On February 14, 2012, the state of Arizona turns 100 years old. I have been a resident of this fair state since July of 1997. As we approach the centennial of this land that I call home I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my time in the Grand Canyon State.
To the rest of the country Arizona is a state of racist. We are the state that passed SB1070 and passed legislation outlawing ethnic studies. To the rest of the country we are a state of homophobes. California may have had Prop 8 but we passed the exact same thing with Prop 102. To the rest of the country we are a state with a bigot of a governor and a history of hatred coming from the governors office. To the rest of the country we are a state with crazy gunlaws and dangerously bizarre gunmen. We are the state that did not want to acknowledge the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiay. And finally we are the state that has 120 degree summers.
Granted all of these things are true. However, as we celebrate Arizona's 100th birthday I want to take a moment to reflect on the good things I've come to appreciate about this state. Since I've been here I'm come love many wonderful things about Arizona.
Sometimes it is very difficult for me (a progressive through and thruogh) to live in such a red state. However did you know that this was the first state to have all women in its top five leadership positions? I remember being on the capital lawn as Janet Napalitano was being sworn into her new office. As I looked at the all female faces of the five people on that stage I remember thinking there must be something kinda special about this place.
Also as a same-gender loving person [in case you didn't know yes, I am a homosexual man] I'm continually surprised by the amount of gay and lesbian representation we have elected to office. From Steve May to Ken Chevrant to Kristen Sinema, if you didn't know any better you might think that AZ actually had a fondness of the LGBT community.
People are quick to criticize Arizona as the state without culture. However I will argue the opposite. I have been repeatedly blown away by performances from the Arizona Black Theater Troup and the Arizona Ballet. I am always pleased by shows from Nearly Naked Theater. And we cannot overlook the poetry slams and open mics that bring us out to coffee houses all over the valley. Admitedly we do not have the quantity of shows as a New York, an L.A. or an Atlanta but we are not void of culture as many would have you think.
I arrived in Arizona in 1997. I started working for Xerox Corporation my first month here. Fifteen years I am still with this phenomenal company that recognizes the value of diversity, invests in the development of its people and gives back to the communities where it is located. I serve proudly as a member of GALAXE (the gay and lesbian association of Xerox employees) and Xerox Black Employee Caucus group. The economy sucks everywhere. Unemployment is an issue everywhere. So as a person that is gainfully employed and somehow managing to pay my bills I am not going to complain.
Since living in Arizona I have earned my MBA from the University of Phoenix, I have served on the board of several terrific organizations and I have cultivated a circle of friends that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. All in all, Arizona has been very good to me.
I dreadfully suffer through the summers here. But if you can endure those months where you are painfully aware that you live in a desert, then you will enjoy the most pleasant winter that the country has to offer. Everyone else wishes they were here as they suffer through snow, sleet and blizzards. And if the heat becomes to much to bear it is only a short drive to the mountains or to the beach.
We are a state with many issues. But as we approach this milestone in history I don't think we should focus of the negatives. We hear about the negatives of Arizona all the time (I'm sure I'll share some of them with you soon enough). For now I want to think about the things I'm proud of and I love about this state.
So I want to say Happy Birthday to you Arizona. You're 100 years young and I wish you a long and prosperous future.