Candles

Today is the third anniversary of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s Black same-gender loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization.

I will be the first to say that these last three years have not been easy for NBJC.  For me, it’s been three years of fighting.  Fighting within the Black community to have a seat and a voice at the table and fighting in the gay community to be allowed to be Black and gay in a movement that hasn’t always been welcoming of that.

NBJC was a voice that was missing in the movement for gay civil rights, in particular the movement for marriage.

One of the reasons that I got involved with NBJC when founding Board President Keith Boykin asked me to was because I felt the absence of any national presence for our community. I remember when I was in my early 20s that I attempted to search out options for community service in the Black SGL community to only find that the Black Gay and Leadership Forum was no more. 

We originally formed to respond to a group of Black pastors who were attempting to drum up support in the Black community for a Federal Marriage Amendment to ban lesbians and gays from getting married.  We knew that it was important to have Black people in the forefront of this issue in our community, whether or not we agreed with the marriage movement. 

But when the Conservative Right started to organize Black churches and pastors to speak out against gays, it became apparent very fast that it was time to do something and that the only people who could do that something were Black gays.

Since December 2003, NBJC has been instrumental is bringing visibility and a voice to a group of people who are often silenced and marginalized.  From hosting the first Black church summit dedicated to discussing gays in the church featuring the Reverend Al Sharpton to organizing a summit of Black LGBT leaders to address critical issues, to working with Black elected officials; NBJC has broadened the discussion on gay civil rights in the African-American community. 

To date, NBJC is the first and only organization focusing on gay civil rights that is a member of the National Black Leadership Forum.  In addition, NBJC enjoys a broad coalition of support including the NAACP, Urban League, Black AIDS Institute, and the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Started as an organization comprised of mostly working board members, NBJC is now headquartered in Washington D.C. with a full staff.  Contrary to belief, we are an independent organization, that is, we are not a faction or part of any larger organization. 

This year NBJC successfully launched its Political Action Fund.  The Fund encourages voter support for initiatives and policies to establish racial justice and equality for LGBT Americans and to oppose anti-gay ballot initiatives.  In addition, through the NBJC Political Action Fund, NBJC educates the public on African-American candidates at the state, local and federal levels seeking public office on their positions on LGBT issues.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done and NBJC still is fighting.

We’re fighting to be able to do our work against other gay organizations that think they can do it for us simply because they have more money.

We’re fighting because Black gay men are still dying from HIV/AIDS.

We’re fighting because hate crimes in the gay community and the Black community are still on the rise and Black gays are still being killed for simply being gay.

We’re fighting because issues of race and class continue to be a plague in America.

And we’re fighting because when we stop advocating for ourselves, there will be no one to do it.

But we can’t do any of the work we do without the support of our community.

If you’re not a member of the NBJC I encourage you to join today.  Membership begins at $35 and every dollar goes a long way into ensuring that we are around for years to come and our voice is heard.

In my opinion, it’s not enough to be gay.  It’s not enough to be out.  We have an obligation to those that came before us and those coming after us to do our part and doing our part means finding our role, whatever it may be, in our movement.

So as we head into the weekend, please take some time to go online to www.nbjc.org and show your support for an organization that without you doesn’t exist.

To my colleagues and friends Keith Boykin and Maurice Franklin, thank you, because without the both of you, NBJC would not exist. 

To my colleagues on the board, we have a lot of work to do in 2007, let’s put NBJC on the map!

Happy Birthday NBJC and have a great weekend!