By Aja Romano Apr 30, 2015, 11:01am CT | Last updated May 3, 2015, 1:03pm CT
Monday, 04 May 2015 00:00By Angela Peoples, Get Equal | Op-Ed
Tuesday morning, as I got up early to hustle to the Supreme Court to help MC the "Unite for Marriage" rally, I got dressed while brushing tears out of my eyes. I felt like I was literally sitting in the middle of the intersection of my blackness and my queerness, being pulled in opposite directions, and I was hurting - for me and for my community. My personal pain was a pain of privilege, grounded in the fact that as the leader of a grassroots LGBTQ organization, the expectation of many would be for me to be enthused by this historic moment in the movement toward marriage equality.
BUT MY ATTENTION - AND MY HEART - THAT MORNING, THE NIGHT BEFORE, AND FOR THE WEEK PRIOR WAS IN BALTIMORE WITH THE COMMUNITY REELING OVER THE HORRIFIC KILLING OF FREDDIE GRAY.
I was also hurting for the broader black community that would be subjected to another week of water cooler conversations demanding answers to questions like, "But why would they destroy their own community?" and around-the-clock "breaking news" coverage that ignores the organized, intentional, and inspiring demonstrations of black folks standing up for their city - instead, focusing on property damage on a singular block. Yes, I know good and well why the traditional news media refuses to be anything but basic in their coverage of black communities and I know why leaders are so quick to dismiss these demonstrations of black pain as thuggier (HINT: it rhymes with "shmite supremacy") but that knowledge doesn't make it hurt less or make it easier to hear, no matter how many times Don Lemon goes on camera.
At the Supreme Court on Tuesday, I saw a crowd of people who were hopeful, confident and emboldened in their identity and their right to fair and equal treatment in the United States of America - and rightfully so. The movement toward marriage equality has been a long one. Through that fight many in the American public have come to better understand what it means to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual - and now more folks are beginning to gain a lens into what it means to be trans. Unfortunately, the dominant narrative around what it means to be LGBT in the U.S. has been told from the perspective of white, cisgender people - and, thus, what most folks think it means for LGBT people to be equal under the law has also been shaped by the needs of that relatively small subset of our community.
Flanked by faith leaders, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, and even the Chamber of Commerce, LGBT people and allies at the Supreme Court felt the power and opportunity that comes from having access to a Justice system that values them and, with some amount of pressure, is willing to bend toward their needs. But as a black queer woman, I don't feel like my life is valued by this system. And what I saw in Baltimore the very same night reinforced that message.
In-between speakers and chants at the Unite for Marriage rally, I was connecting by phone with folks who might know how to support efforts on the ground in West Baltimore. In coordination with the DC Chapter of the Black Youth Project 100, I decided to take some supplies and some people up to Baltimore Tuesday evening. We arrived a little after 8:00pm that night and I immediately felt the presence of over-policing. We saw mostly empty streets with the exception of the National Guard troops lining one street, as mostly white people ate on restaurant patios near Camden Yards.
We arrived just as a community forum hosted by Baltimore United was wrapping up and were able to connect with several organizers, including one from Bmorebloc who was training marshals for a demonstration planned for the following day. The looming 10:00pm curfew was on everyone's minds. As 9:00pm approached, organizers were pushing folks to leave the space as quickly as possible. As we headed over to West Baltimore, the consequences of being in the street after 10:00pm were clear: breaking curfew didn't just mean arrest - it meant there was a good chance you'd get the crap beaten out of you by the full force of the Baltimore Police Department.
Days like Tuesday make living at the intersection of my black and queer identities such an important part of who I am and why I do this work. Of course it matters that black LGBTQ people have equal access to the legal benefits and protections that come with legal marriage recognition. But if we don't even have the right to live and be black - free from harassment, profiling and police violence - what is the value of that marriage license?
IF POLICE AND VIGILANTE FORCES CAN KILL MYA HALL, REKIA BOYD, ERIC HARRIS, ANTHONY HILL, AND FREDDIE GRAY WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE, THEN EQUALITY FOR BLACK LGBTQ PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS BE AN ILLUSION - NO MATTER WHAT JUSTICE KENNEDY DECIDES.
The movement that is poised to win the fight for marriage equality can and must focus its attention on more than marriage.
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Arizona's infamous anti-immigrant law was signed into law on April 23, 2010 and ought to be a warning about legalized discrimination. BY LUIS AGUILERA GARCIAAPRIL 24 2015 9:10 AM ET
This week marks the five-year anniversary of the passage of Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, authorizing racial profiling for law enforcement toward anyone they suspect to be undocumented.
Five years ago, as an undocumented immigrant myself, I couldn’t help but fear for the community members in Arizona who became subjects of increased discrimination and harassment. I was in high school when SB 1070 passed, and had recently began to get more involved in activism through El Cambio, a group in North Carolina dedicated to building a strong immigrant rights’ movement.
At this point in my life, I believed that it was normal that I could not get a drivers license, qualify for a job, or even attend college because of my undocumented status. Laws like SB 1070 teach youth that if they are a minority, racial profiling, discrimination, and lack of access to resources is normal.
Soon after SB 1070’s passage, copycat laws were introduced and then passed in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Utah. One of the most painful parts of SB 1070 is the clause allowing law enforcement to “check” the immigration status of anyone they encounter that they are suspicious of being in the country unlawfully. The countless individuals who were forced to “self-deport” themselves from these states were absolutely destroyed. I still remember speaking to a friend from Alabama who was afraid because most of the people he had grown up with in his community left. It was as if the state was trying to rid their communities of any person who was not white. In rural North Carolina, my community is a target of discrimination through law enforcement practices that work to further criminalize undocumented immigrants. Local law enforcement and businesses began to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement through programs like E-Verify, and Secure Communities. Both programs allowed law enforcement and businesses to screen individuals and know immediately if someone is undocumented. These practices became even more common after SB 1070 passed in 2010, which caused the U.S to reach record deportations of 2 million in 2014.
