have fasting hours that are a bit shorter and will continue to decrease until 2032. That is the year that Ramadan will occur during the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. Then, fasting hours will increase until the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day of the year. Muslims who live south of the equator will experience the opposite effect.

Fasting during the holiday is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with the daily prayer, declaration of faith, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. More than 1,400 years ago, according to Al Jazeera, Muslims were commanded to fast during Ramadan. The fast is intended to remind Muslims of the suffering of those less fortunate and bring believers closer to God (Allah, in Arabic).

During the month, Muslims also abstain from habits such as smoking, caffeine, sex, and gossip; this is seen as a way to both physically and spiritually purify oneself while practicing self-restraint.

Here’s what a day of fasting during Ramadan is like:
Muslims have a predawn meal called the “suhoor.”
Then, they fast all day until sunset.
At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe Mohammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
After sunset prayers, they gather at event halls, mosques or at home with family and friends in a large feast called “iftar.”
Toward the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power/Destiny” — a day observers believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to Mohammad to reveal the Quran’s first verses.

On this night, which falls on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, Muslims practice intense worship as they pray for answers and seek forgiveness for any sins.

To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by the sighting of the moon on the 29th night of Ramadan, a 3-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun. In 2021, Eid al-Fitr is likely to fall on Wednesday, May 12.

According to most interpreters of the Quran, children, the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, women who are nursing or menstruating, and travelers are exempt from fasting. Some interpreters also consider intense hunger and thirst as well as compulsion (someone threatening another to do something) exceptions.

But as an entirety, whether Muslims fast or not often depends on their ethnicity and country. Many Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, for example, observe the month-long fast during Ramadan, according to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center.

In fact, in Saudi Arabia, Muslims and non-Muslims can be fined or jailed for eating in public during the day, according to the Associated Press. But in the United States and in Europe, many Muslims are accepting of non-observers.

To Be or Not to Be?

Celebrate! The Shakespeare Market goes legit!

by Tom Dillon
Impresario

The Shakespeare Market is moving in for good!  Only three months into its existence, the fledgling market has now incorporated and filed as a tax deductible charity organization!  The market announced it will officially run May through October on the first and third Sundays.  More than 90 Connecticut businesses thrilled 8,662 regional residents from Jan 17 through Easter Sunday!

The Town sponsored event was the product of the community forums held after the fire in 2019.  Residents called out having an outdoor market on the grounds while plans for a permanent structure of one sort or another is decided upon.  With demand from Connecticut’s host of micro entrepreneurs and regional residents loud and clear, market organizers are moving at breakneck speed to formalize Stratford’s newest institution.

Amanda Meeson, Executive Director of Sterling House, did not hesitate to sing the market’s praises to Carl Glad, local attorney and Chairman of the Board of Stratford’s beloved community hub. Carl, who practices at the Law Offices of Kurt M. Ahlberg LLC at 2885 Main Street, offered his services to see through the process of incorporation and establishing The Shakespeare Market as an official 501c3.

Patti Gallagher, Stratford resident and branch manager of The Milford Bank at Paradise Green, jumped at the chance to assist organizers with setting up for the never ending task of paying the organization’s impending bills!

A new Board of Directors has been established. Stratford’s own Zane Carey, Elizabeth Saint and Suzanne Kachmar make up the body of the organization, along with Tom Dillon.  Zane is the Secretary and will be the backbone of the organization’s record keeping.  Suzanne Kachmar will lead the Market’s effort to bring art and music to the grounds of the Theater after too many silent years!  Elizabeth Saint, resident of the Historic District and team member of the Stratford Arts and Culture Festival – Phoenix Season takes on the role of Treasurer!

The original intent and the future of the market will be primarily to bring life to the grounds of the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre Park.  A festival atmosphere every first and third Sunday in Stratford.  Food trucks! Farmers! Bakers! Crafters! Community Organizations! Live Music! Wide and varied performance!  All with acres of park and a gorgeous view of the Housatonic River and the Long Island Sound!

No parking or tickets fees are planned.  Vendor booth spaces and a handful of other revenue generating ideas should be enough to pay the bills: public safety, clean facilities, live music, and possibly shuttle service depending on how many decide to join the fun!  While The Shakespeare Market will be run properly like any good business, it will be done in the spirit of Newman’s Own.  Most Connecticut people know Paul Newman’s fantastically successful charitable business.  Its an amazing example that will be emulated in every good way.  The market will provide what people want at fair prices, pay our bills, create an endowment, and distribute the rest to Stratford and regional charities.

