Two organizations deserve thanks for stepping up to the plate in a big way to help make Sunday’s Equality March for Unity and Pride the rousing success it was. The Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood came across with big donations and guarantees to allow us to pay for everything. That included portable toilets, the stage, the cost of covering the mall, hiring the organization that helped with the basics such as helping to secure the final permits, organizing volunteers, arranging security and ensuring the event would be accessible for those with a disability.
Months ago, David Bruinooge, who first proposed the march on Facebook, was joined by a small group of activists who spent countless hours working hard on this event. They chose the co-chairs and did the work to determine the platform and program. The group working with David included, among others, Anika Simpson, Ashley Smith, Khadijhah Tribble, Marvin Bowser, Jose Plaza, Ted Jackson, Sue Doster, Layha Spoonhunter, Robert York, Ryan Bos, Daryl Levine and Chris Dyer. They kept in mind the goal of ensuring this remained a grassroots event.
But the closer we came to the march it became clear the grassroots weren’t raising enough to pay for it. The Human Rights Campaign was the only one of our national LGBTQ+ organizations willing to front the needed money. Until the week before the march none of them even sent out dedicated emails to their constituents talking about the march and directing them to the official website where they could have donated. The thousands who came and marched in D.C. had no idea that until two weeks before the march the money to pay for the basics wasn’t there. The money for the rally and stage wasn’t guaranteed until the week before the march.
There are many reasons for this. The major one is the fear of some in the LGBTQ+ community that corporations and our national organizations have too much control and don’t represent us fully on every issue. Some still would insist on a purity of purpose in anyone who participates, which leads them to overlook some of the history of our movement and of other movements that have fought for civil and human rights.
It is not unusual that allies in any movement don’t conform to every nuance of the movement. The corporate world has become a needed and strong ally necessary to our progress. We fought decades to get major corporations to lead the way espousing diversity and practicing what they preach. Today, the success of our community in some fights such as North Carolina and Indiana wouldn’t have been possible without them. Our national organizations are by nature political. They deal with the world the way it is, not the way we would like it to be. Sometimes that leads to making decisions not acceptable to all in our community. I stand second to no one in having criticized a number of them. But despite that it is important to recognize why they must be there and remain strong.
As a cisgender white male in no way can I feel what some in our community feel or deal with every day. The slights I face as a gay white male can never compare to what my African-American LGBT friends, or a Latina transgender woman, face every day. But we can and do fight together for all our rights.
It was heartening that for the Equality March for Unity and Pride we all joined hands; African American, white, Latino, Asian, gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, questioning, two spirit and everyone who may self-identify in another way. For at least one day we were able to blend and raise our voices demanding equality, full civil and human rights for all.
Looking out at the crowd it was inspiring to see we were joined by allies. The straight community; immigrants fighting for their rights, women still fighting for their rights, men who understand their world will be better when everyone is equal; all speaking out for us as we must speak out with and for them. John Donne wrote the poem “No Man is an Island.” That is truer today than ever before. We are all under attack by an administration and a congress with few morals and less understanding of what decency and equality are. We must stand together and ‘resist’ and the Equality March for Unity and Pride was a beautiful and inspirational part of the resistance.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.