David Mixner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

David Mixner (born August 16, 1946) is a civil rights activist and best-selling author. He is best known for his work in anti-war and gay rights advocacy.

Childhood[edit]

David Benjamin Mixner was born on August 16, 1946, near the town of Elmer in southern New Jersey. His father Ben worked on a corporate farm, and his mother Mary worked shifts at a local glass factory and later took a job as a bookkeeper for the local John Deere dealership. David has two older siblings, Patsy Mixner Annison and Melvin Mixner.

Mixner attended Daretown Elementary School, then Woodstown High School, where he got involved in the Civil Rights movement, by participating in picketing and sending his own money to Martin Luther King, Jr. In his bestselling memoir, Stranger Among Friends, Mixner explains that his parents were “livid” over his involvement in the Civil Rights movement, claiming his activism embarrassed them. When Mixner told them he wanted to go south during the summer of 1963 after following the events in Birmingham, Alabama, his parents forbade him.[1]

College and early activism[edit]

In the fall of 1964, Mixner enrolled at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, where he soon became heavily involved in civil rights and anti-war activism, including helping to organize protests against a speech by General William Westmoreland. Prompted by an article he read in The Arizona Republic about city garbage workers who were seeking the right to unionize, in the fall of 1966, Mixner organized from start to finish the first of many protests he would organize over the next thirty years. Mixner rallied hundreds of workers, students and professors and led a march on City Hall. Although the city successfully broke the strike, the workers eventually earned the right to unionize.

Mixner also experienced his first same-sex relationship at ASU, with a man whom he refers to as Kit in his memoirs. A year into their relationship, Kit was killed in an automobile accident. Mixner did not attend the funeral, and Kit’s parents never discovered that their son was gay.

Soon after Kit’s death, Mixner decided to transfer to the University of Maryland in order to be closer to Washington, D.C., where he would be able to get more involved in anti-war protests.

Mixner found himself much more interested in activism than in pursuing a college degree. While at Maryland, Mixner was a grassroots organizer for the 1967 march on the Pentagon, which was later captured in Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night.

McCarthy presidential campaign[edit]

Later that year, Mixner dropped out of college and began working for the presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy. One of Mixner’s first assignments was organizing the Minnesota operation, helping McCarthy win the Minnesota caucus, defeating incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson. Later, Mixner and other members of McCarthy’s campaign team went to Georgia to help select an alternative delegation to send to the national convention in Chicago, challenging Governor Lestor Maddox’s hand-picked delegation, which included only seven African-Americans in the 117 person delegation. The Georgia Democratic Party Forum, which sought to challenge Maddox’s delegation, held its own convention in Macon, where Congressman John Conyers (D–MI) keynoted their convention before turning over the floor to Julian Bond, the first African-American elected to the Georgia legislature, who would later become Chairman of the NAACP.[2]

At the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Mixner was beaten by police during the protests held outside the convention center. After Humphrey claimed the nomination, Mixner began seeking out new outlets for his activism. He soon befriended Doris Kearns Goodwin, who introduced Mixner to Senator Ted Kennedy, who would become a lifelong friend.

Democratic Party Delegate Selection Committee[edit]

In early 1969, Mixner was invited to join the Delegate Selection Committee, which had been created during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Although Mixner’s appointment turned out to be a mistake, as Senator Fred R. Harris of Oklahoma was supposed to invite Mixner to join the less powerful Rules Committee, he nonetheless made his mark on the twenty-eight member body, which included Warren Christopher, who would later become Secretary of State, Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, Senator Harold Hughes of Iowa, Senator Adlai Stevenson III of Illinois and Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, who served as the Committee’s Chairman.[3]

