Alex Blaze

Bilerico Radio: Kip Williams and I talk about the National Equality March

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 30, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Equality Across America, Kip Williams, National Equality March

I had a chance to talk with Kip Williams, one of the lead organizers of the National Equality March. I have to take back my previous statement about how the march organizers are unwilling to engage in criticism from the community - Kip and I had an interesting discussion and I understand more now about what these folks are trying to accomplish. I especially like the part where he tells me about what it's like to be a young gay man at 27.... Do I really sound like I'm over 27?

Anyway, I still have my reservations about how some of the logistics are going to work out, as well as how much work they're putting into making sure HIV/AIDS issues remain front and center.

It's an action-packed 22 minutes, so click below to listen and feel free to comment. I'm still working on finding a nicer way to post these, but this will have to do for now.

Conversation with Kip Williams - Aug. 30, 2009

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Oh boy. If I get a package from Indianapolis marked "Kool-Aide," I'll be sure not to open it until after the march! ;-)

Just kidding.

Alex,
That was a relentlessly good interview. You didn't let him off easy, and I agree with your conclusion that some things are now even more clear.

Thanks, Tony! That means a lot to me coming from you. :)

Alex - you said "You can't just write equality on a sheet of paper and pass a law."

And then you ask Kip how the message of the march translates into legislation.

So are you pro-legislative action or not? Is there a right answer to this inquisition?

You asked Kip about economic equality issues beyond ENDA and when you were asked to elaborate you completely change the subject and talk about HIV organizations.

Are you just trying to be argumentative or did you just have a brain fart?

You remark that "the new demands sound like the old demands. Why don't we have the protections guaranteed in the Constitution?"

Good question. Why do YOU think we don't have equal protections? Did we do something to bring animosity upon ourselves? Should we address the encroachment upon our citizenship in some more appropriate way than using a national platform to organize in all congressional districts?

The point of organizing a national movement is to coordinate efforts - I would think. After 10 years of national legislation that encouraged individual states to legislate and amend against our citizenship we have to learn to be locally engaged and nationally connected. We should have started mobilizing with much more effort in 2004 when a dozen states amended against us but nothing happened. Now when things finally do start to happen, everyone wants to put on the breaks or examine the hell out of every decision, every person involved, every potential idea...control every last thought...control the thing to death.

I don't understand what is so hard for people to understand. Why are there people resistant to taking action yet so eager to find a flaw, a margin of error, any way to find fault? How fucked up are we that we are frustrated and stifled yet resistant to action? We are more interested in being the detective that finds the smoking gun of scandal than we are invested in standing up for ourselves (or god forbid for each other).

This interview makes me think that we - as a community - are seriously screwed up.

Patrick, my man... my mantra! LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL! Its all about the local efforts now! DC is a dead horse. We have been getting the runaround there for AT LEAST 30 years. We're still getting the run around there today. I don't want to give up on DC, but we can put some more effort into local activism and take the lessons we learn there--as well as the momentum and influence--back to DC.

Patrick, we WERE locally organized in 2004. I was there, on the ground IN MICHIGAN, fighting hard against Prop2. We had SO MUCH personpower, we had the support of the biggest names in politics in the state, we had a lot of training and--at that point--studies were on our side. Studies were showing that when people who were undecided or leaning toward voting for Prop 2 read our educational material 70% changed their mind and voted against it.

So what happened?

We'll never know. It won--basically--60/40. It was crushing. But I can say that, at the time, I had a LOT of faith in my local leaders, and I personally feel I fought TOOTH AND NAIL against that vote.

We clearly have to change the conversation. In 2010 we should not still have to defend whether or not being gay is a choice! When we waste time trying to clear that up every single time we get up to debate the other side, we lose time making the real case for our rights.

I also think we need to start specializing. I don't want to lose focus on any of our goals, but when we have three LGBT organizations in a state, and all three are fighting for Youth issues, ENDA, Hate Crimes and Marriage at the state AND National level, we're really wasting resources. Then add to it we end up in bitter arguments over semantics and pissing contests over "who's the bigger progressive," we waste precious time and energy that we could be using aiming that same righteous anger at the REAL enemies on the FAR RIGHT.

They're framing the marriage debate, and they're doing a smashing good job. They've got America convinced we want to take down the institution of marriage and destroy God, and we do nothing but defend them by harping on religion and religious people and going on and on about the Separation of Church and State. Got news for you people: The Separation exists in name only. Are we going to waste all of our energy raggin on THAT one, or are we going to use that in our favor?

We already HAVE religion on our side, the American people just aren't being told that. I can ALREADY get married in your damn churches, people! But It doesn't let me sponsor my non-citizen partner for citizenship! (luckily he's got a greencard... and he's from Canada).

I don't get it.