Unless something unexpected happens, the next markets on April 17 and 18 will be moved out of the parking lot and onto the perimeter of the field facing the road.  The pedestrians will circle the field using the road which will be one-way until COVID hopefully dissipates.  The center of the field will be available for picnics and play.  Both parking lots will finally be available for cars.

Both market dates will have live music performances. Hitch and the Giddyup will perform on Saturday April 17th.  Parker’s Tangent will be the performers on Sunday April 18th.  The stage is planned to be near the costume building and people are welcome to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets and hang out in the pine grove.

Chair massage and yoga will be available as well.  Check the roster on the website for more details as they get posted!

Expect each market to grow and expand just a little bit each round.  The debut on January 17 had 22 participants.  April 3 and 4 saw the number of vendors swell to 40.  As we move into the field and we carefully grow the market month over month, the number of vendors could double again!

More than 200 businesses applied to participate in the Jan – April period.  Now more than 125 have already applied for the May through October period. The list grows every day. Market organizers are trying to find space for everyone.  Patience is being requested so the market doesn’t suffer a setback with growing pains.  The goal is to give everyone a chance to participate.

The idea that thousands of people would be enjoying the property after the theater burned to the ground was a lofty one. It was all the more astounding by doing it during a global pandemic. And that is still somehow less impressive than getting thousands of Connecticut people to come outdoors in the dead of winter!  It was COLD out there!

The theater stood fallow for decades and now there is real hope that this is no flash in the pan. Stratford has something to jump up and down about! More than 90 Connecticut businesses had strong starts to their 2021 fiscal year after the year that took so much away. SO MANY are Stratford folk, the folk in the next town over, or the town next to that.  Bridgeport, Milford, Trumbull and so many other CT towns came to Stratford and Stratford came out in droves for them.  The Shakespeare Market aims to continue bringing us all together so we can see the best in one another.

None of it was possible without a glowing green light from Town Hall.  Karin Doyle, Raynae Serra, Chad Esposito, Maureen Whelan, Greta Broneill, Officer Dias, Sgt. Albohn, Lt. Leon, and Chief McNeil all have been absolutely instrumental in finding solutions to challenges along the way!  The Mayor bet on this idea in the late fall and how did it work!  So many others worked so hard to make this happen, not just for Stratford, but for our region as a whole.

If you haven’t been to the Market, you should!  April 17th and 18th is your next shot!

What Does Passover Mean? Passover Facts

Passover 2021 began in the evening of Saturday, March 27 and ends in the evening of Sunday, April 4

Sources: Wikipedia, Today.Com, MIT.com

What do you really know about Passover? Do you know why it is called Passover?  Do you know why sections are set aside in supermarkets with matzah, and goods marked Kosher for Passover?  What is a Seder?

Celebrating Passover

The first and last day (or two days in some countries outside Israel), are particularly important. People recite special blessings or prayers, make a particular effort to visit a synagogue or listen to readings from the Torah and eat a ceremonial meal. Passover is  also called Pesach or Pesakh.  The Pesach Seder, that occurs the night of the paschal full moon after the 14th of Nisan, eve of the 15th, centers around the telling the story of the exodus of the Jewish people, and remembering how the angel of death “passed over” the houses of the Israelites during the tenth plague on Egypt.

In many Reform Jewish communities, Passover is celebrated for seven days, not eight. In more traditional Jewish communities—including both Orthodox and Conservative communities—Passover is celebrated for eight days. In Israel, Jews only have one Seder, American Jews do it for two nights. In Jewish tradition, it is believed that the first two days of Passover speak of the past redemption from Egypt, but the last two days of Passover speak of the complete and ultimate redemption through the coming of Messiah.

A meal (seudah) for the Messiah on the eighth day was instituted by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (1698–1760), also called Baal Shem Tov.  He is considered the founder of Chassidic Judaism, a branch of Orthodox Judaism.

Family and friends gather together after nightfall on the first and second nights of the holiday for the high point of the festival observance, the Seder. During the Seder, which means “order” in Hebrew, the experience of the Exodus is told in story, song, prayer, and the tasting of symbolic foods. The Seder meals; include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.

Meaning of Passover

In Hebrew, Pesach means “to pass over”, because the Angel of Death passed over the Jewish homes to spare them from death that first Passover eve.  The Israelites had been slaves to Egyptian pharaohs for many decades. Moses tried to appeal to the Egyptians with a message from God, but this were ignored. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, this is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs.”  Devastating plagues then destroyed crops and livestock.