By virtue of his inadvertent inclusion on the Delegate Selection Committee, Mixner served as his generation’s lone voice, and he intended the use the platform to raise the issue of the violence at the previous year’s convention. When Senator Kennedy, a close friend of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the party’s front-runner for the 1972 Presidential nomination, took the witness stand, Mixner used the opportunity to ask Kennedy if he would publicly condemn both the tactics used by the Chicago police and the Mayor for his involvement. Kennedy dodged the question. Subsequently, Adlai Stevenson III sought to exclude Mixner from a committee meeting in Chicago where Mayor Daley was scheduled to testify. McGovern called Mixner, asking him not to attend, but Mixner refused. When he arrived for the meeting, drawing the ire of Senator Stevenson, McGovern offered him a compromise, promising to ask Daley to apologize for the violence and offer all those arrested amnesty if Mixner agreed to stay quiet. The resulting exchange between McGovern and Daley, included Daley’s insistence that "If people violate the law they should accept the consequences of the law."[4]

The McGovern Commission, which had set out to reform the Presidential nomination process in order to avoid a repeat of the 1968 Convention, eventually issued its recommendations, including the requirement that all delegates be directly elected by the people, eviscerating the power of political bosses to control the nomination process.

The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam[edit]

Mixner’s most significant contribution to the anti-Vietnam War effort was his role as one of the head organizers of the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. The idea was prompted by Jerome Grossman, a Massachusetts businessman active in the peace movement. Grossman proposed to Sam Brown, a close friend of Mixner, that they set aside a day in 1969 where “business as usual” would come to a halt, essentially engaging in a strike against everything. Brown decided that the word “moratorium” would be less threatening than “strike” to middle-class Americans, and set to work, setting aside October 15, 1969 as the day of the moratorium. Brown soon enlisted the help of Mixner, David Hawk, another young activist, and Marge Sklencar, who they knew from the McCarthy campaign. Brown, Mixner, Hawk and Sklencar then set about organizing the event.

In September 1969, shortly before the Moratorium, Mixner headed to Martha’s Vineyard to meet with fellow activists, many of whom had also worked on the McCarthy campaign. Among those in attendance was Bill Clinton, who had been invited by one of Mixner’s friends. At the time, Clinton was studying at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, attending the Martha’s Vineyard retreat with fellow Rhodes Scholars Rick Stearns and Strobe Talbott. Mixner and Clinton were fast friends, and Mixner would play a significant role twenty-three years later in getting the LGBT community to support Clinton.

As the date of the Moratorium approached, it began gathering a great deal of momentum, with Time, Life, and Newsweek magazines featuring it in cover stories. When Clinton subsequently visited the headquarters of the Moratorium and saw what he would be missing by being in London on October 15, he suggested to Mixner that he organize a parallel protest at Oxford. This protest, in which about a thousand people gathered in front of the American embassy in London, would later be a significant issue in his presidential campaign, with President George H. Bush telling Larry King on CNN in October 1992, "Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but to go to a foreign country and demonstrate against your own country when your sons and daughters are dying halfway around the world, I am sorry but I think that is wrong."[5]

The Moratorium drew millions of people throughout the country, who gathered in public places and read the names of the soldiers killed in Vietnam aloud.[6] The day was capped off by a march at the Washington Monument, where Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke about her late husband’s passion for ending the war.

MECLA (Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles)[edit]

In 1976, Mixner began the process of coming out of the closet, and soon thereafter was a founding member of the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), the nation’s first gay and lesbian Political Action Committee. At the time, very few candidates were willing to accept donations from openly gay individuals or gay-affiliated organizations. At the time, Mixner was also serving as the campaign manager for Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles who was seeking reelection, so while he worked to raise funds for MECLA, his involvement was kept secret because of the potential for his sexuality to become an issue in Bradley’s campaign.

