21 Voice Stories from 2011 That Melted Even This Grizzled Journalist's Heart to Report
Looking back, 2011 has been quite a year, especially on the gay rights front, one of our major beats. Like the cardiac organ caught in a bear trap accompanying Jen Doll's "Plight of the Single Lady," there were times when, objective reporter or not, the stories we were reporting here at the Voice grabbed our grizzled, hardened heart and refused to let go.
And so we ask you, dear readers, to indulge us in the rare use of the first person singular as we reflect on some of the stories that touched and moved us to report over the past 12 months.
21. Maybe I Do and Maybe I Don't Kevin Beauchamp and Howard Orlick are both blind men living with AIDS. They've been together for nearly a decade, and they both buried young partners to AIDS previously. They fought valiantly for the right to marry. Yet, once they had the right to get married, they decided it's not the right decision for them (for now, anyway).
20. Baratunde Thurston Driven to Tears By Donald Trump I interviewed Thurston, the digital director for the Onion and author of the upcoming book How to Be Black, the day after President Obama released his long form birth certificate. Thurston's impassioned YouTube viral hit is a walk through his family's and nation's struggle for civil rights, which were both pissed on by Donald Trump.
19. Lew Zuchman, Freedom Rider, Recalls Historic Journey 50 Years Later From Egypt to Albany to Wall Street, 2011 was a major year for protestors, especially those using non-violent resistance. It was a real honor to interview Lew Zuchman, one of the original Freedom Riders, when he was heading off to the 50th anniversary of the rides. Mr. Zuchman got in touch with me again after I wrote "The White Mayor's Burden" and we had an amazing lunch and talked about all the ways progress has been made, and disappeared, since 1961.
18. Proud One Percenter: "Have You Ever Heard of Anybody Great That's Come Out of the 99 Percent?" This viral video, shot by my brother James Schmitz at an Occupy LA N17 event, does something few filmmakers or journalists have been able to do: capture the one percent on their true thoughts about Occupy Wall Street. It wasn't just the raw honesty, but also the warmth and humor of James' exchange with Jim Cruse of CBRE that was touching and fun to share.
17. Being Stuck on the 4 Train Under the East River, In a Subway Car Filled With Smoke Other than when Ruben Diaz's minions were surrounding me with hate filled messages, there are few times I've actually felt in danger in the past year, reporting or otherwise. But it was pretty terrifying when, in October, I was on a 4 train that experienced a small explosion, stalled under the East River, and filled up with smoke. (The brother who busted out the gas mask especially put people on edge.)
16. The View of the Twin Towers Recreated on Sixth Avenue
Walking across Sixth Avenue this past fall, it was frighteningly stunning to see One World Trade and the Trump SoHo building looking like a spitting image of the view of the Twin Towers from that intersection more than a decade ago.
15. Drag Queens Hold Up Sixth Avenue for Marriage EqualityIt was March, only a couple months into the nascent Cuomo administration, and the group Queer Rising was neither patient nor loyal to the new governor. Months later he'd make good on his promises on gay marriage, but QR wasn't waiting. And so, at the height of rush hour, a bunch of activists, three drag queens, and a blind man (who we'd later profile) shut Sixth Avenue down. It was the first of many times we'd report on activists getting arrested in 2011, but the high heels, wigs, and blind cane -- not to mention all out willingness to give everything for something they believed in -- were especially touching to witness.
14. Ira Glass Responds to the Ira Glass Sex TapeOne of the genius people I interviewed this year was Julian Joslin, maker of the brilliant Ira Glass Sex Tape. But it was the quote I got when I approached Ira Glass himself that was as heartbreaking as, well, the final act of a This American Life story.