Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jack Denelsbeck is the NY State Technical Assistance Manager for ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America), where he coordinates and facilitates HIV and HCV health literacy workshops both statewide and nationally. An LGBT activist for 15 years, he currently volunteers with Garden State Equality.
Now that we've had a few months to not only celebrate the outcome of November's national election results, but also to heal from the wounds inflicted on that historic day, why is it still so difficult to recruit LGBT volunteers? I was under the impression that the post-Prop 8 outrage would translate into a groundswell in recruitment for local movements and we would see a hardy growth in grassroots efforts throughout the country.
Instead, when reading progressive message boards or blogs, one can find plenty of examples of people hooked on l'atrocité du jour (The Administration meets with FOF; Obama said what on Leno?...). There's plenty of finger pointing and blame for a whole host of things that gets typed into keyboards, yet barely any hands being lifted to help out local organizations. It's as if there are more people that enjoy spending their time acting like some sort of Internet shame patrol or net nannies, than actually doing something to influence a positive change in policy, regardless of the issue.
As we continue to build support for a Marriage Equality win in 2009 here in New Jersey, a field worker I currently work with recently shared something she experienced during the No on 8 campaign in California.
In the build-up to the 2008 election and vote on Proposition 8, while she was recruiting volunteers in a San Francisco park on a weekend afternoon she met a lesbian couple playing with their kids and thought they would be interested in spending some time to help make sure Prop 8 wouldn't pass. After giving all the push-backs to try and get them to sign-up, she couldn't secure their commitment to put aside a few hours a week to either phone bank, canvass, or even just help out around the office.
Guess when she saw them next?
The weekend after the election, as they marched in a protest against the passage of Proposition 8.
As she told this story, the quiver in her voice turned into a flood of tears. Her frustration level was palpable and even within my two months volunteering to help the Marriage Equality campaign in NJ, I'm already there. I thought we were seeing the dawn of Stonewall 2.0. Or so we were told...
As a community, or even as a civil rights movement, why is the turnout for a rally after an injustice has been levied upon us easier to recruit for, than motivating people to get involved beforehand to help stop bigoted legislation from getting passed in the first place?
Garden State Equality has held three Action Fairs over the past six weeks. The turnout for all of them was respectable and reminded me just how many non-gay supporters we have on our side. With at least 50 participants at the second gathering this early in the game, I considered it a "success". Yet after receiving updates on Maggie Gallagher's efforts from the National Organization for Marriage headquartered in Princeton, it appears that the opposition, once again, is more organized and has recently motivated their supporters to call their legislators every day.
The word that gets tossed around most, a term which even I'm getting tired of using or hearing, is "complacency". Yet it just seems the most appropriate way to define the atmosphere.
So anyone got any suggestions on how to motivate our community to get involved?