NO on 6[edit]

Soon after Bradley won reelection easily, Mixner turned his focus to fighting Proposition 6, an initiative placed on the California ballot by Orange County State Senator John Briggs that would make it illegal for gays and lesbians to be schoolteachers. Similar initiatives had recently passed throughout the country when Mixner turned his focus to fighting Proposition 6, creating the “NO on 6” organization to fight it; through the process, he would publicly come out of the closet.[7] Mixner and his lover Peter Scott secured a meeting with then-Governor Ronald Reagan, whom they convinced to oppose the initiative publicly. As a result, and through the work of Mixner, Scott, legendary gay rights activist and San Francisco City Councilman Harvey Milk, and others, Proposition 6 was defeated by over a million votes, the first ballot initiative of its sort to be shot down.[8]

As a result of this huge success, Mixner and Scott experienced a huge upturn in business for their fledgling political consulting firm, Mixner/Scott, and were asked by Bill Clinton, then running for governor of Arkansas, to host a reception for Clinton at their Los Angeles home.

The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament[edit]

In late 1984, after years of devastation in his personal life resulting from the AIDS crisis, Mixner decided to focus his energy on combating nuclear proliferation, creating an organization named PRO Peace. Mixner envisioned finding five thousand Americans who would take a year out of their lives to walk across America to advocate for disarmament, holding rallies throughout the country.

The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, which Mixner would later call his “biggest political failure and [his] biggest regret” ultimately left Los Angeles on March 1, 1986 with only 1200 marchers.[9] Mixner would spend many years paying the consequences, which included fighting lawsuits and paying employment taxes for his employees. The lore of the march lives on, however, immortalized in songs, books, and film.

AIDS[edit]

Shortly after Mixner experienced professional success in 1985, helping defeat Proposition 64, a ballot initiative proposed by Lyndon LaRouche that would require quarantining people with AIDS, Mixner learned that his long-time lover and business partner, Peter Scott, had AIDS. Scott would fight the disease for four years; he died on May 13, 1989. While Scott fought the disease, Mixner formed an organization that spearheaded legislation that would create a California alternative to the FDA, enabling California to deal more aggressively with the AIDS epidemic than the federal government. Mixner’s group enlisted the support of California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, then convinced Governor George Deukmejian to sign AB 1952, which, as described by van de Kamp, “mandates the director of DHS to implement the drug testing and sale authority that he had under existing law, for the purpose of approving the testing and sale either of an AIDS vaccine, or of new drugs that offer a reasonable possibility of treating people who have been infected with the AIDS virus.” [10]

Clinton Campaign – Don’t ask, don’t tell[edit]

Four years after a fundraiser for the Dukakis campaign told Mixner that Governor Dukakis would not accept the million dollars Mixner and his friends planned to raise for him, Mixner found hope in the candidacy of his old friend, Bill Clinton. After Clinton promised Mixner that he would support both an end to the ban on gays in the military and increased funds to find a cure for AIDS, Mixner began raising money for Clinton enthusiastically. Mickey Kantor, Clinton’s campaign chairman, soon asked Mixner to join the National Executive Committee of the Clinton for President campaign, the first openly gay person to become a public face of a presidential campaign.

After Clinton was elected, Mixner helped with the transition team, though he publicly declared that he would not seek an appointment with the new administration. Although he spoke at an event at the inaugural ball, introduced by his old friend Ted Kennedy, Mixner soon thrust himself in the middle of the furor over the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy proposed by Clinton, which represented a total betrayal to Mixner and many in the gay community.

When Mixner went on Nightline to complain about Clinton’s rapid shift away from allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, his calls to the White House stopped being returned and his consulting business began to tank, as he was no longer perceived as someone who had influence with the new administration.[11]

Shortly thereafter, Mixner participated in a march in Washington for the Campaign for Military Service, which advocated lifting the bans on gays in the military. When Clinton announced the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on July 19, 1993, Mixner organized a march with CMS and was very publicly arrested outside the White House, for which he received a great deal of publicity because of his personal relationship with Clinton.[12] Mixner and Clinton later healed the rift, but Clinton never again revisited the policy during his presidency.