What are you saying - that locally we can do something to help your partner get citizenship?

We organized better than I'm remembering in 2004 but still lost by 20% - so we should ignore national networking because...we were so successful 5 years ago before anything national was proposed?

Our national organizations aren't successful even though they are found in some locales so that is evidence local efforts are better???

Alex - you said "You can't just write equality on a sheet of paper and pass a law."
And then you ask Kip how the message of the march translates into legislation.
So are you pro-legislative action or not? Is there a right answer to this inquisition?

Pro-legislation. I wanted to know how their message looks in the form of bills, executive orders, and bureaucratic directives, since that's how I think.

And of course there is no "right" answer. The answer he gave is the "right" answer, if you will, since this wasn't a test, it was a chance to learn more about how the organizers are thinking.

You remark that "the new demands sound like the old demands. Why don't we have the protections guaranteed in the Constitution?"
Good question. Why do YOU think we don't have equal protections? Did we do something to bring animosity upon ourselves? Should we address the encroachment upon our citizenship in some more appropriate way than using a national platform to organize in all congressional districts?

Personally, I blame the fact that the movement started right at the same time as movement conservatism was picking up steam and is finally getting more mainstream at a point where the Democrats have almost completely sold out. Almost everyone who I've met who's been working for LGBT rights and liberation, both before prop 8 and after, has been as committed as they could be, even if I don't necessarily agree with their tactics and strategy.

I think there is a lot to understand here. In the thread about the questions for Cleve Jones, I noticed you left a comment along the lines of "How can Cleve keep on going when people are being so mean? Also, that no on 8 campaign was so terrible, they shouldn't even have tried!"

Part of the problem with the no on 8 campaign was that too few were willing to call the bullshit on what they were doing early on in the campaign season, and they weren't willing to hear the voices who were doing it. And there were plenty of people, when the votes were in and the gays lost, who said things like, "The no campaign was very committed, it's not fair to criticize them!"

It was fair to criticize the No campaign then and it's fair to criticize and engage the march organizers now. And if they are as committed as everyone says they are (and they sound like it), then the most that can happen is that they'll integrate some of what people are saying into their action.

I wouldn't summarize my questions to Jones the way you have, Alex.

My questions were more like: WHY do you bother when the people you are trying to represent / organize are more antagonistic and suspicious than they are cooperative or willing?

As an example of that cynicism, there are questions raised in the comments at that post about why Jones didn't contribute to the No on 8 campaign (like that is a measurement of HIS commitment to LGBT social justice). Instead I choose to contrast those attempts at an "ah - HA!" moment with my reality: the campaign wasn't worth the amount of money spent on it. I said nothing about the futility of trying to defeat Prop 8. I simply don't buy the idea that a lack of $ contribution to No on 8 equates to traitorous or disloyal behavior.

You make a good point about this in your response to me. Now is the time to have concerns addressed before another No on 8 debacle can be repeated. That makes sense and at least is rooted in a connection between cause and effect.

But there are also enormous differences between the DC event and No on 8. We do not need to raise tens of millions of dollars to make this event happen. We are not at being attacked with the DC event like we were with Prop 8 looming on a ballot. There is a finite amount of time to organize/coordinate and plan - because of the date of the action which is dictated by opportunistic politics - but this opportunity isn't about changing the minds of our opponents as much as it is about activating our allies (and ourselves).

Thank you for your response.

Frightening - "we're going to have a march because we haven't had one yet; it's our turn."

Motion/action isn't necessarily progress. The march will be exciting for the participants, but the people who are going to send a message this fall that will be heard in the halls of Congress (and statehouses across the country) are the voters of Maine (and probably Washington state). NOM and the Roman Catholic Church are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in Maine to make sure that message is the one they want. While we're being asked to spend our resources demonstrating our pique at the President for not doing things at the federal level that we have have not yet convinced the voters to do in a single state.

Alex,

The national march is very important. It is a launching point for the local movement to really start to take root using a national message to move forward together towards our equality.

As a former event manager for large non profit organizations I know it is vital to get your constituency in front of you to get them fired up and leave on message to go make ever greater change towards the organizational mission.

I applaud the march organizers and am very excited about attending. I look forward as well to taking the message back home and doing the hard work that will finally lead towards our equal protections under the law.

We HAVE to believe we can do this. All we need for our motivation is to think of the LGBT Americans who are called faggot, beaten or killed each day just for being LGBT. Remember Act Up - well - we have to get in that mind set that we are moving out of our comfort zones and the heat has to rise before we get what we deserve!

Here is a post from my blog. If you get a chance, read it. It goes into some more detail on why I feel it is vital we all band together on this.

http://minimizethemargins.blogspot.com/2009/08/actor-prepares-and-activist-persists.html

Thanks for doing the interview.

