Matt Comer

Report from Charlotte: Where Stonewall 2.0 hasn't fizzled

Filed By Matt Comer | February 26, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Charlotte North Carolina, join the impact, LGBT, North Carolina, organizing, stonewall 2.0

Afterexgayfounders_sm2.jpg the passage of Proposition 8 in California, this new little thing called Join the Impact managed to organize perhaps of hundreds of thousands of people seemingly overnight. But after the famous November 15 Prop. 8 protests, things seemed to quite down. The "Light the Night" event was more like a candle in the wind and it didn't take long for activists and bloggers to ask the question, "Stonewall 2.0: Sizzle or Fizzle?"

By January, the consensus was pretty much reached: "Gosh, Stonewall 2.0 lasted even less time than Web 2.0. Oh well, back to the drawing board," wrote SFist's Brock Keeling.

But the Join the Impact-style organizing and the sense of urgency and renewal it spawned hasn't really died; it's simply been reshaped to take on different forms in different communities across the nation. In Charlotte, grassroots activism is very much still alive.

In early January, Robert, an LGBT community member living just outside of the city contacted a few community leaders, myself included, with a desire to organize a Feb. 14 Valentine's Day awareness event. At about the same time, I learned of that the Focus on the Family and Exodus International "ex-gay" conference Love Won Out would be making its way to Charlotte on Feb. 21 (coincidentally, the same day as the Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala, and the last day of a joint leadership conference of several primarily LGBT Christian denominations).

It didn't take long to get a planning meeting in the works. Two weeks after Robert first called for a Valentine's Day event, almost two dozen community members and leaders met in the conference room of Q-Notes newspaper. Mostly the same faces as those who planned Charlotte's Prop. 8 protest -- which managed to draw out almost 300 folks -- the group was sprinkled with new folks interested in the idea of an on-the-ground, grassroots activist organization in the Queen City.

Thus was born the Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE). We weren't and aren't affiliated with Join the Impact. We didn't use their site to organize. We didn't get any tips or advice from them. But the sense of renewal and urgency instilled in LGBT communities after their call for the Nov. 15 Prop. 8 protests served as the initial catalyst and spark for an increased interest in activism in Charlotte.

We planned a series of four different events in about a week's span of time. A Valentine's Day awareness event in downtown Charlotte brought out two dozen people to speak face-to-face with hundreds of passers-by on the importance of LGBT equality. An event with Truth Wins Out's Wayne Besen drew 50 people to the Lesbian & Gay Community Center for an evening presentation on so-called "ex-gay" ministries. A press conference with LGBT community and religious leaders prompted headlines in the evening news. And, in the culmination of it all, a protest of the "ex-gay" Love Won Out conference drew out 50-60 people for four hours on a Saturday.

Fifty people? That's all? Well, yeah. It is Charlotte -- not San Francisco. But the amount of discussion spawned by local media's coverage of our "ex-gay" ministry challenges was priceless.

It has been years since places like Charlotte have seen on-the-ground activism. Older members of the community told me over and over about their memories of groups like ACT-UP and how they were so happy a new grassroots group had been established. Working with already established groups, like the Community Center and a local LGBT political action committee, our grassroots group will be able make an impact where it really matters: face-to-face and person-to-person.

I'm also encouraged by the support we had from already established political organizations. Some perceive political and lobbying groups like EqualityNC and the Human Rights Campaign as being wary of "activism," but they stepped up and their support was phenomenal and greatly appreciated.

Stonewall 2.0 hasn't necessarily "fizzled." Take a look around the country at all the places with a renewed sense of activism. The numbers aren't as big or as attention-grabbing as in larger cities or what we saw right after the election, but people are there. There's no doubt that people are speaking out and taking action. Folks who haven't traditionally been a part of the conversation are now having their voices heard.

Without November's Join the Impact perhaps local communities uninvolved in grassroots activism might have never jumped on the bandwagon -- perhaps already established organizations wouldn't have seen a greater importance in local (and sometimes spontaneous) grassroots activism.

As our community moves forward, I hope we'll see more work and action at the local levels -- in whatever form that takes.


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Thanks good on the spot article. You are correct STONEWALL 2.0 will be alive and going until we who are living it want it to die, and for me, even just as an ally, that will not be until full equal rights are achieved.. this is a CIVIL RIGHTS issue which impacts all facets of peoples lives, work and family.
We had an impressive, for our town JTI Nov 15 turn out of probably 2000, where we had only a turnout of 300 for the pre Nov 8 No on H8 rally. The majority of the 2000 were family and friends of people who were hurt by Proposition 8. That is why losing it in retrospect will be so valuable I think.
JTI's next event here in California is a "Listen to the Court" in SF on March 5 AM. But around the country they want to stage candelight walk/support vigils the evening before Wed March 4.
Also WEAR WHITE on March 5..here is the post about national events.
3. Wear white

Join the Impact has called upon our community, whether you can be in San Francisco or not, to please wear white on March 5th. This can be a tee-shirt, a feather boa, or white leather or a White Knot. Wherever you are -- wear white on March 5th to show your support! Wearing white is a simple symbol of solidarity across our country.

4. Eve of Justice Candlelight Vigils

The night before the oral arguments, Marriage Equality USA is also helping to convene candlelight vigils across the state (in 20 cities and counting) in support of protecting the Constitutional Promise of Equality for All! To find a vigil near you go to www.eveofjustice.com or www.marriageequality.org

Good for ya'll, Matt.

While I think that Join the Impact has fizzled and burned, I also think that the model of organizing they used so well will not be brought to other events and places. Stonewall 2.0 isn't dead, it's just in the process of birthing.

Good for you. North Carolina is great.
The passion is getting stronger here in California. If the Prop 8 remains valid after the California Supreme Court ruling March 5th, all hell will break loose.

http://eveofjustice.com/eveofjustice/sd/