Yale David Mixner Collection[edit]

On November 3, 2005, the Yale University Library officially created the David Benjamin Mixner collection, which houses his personal collection of books, papers, films and other materials relating to his involvement in civil rights issues.[13]

Today[edit]

In 2006, Mixner moved to Turkey Hollow in Sullivan County, New York, where he lived in a bright yellow house with his two cats, Sheba and Uganda. In 2009, Mixner moved to Hell's Kitchen in New York City. He posts blog entries daily on his website, davidmixner.com. His home was featured in the Real Estate section of The New York Times in an article entitled "Do Ask, Do Tell".[14] Mixner was the keynote speaker for the Empire State Pride Agenda's 2007 fall dinner.[15]

In October 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah Brown honored Mixner with a luncheon at 10 Downing Street. The luncheon in Mixner's honor represented the first time a British Prime Minister honored an LGBT activist in this manor.[16]

Also in October 2008, Mixner was invited to debate American politics by the Oxford Union, Britain's second oldest university union.[17]

Mixner was featured in Ask Not, a 2008 documentary film about the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.[18]

In 2009, Mixner moved back to New York City, where he currently resides near Times Square.

In May 2009, Mixner used his blog to call for a March on Washington to protest the LGBT community's lack of equal rights.[19] Cleve Jones, spurred by Mixner's call to march, led the organizational efforts for the National Equality March, scheduled for October 10–11, 2009. Mixner and Jones both will be featured speakers at a rally in front of the Capitol after the March. Over 200,000 people marched on Washington on October 11, 2009.

Mixner was honored by the Point Foundation (LGBT), an organization that provides college scholarships to LGBT students, with its Legend Award at the foundation's 2009 Honors Gala in New York City.[20] The award was presented to Mixner by Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Ted Kennedy.

In 2011, the Theater at Dixon Place announced a one man show starring Mixner, From the Front Porch.[21] The show is a benefit for Dixon Place and the Ali Forney Center, an organization benefiting LGBT homeless youth.

Mixner released a memoir of his time in Turkey Hollow, At Home with Myself: Stories from the Hills of Turkey Hollow,[22] in September 2011. The memoir is published by Magnus Books.

Books[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mixner, D. (1996) Stranger Among Friends. New York: Bantam Books.
  2. ^ "Obituary of Lestor C. Maddox". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  3. ^ “Democrats Name 2 Reform Groups”. The New York Times, Feb. 9, 1969.
  4. ^ "M'Govern and Daley Clash at Hearing". The New York Times, June 8, 1969.
  5. ^ Kelly,Michael. "The 1992 Campaign". The New York Times, Oct. 9. 1992.
  6. ^ "1969: Millions march in US Vietnam Moratorium". BBC News. October 15, 1969. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ Schmalz, Jeffrey (1992-10-11). "Gay Politics Goes Mainstream". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  8. ^ dangerouscitizen.com
  9. ^ "David Mixner: Politically Speaking: Feature Story at Metro Weekly magazine - News articles from Washington DC newspaper". Metroweekly.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  10. ^ The Cost of AIDS: Implications for Public and Private Institutions
  11. ^ Romano, L. "The Reliable Source". The Washington Post, Apr. 27, 1993.
  12. ^ "Former Clinton Adviser Arrested in Gay-Rights Protest at White House". The Washington Post, July 31, 1993.
  13. ^ The David Benjamin Mixner papers
  14. ^ Bernstein, Fred A. (July 15, 2007). "Do Ask, Do Tell". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  15. ^ https://www.prideagenda.org/donate/donate_events_falldinner.html
  16. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Sarah Brown hosts Downing St lunch for US gay rights activist". Pinknews.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  17. ^ "David Mixner - Oxford Union America Debate". YouTube. March 24, 2009. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  18. ^ "Persistent Visions • ASK NOT, OVERVIEW". Asknotfilm.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  19. ^ "Live From Hell's Kitchen". DavidMixner.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  20. ^ "David Mixner to Receive Point Foundation's Legend Award". Towleroad. 2009-11-18. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  21. ^ /https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/8993975
  22. ^ "At Home with Myself: Stories from the Hills of Turkey Hollow: David Mixner: 9781936833108". Amazon.com. 2011-11-01. Retrieved 2013-12-04.