Alan L. Bounville
www.minimizethemargins.blogspot.com

I continue to fail to see why so much money and energy is going into this march at a time when the infrastructure supporting the queer community is crumbling. If you want to feel energized to go back to you local community, go to creating change. If you want to have a march, at least do it when DC is in town. I'm failing to see the value in this march.

Although they have "one demand' it's clear marriage, hate crimes laws, and DADT are emphasized the most. womp womp.

Alex, Good interview but you were, at times, sarcastic and disrespectful to your guest. It was distracting. Kip handled himself well nevertheless and I feel more likely to attend after hearing his framing.

Thanks, Alex, for asking some tough questions. Kip sounds like a sincere young chap, but there are lots of gaps in the organization and logic of this event. Their website pays lip service to the idea of local lobbying and says vaguely that a National Day of Lobbying (of district offices) is planned for August. Did it ever happen? Don't think so. And then to say a Washington march is not about lobbying Congress seems absurd on its face. What is the point, then, as Alex kept asking? A photo op on network TV? If the march leaders can't agree on a few top priorities for congressional action before the 2010 elections, the march will be nothing more than a feel-good party. Meanwhile the LGBT marriage movements in Maine, Washington State and elsewhere are left underfunded and understaffed. Get your s...t together, guys -- you have raised expectations and now only a few weeks are left. By the way, how many have signed up on the website saying they actually will attend? A turnout of just 25,000 or 50,000 will be considered a failure, and will be pronounced so by the mainstream media.

So the mainstream media decides how we measure a successful organizing event? Really, Tom?

I don't know of any time that we have been given a fair representation in the media. What major news outlet has covered our issues with any depth or level of complexity? Which network has seriously considered our lives - our families, our dilemmas, our status - in non-stereotypical or hysterical ways in any of their programming?

That doesn't happen and if we wait until the MSM finds out how to handle us before we organize then nothing will change.

Do you think that a turnout of 25,000 LGBT activists from all over the country for a weekend of organizing and discussion would be a failure? I don't. I think that would be an inspirational first step toward actually pushing an agenda that has been discussed and punted from one group to another for decades.

Why do you call this a party? Can you tell me what parts of the weekend agenda sound like a party? Is there a concert scheduled? I haven't heard of a beer bust or a mixer or a cocktail party or dance or anything even close to that being mentioned for the weekend in DC.

Please explain how this is a party.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 31, 2009 1:33 PM

The March on Washington is our reply to 'gawd's in the mix' - the cresting of a huge wave of anger about the betrayals of the Democrats and the attacks of the Republicans.

As such it's the beginning of the end for reformists, movement hustlers and those too intimately tied to support for the twin parties of bigotry, war and economic collapse.

Simultaneously it's the beginning of an independent, nationwide grassroots movement. What that movement still has to acquire is an inclusive democratic structure, a consistent mass action approach and a cutting edge program.

Democrats have been against this march from the beginning because they sense that whatever it’s origins, speakers list, demands, or associated events in essence it’s a national GLBT repudiation of the betrayals of Obama and themselves. Their sullen bitterness over that fact and attempts to sabotage it are immaterial in light of the anger of our communities. As Democrats dug in their heels to stop the MoW the movement simply outflanked them from the left.

For years Democrats called the shots and betrayed us without letup. This is part of the payback by the LGBT communities. It began because of ‘gawd’s in the mix’, continued with waves of demonstrations and this first wave will crest in the MoW.

Then the real fun begins

Someone commented that the interviewer was sarcastic & disrespectful at times & I agree. I applaud Kip & the other organizers for the march, & I don't understand why Alex felt the need to dissect the cause & message. To me the message is clear. It is time to take this to the National Level. The Federal Government must step in & stop allowing the States to discriminate. Kip was correct: As the States began allowing a vote on Marriage Equality, thereby banning gay marriage, we should have started this National Action then. But we would definitely have been wasting time with the existing Bush crime family in office. Everyone wants to tiptoe around Obama instead of saying the truth: Dear President: You are discriminating every time you say you do not support Marriage Equality. Furthermore, if the States had their way, your own parents would not have been allowed to marry and be counted. Your parents could not help the color of their skin when they were born, nor can the GLBT community help their orientation anymore than a left-handed person can. So why are you treating us differently? End of Story.
Now THAT'S the question you should be asking, Alex!

Yeah! I totally should have asked Kip Williams why the president believes certain things about his own life history and the gays! Because that makes sense!

We get all types around here....

I'm very much aware that its sexist and dehumanizing to make the "cat fight" noise... but I can't help but note that I heard an angry hiss right now in my head when I read this exchange.

Alex, retract the claws!

;-)

Sorry - my mistake. Now that I know you are more interested in belittling comments than meaningful dialog, I'll put some antiseptic on my claw marks and be on my way.