So now we know that we have at most, four more years with President Bush as America’s leader. We also know that the issue of gay marriage played a pivotal role in his re-election. Okay, let’s get over it, re-group and get back out there.
America’s LGBT leadership, whether they like it or not, before attempting to the move the marriage agenda forward again, had better bring people of color to the table from day one. We cannot and will not be the after thought when organizations need to publicly display diversity. From the messaging to the strategic mobilization of the LGBT community, we need to be there.
I don’t ever want to see a white gay man stand before a camera again and equate his struggle to the Black civil rights movement. It doesn’t help the thousands of Black gays who are also trying to message to the African-American community around this issue and only further divides our community with Blacks seeing gay as a white issue. When you talk about messaging to communities of color, in particular the Black community, that message would be better received coming from an African-American same- gender loving person to the Black community.
The executive leaders of our LGBT organizations need to take a closer look at the diversity within their own organizations for 2005. It’s not enough to have programs headed by people of color for people of color. People of color need to be on the communications team and the development team as well. The reason that most gay organizations can’t penetrate the Black press is because you don’t have a Black person on your communications team pitching the Black press. Why don’t African-Americans donate to your organization? Well, part of the reason is that you don’t have African-Americans on your development team. The other reason is that Blacks don’t typically feel that these national gay organizations have their community’s best interest at heart. This all goes to say that there is work that needs to be done.
Now I know this is going to be hard for some to swallow. Why? Because the gay leadership seems to think that what works for the white community will work for all communities. Not so. These organizations are going to have to invest in people of color to have a winning strategy. This includes the same salary, benefits and support that you give your other team members.
Having worked for one of the largest and well funded gay organizations in the country I can tell you first hand the feeling of isolation within an organization when you are the token Black hired only to work with the Black community. Aside from my position, my views, opinions and ideas in other areas of the organization were not needed. Consequently, this organization does not have any credibility in the Black gay community today and is till scratching their heads trying to figure out why.
At the end of the day, Blacks played the most powerful role in the 2005 election and most of the gay organizations were unable to message to the African-American community around the issue of gay marriage. Thank God for the National Black Justice Coalition, an ad hoc coalition of Black LGBT leaders who came together this year to message directly to the African-American community on this issue.
America’s gay leadership is going to have to develop a whole new approach to addressing marriage equality. What I learned as well as many other Black same-gender loving persons is that we cannot even begin to address marriage equality until we first address Black sexuality and homophobia. I think a lot of Black gays jumped aboard the marriage train because our voices were excluded from the conversation in the beginning, Black pastors were being used by right wing conservatives to message to the Black community and because we do want the right to marry. In the end, a couple of things happened in 2004. First, Black gays were represented more in the media this year, including Black media than ever before in history. What that means is that we were visible in our own community which is a huge accomplishment. Next, more Black LGBT persons mobilized around this issue than ever before. Again, I feel this is because our community was being used to win votes for the GOP and it was so blatant that even those of us that are not active, had to get out there.
Diversity means more than just having people of color on your website and over people of color programs. It means having the influence and perspectives of people of color at every level in your organization and movement. That way we can tell you what works and doesn’t work in our communities both gay and at large. The LGBT community cannot push forward without gays of color and together we need to develop a strategy that works towards addressing LGBT issues in all communities.