On the 15th day, the last of the ten plagues afflicted the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. However, the Angel of Death spared the children of Israel, “passing over” their homes. The Pharaoh relented. Six hundred thousand adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that day and began the trek to Mount Sinai.

Perhaps the most well-known of Passover foods is matzah (unleavened bread), which is a reminder of the haste with which the slaves left Egypt because they did not even have time for the bread to rise.  This “bread of affliction” was also eaten while the Jews were slaves. So in a way, it represents both suffering and redemption.  For the duration of Passover, no leavened or fermented food or drink is eaten, including cake, cookies, cereal, pasta, and most alcoholic beverages.  Traditionally, the matzah is served with a sweet condiment called charset, a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine. This symbolic dish represents the bricks used by the Jewish slaves to build Pharaoh’s cities.

If you do observe Passover, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable celebration!

 

 

Why is it called Easter? Origin of Easter

The date of Easter, when the resurrection of Jesus is said to have taken place, changes from year to year. The reason for this variation is that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.

Easter is quite similar to other major holidays like Christmas and Halloween, which have evolved over the last 200 years or so. In all of these holidays, Christian and non-Christian (pagan) elements have continued to blend together. Similar was the case with Easter, which falls in close proximity to another key point in the solar year: the vernal equinox (around March 20), when there are equal periods of light and darkness. For those in northern latitudes, the coming of spring is often met with excitement, as it means an end to the cold days of winter.

Spring also means the coming back to life of plants and trees that have been dormant for winter, as well as the birth of new life in the animal world. Given the symbolism of new life and rebirth, it was only natural to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at this time of the year.

The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century. As religious studies scholar Bruce Forbes summarizes: “Bede wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus had been called Eosturmonath in Old English, referring to a goddess named Eostre. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season.”

Bede was so influential for later Christians that the name stuck, and hence Easter remains the name by which the English, Germans and Americans refer to the festival of Jesus’ resurrection.

What’s With the Rabbit?

Where does the Easter Bunny come from?

Source: Good Housekeeping, TheConversation.com, Time, History.com

There is no mention of a mythical hare who delivers eggs to children on the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection — so how exactly did the Easter Bunny become a prominent symbol of one of Christianity’s most important holidays?

One theory, according to Time, is that the symbol of the rabbit stems from the ancient pagan tradition believed to have started the celebration of Easter — the festival of Eostre, which honored the goddess of fertility and spring. Supposedly, the goddess’s animal symbol was a rabbit, which have long traditionally symbolized fertility due to their high reproduction rates.

As for how the specific character of the Easter Bunny originated in America, History.com reports that it was first introduced in the 1700s by German immigrants in Pennsylvania, who reportedly brought over their tradition of an egg-laying hare named “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” As the story goes, the rabbit would lay colorful eggs as gifts to children who were good — so the kids would make nests in which the bunny could leave his eggs, and would even sometimes leave out carrots in case the hare got hungry! Eventually, the custom spread across America to become a widespread Easter tradition — and over time, the fabled bunny’s delivery even expanded from just eggs to include other treats such as chocolate and toys.

Why does the Easter Bunny bring eggs?
Rabbits are mammals and don’t lay eggs, so, why does the Easter Bunny lay eggs on the holiday. The answer may be as simple as the fact that eggs, like the rabbit, have long been an ancient symbol of fertility, rebirth, and new life — all things associated with the springtime celebration of Easter!

From a Christian perspective, eggs for Easter are said to represent Jesus’ resurrection and his emergence from the tomb. According to History.com, the tradition of decorating eggs for Easter may date back to the 13th century, when eggs were traditionally a forbidden food during the Lent season — which is why people would decorate them as the fasting period came to an end, and then eat them as a way to celebrate Easter Sunday.

What does the Easter Bunny look like?
The Easter Bunny is traditionally depicted with a white rabbit costume with long ears, often wearing clothes in human-like fashion. He can typically be found at Easter parades and other celebratory events for the holiday carrying a basket filled with colorful eggs, candy, and other treats to give out to kids

Outside the US. It’s not always a bunny that brings the Easter eggs — in Australia, for example, the spring holiday is greeted with the Easter Bilby, a rabbit-like marsupial native to Australia that’s known to be endangered. Other animals include the Easter Cuckoo in Switzerland and, in some parts of Germany, the Easter Fox or the Easter Rooster!