Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rain or Shine, Marching on Martin Luther King Day!

I had the joy of attending the Martin Luther King Day parade this weekend. I wanted to go because this is such a special time for the African American community, as Obama is the first president, our country is helping Haiti and more and more people are demanding that Mother Africa be protected from all the outside attackers.

I chose to march with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) contingent because many measures are being taken to deny that community (of which I am a part of), civil rights and dignity.

I had been partying until 5 in the morning after The Golden Globes, and after I came home, I was only able to get 1 hour of sleep before my alarm went off. I turned off the alarm and thought I was too tired to go to the parade, but then I thought of all my friends who I wanted to see, and why it was especially important this year to make our LGBT community visible, and I somehow found the energy (and coffee) to get up and get ready.

We all met at Lucy Florence in Liemert Park, which was the meeting place for our LGBT and allies contingent. Lucy Florence is an adorable building with a theatre, coffee shop, clothing store and has meeting rooms. It is owned by two gay black twin brothers, and they are very active in the community. They named their place after their mother, Lucy.

It was great to see activist friends of mine I had not seen in a while, since I moved to New York last year. And it was also cool to meet people who I had befriended on Facebook for the first time. I just love how Facebook brings people together! There was breakfast food for us on a table.

Someone (who was not an organizer of the LGBT contingent) was having everyone complete a very long survey. My upbeat mood was temporarily interrupted when I noticed the survey referred to our community as the gay and lesbian community (excluding the trans and bisexual people who are also part of the community!). The woman who was in charge of the survey said "gay and lesbian” community meant "LGBT community". I told her in fact it did not, for bisexual people identify as bisexual, and that gender identity is not the same thing as sexuality, so it was inaccurate to call trans people "gay and lesbian", because many trans people are heterosexual, such as myself. I have this ongoing cause of educating people the oppression noninclusive language inflicts on the oppressed. Julian Bond of the NAACP refuses to acknowledge the trans community when he speaks, even though the NGLTF has repeatedly briefed him to. When I ran into him in Washington DC at The National March For Equality last fall, I told him it was very heartbreaking that he didn’t acknowledge us during his speeches, and he said he wouldn’t use noinclusive language again. Lets hope he keeps his word!

The shuttle took us all to where we were supposed to march. Then the parade started. And it was a slow march, so we were all able to have some great conversations. My friends and I were not believers that it was the Black community that passed Prop 8, as the some dishonest people had snuck into the media after Prop 8 passed. It was the religious communities. Also, the powers that be like to pit oppressed groups against each other, so we don’t focus on the true enemy. The LGBT community and ethnic minority groups need to work together.

I remember when Prop 8 passed and gay and lesbian leaders (I left out bisexual and trans on purpose) stooped as low as our detractors and put blame on the Black community. That is hogwash! No one I knew even did one of these mysterious “exit polls”, and why do people really believe all these reports in the media? Don’t people know that people manipulate data to cater to their own agenda? Furthermore, if more resources and education went to lower income and ethnic communities in the LGBT community, then perhaps we would be more united. I also believe that boards of LGB”T” non-profits should not only have members who are rich enough to donate thousands of dollars. I believe a portion of those seats should go to people based on the quality of their grass roots activism, and more people of color, and women, and trans people should be on their seats as well- the leaders on these boards and committees should mirror the actual entire LGBTQI community.

Martin Luther King believed in equality for all, and would have fought for legislation that protected our community. I am shocked that I did not know up until two years ago that King’s right hand man was gay! Bayard Rustin was a lot of the brains behind King. Sadly, most people do not know this. This is why I believe us fighting for the right to have our history taught in school is more important then us having the right to fight in a war that many do not believe in, sorry, but if the children are taught that LGBT people have made important contributions to society since the beginning of time, they will grow up and take care of the rest.

Back to the march. Half way through it started sprinkling, and then it started to rain hard! At first it was kinda fun, but then the roads became puddled with water, and then many our shoes became buckets of water! But we kept on pushing on. My friend Imani said she felt like we were being “baptized”, which was beautiful. Our community had to deal with so many people’s ignorance, fear and hate this year, so perhaps the water was cleaning it all away. Towards the end, the uncomfortableness of water in my shoes and how drenched I was almost made me quit, but I couldn’t do that to my friends. And I felt so good after that I finished. I felt really rejuvenated by marching with my queer family. We all ended at Lucy Florence, where they had warm food and shelter waiting for us. Then we went into the theatre and all gave reflections, which was very inspirational. Then a elder named Queen led us in a spiritual prayer, and we were sent off blessed. I made a lot of new friends, and know this event will be a precious memory in my mind and heart forever.

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