In addition, my family and myself continue to live in fear that we may go through a "checkpoint," in which local enforcement blocks a street and checks if someone has a valid drivers license or not. Up until 2005, hundreds of undocumented immigrants, including my parents, were still able to get their drivers licenses in the state of North Carolina, but that is no longer the case. Now that I understand how the enforcement and immigration system works, I would be lying if I said that I believe that I am less deserving of a driver’s license, work authorization, equal access to higher education, and my human right of migration. I know now that just because my experience as an undocumented person was normal, doesn’t mean laws like SB 1070 are right.
I’m fed up with believing that it was “normal” for my cousin to be deported to Mexico because she was stopped at a checkpoint. Joaquin Luna, an undocumented teen from Texas, committed suicide at 18 because he was fed up with his status and lost hope in his future after the Dream Act failed in 2010. It shouldn’t be OK or normal, and it becomes normal when you choose to remain silent.
I refuse to be silent any longer. I came out of the closet as queer due to my involvement with GetEQUAL, a national grassroots LGBTQ network. We have seen the power of undocumented folks coming out and sharing their stories. That power is why we need to break the silence.
I have finally broken my own silence. I do not care if my undocumented status, my brownness, or even my gayness makes people uncomfortable. For many years, I worried so much about pleasing white folks that I lost touch of how much value I hold alongside my undocumented and queer community. We are powerful once we embrace and love who we really are. As undocu-queer people, we experience discrimination and harassment in such an invisible form that we have to speak up in order to survive. We have seen so many LGBTQ hate crimes and crimes against black and brown people this past year alone that it has made me lose hope for my future. A black transgender woman has a life expectancy of 35 years: I wonder how long an undocumented black transgender woman has to live.
SB 1070 was an awakening for social justice movements in the United States — it showed queer undocumented people that it’s up to us to take action and demand our full social and legal equality. We cannot continue to compromise our human rights when LGBTQ undocumented immigrants are dying in detention centers. We cannot continue to compromise our human rights when bigoted lawmakers want to make discrimination legal under the guise of religion.
We saw it happen in Arizona in 2010 and in Indiana in 2015 — once we accept legalized racism, racial profiling, homophobia, transphobia, anti-blackness and misogyny as “normal,” we lose. Fortunately, we have a choice to make — and I choose to fight back.
LUIS AGUILERA GARCIA is GetEQUAL's Immigration Campaign Coordinator.
Below are articles recently published regarding the #FreeNicoll Week of Action co-sponsored by GetEQUAL
Stop the Torture: Undocumented, Trans and under Attack 3.2.15
Nationwide Week of Action Calls on ICE to Free Nicoll From Men’s Detention Facility 3.2.15
National Week of Action Calling for Release of Transgender Asylum Seeker 3. 2. 15
New Yorkers brave the cold to rally for transgender asylum seeker 3.5.15
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 10 December 2014
Media Contact: Heather Cronk, firstname.lastname@example.org
As Senator Prepares to Introduce LGBTQ Equality Bill, GetEQUAL Launches Effort to Ensure Bill is Truly Comprehensive
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will announce at an event in Washington, DC, that he intends to introduce an LGBTQ equality bill in the next Congressional session. The event comes on the heels of an effort by GetEQUAL — a national grassroots social justice organization fighting for full LGBTQ equality — to survey and then directly insert the voices of LGBTQ individuals from across the country about what they actually need in such a bill.
Rather than simply including what political insiders believe might be attainable, GetEQUAL will be working hard over the next few months to ensure that a federal LGBTQ equality bill truly serves the needs of all LGBTQ people, especially those in our community who are poor, people of color, and transgender. The first step in that process was to launch a national survey on Tuesday that aims to hear and lift up the voices of those who will be most impacted by the bill to be introduced in the next Congress.
This year marks 40 years since a full equality bill was first introduced by Bella Abzug and Ed Koch in 1974. Since then, LGBTQ Americans have struggled to survive under the cloud of employment discrimination, homelessness, religious discrimination, criminalization, and a refusal by the federal government to fully recognize our families. The introduction of an LGBTQ equality bill must address all these things and more to be effective for the vast majority of LGBTQ individuals and families.
“While we”re excited that the effort to move a full LGBTQ equality bill through Congress is getting a jolt today, we”re concerned that it”s moving forward with zero input from the community — from those who will be most impacted by the content of the bill,” said Angela Peoples, co-director of GetEQUAL. “Yes, we must include employment protections and federal marriage equality — but we must also include measures that will keep our community safe, provide access to inclusive health care, and ensure that our youth have a safe place to sleep after being kicked out of their homes by discriminatory parents. We will maintain public pressure on decision-makers writing this bill to ensure that it truly reflects the comprehensive solutions needed to address the multiple layers of inequality facing LGBTQ people.”
“Our full equal rights as LGBTQ individuals continue to be woefully denied. More than 40 years after Congresswoman Bella Abzug, my mother, introduced the first-ever federal equality bill that would ban discrimination against LGBT individuals, we are increasingly impatient,” said Liz Abzug, longtime activist for LGBTQ equality. “We demand now that the U.S. Congress pass a full and equal civil rights bill that will protect LGBTQ Americans under federal anti-discrimination law. We refuse to wait another decade for LGBTQ equality to become a reality!”
GetEQUAL is a national grassroots social justice organization whose mission is to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information go to www.getequal.org. You can also follow GetEQUAL on Facebook at www.facebook.com/getequal or on Twitter at @GetEQUAL.