Unbeknownst to be me, the National Black Justice Coalition decided to publicize a very private decision that I made this week to leave the board effective July 23, 2007 thus filling my inbox with inquiries as to why and filling my voicemail with messages to the same tune.
With an email blast to entitled “NBJC Celebrates the Life Work of Jasmyne Cannick,” it made me wonder had I died and just didn’t know about it and then too, at 29 years old, my life’s work? Implying somehow that because I left NBJC that my “work” was finished. I can’t go for that. Not a chance, I am just getting started if you ask me.
At any rate, since it’s public info, let’s get into it.
The email blast was very odd to me for several reasons. The first being that we always have such a hard time getting email communications out and for once, there was rapid response. Interesting. The second being that when my close friend and co-founder Keith Boykin left the board, there was no announcement, the same with Mandy Carter, another co-founder. Again, interesting.
Yes, after three and a half years I am leaving the NBJC. This was a decision that I made after coming to grips with the fact that the organization is not going in the direction that the co-founders originally had and that after a long internal struggle with various colleagues and staff members, I came to the realization that my time could be better spent. Which is not to say that the work that the NBJC does is it not important, but I seem to manage to get a lot done on my own with less red tape and having to worry about who is offended. Add to that the fact that I am already extremely busy, I decided that three and a half years was enough. It no longer was fun and like I said the vision had dramatically changed.
When we founded the NBJC we had hopes of being that missing voice in gay America and Black America. We wanted to shift the conversation on a national level, not just in Washington D.C., and in the beginning, we did just that. But in the years since, while we have managed to grow our budget, largely in part to the work of our executive director Alexander Robinson, in my opinion we have also lost sight of our original vision. Money is a good thing, but not when it compromises your values and forces you to take the opinion and vision of others. We seem to be more interested in the politics and not so much the people we are supposed to represent. In conversations, I have had repeatedly with various colleagues, that fact that we’ve lost our cultural relevance continues to be an issue. I would have a problem with just focusing on politics if that’s what I signed on for, but like I said that was not our vision for the NBJC and since I seem to be in the majority these days on our direction, I felt that I should leave. In addition, I am not a fan of comprising my beliefs for money and that seemed to be a never-ending tug-of-war I found myself in as some of our funders and would be funders consistently used me as a reason for why they would or would not give us money.
So I am sure there are some happy people out there now that the word is out that I am leaving, but let’s get a few things straight first.
One, I left because I wanted to. Two, contrary to some people’s belief, the NBJC didn’t make me, I made myself. I was a writer and opinionated long before the NBJC came along and I will continue to be. And trust me, that ain’t going to stop because I left a board position. Most of the work I do has had nothing to do with the NBJC anyway but you know when folks are haters, they’ll find and use anything to detract from your success. Ya know… Lastly, it’s important that when we get into these positions that we do our time and move on and allow for other people to come in and get that experience. I have no intentions of being 35, 40, or even 50 sitting on the board of the NBJC. There are so many things I left to do during my lifetime. I feel that three and a half years was more than enough time.
While I am proud of the accomplishments that we have made that have had an impact on the daily lives of Black same-gender loving people, I am elated to be moving on with my life and working on other projects that are important to me.
Being on a board doesn’t make me or less of an activist, my actions do. I will always remain committed to improving the lives of Black people and Black same-gender loving people. It just means that now I can be free to hold people accountable regardless of who they are without the red tape that often silences our organizations. Translation, this loud mouthed, opinionated, Black, female, lesbian isn’t going anywhere.
I wish most of my colleagues on the board well and that’s pretty much it.