Guest Blogger

Just say no to the March on Washington

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 08, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
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Editor's Note: Pauline Park is a New york based activist and co-founder of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy. She is also the writer of PaulinePark.com.

What is being billed as the 'National Equality March' called by Cleve Jones and David Mixner is taking on the look of an impending fiasco. The latest news about the event being planned for on Washington, D.C. in Oct. 11 is that even David Mixner himself may not attend this ill-conceived non-march.

It is important to point out that neither Cleve Jones nor David Mixner -- the unelected, self-appointed leaders of their very own LGBT movement -- consulted with a single state or local organization before putting themselves at the head of the parade, as it were; they are now asking (demanding, really) for support for this ill-conceived mess of a 'march' that at best will yield no positive results for the community.

It's also important to point out that Jones & Mixner called this march before securing permits. Given the reputation of the Washington, D.C. police for police brutality, to send youth, seniors, transgendered people and people with disabilities to a non-permitted march and put them in a position of being vulnerable to arrest and imprisonment in my view was simply unethical -- all the more so since Jones & Mixner have not been honest about the permit situation or its implications for vulnerable members of our community.

It's also important to point out that there is no structure for financial accountability for the money being donated to this march, which is so reminiscent of the Millenium March; that event took place in 2000, but there has still been no accounting for the finances for that march a full nine years later. (The Millenium March board was actually investigated by the FBI for fraud, but no one -- unfortunately -- was prosecuted for it.) I'm going to go out on a limb and make a prediction here: we will never know how the donations now being solicited by Mixner & Jones were actually used, because they will never tell us.

It is an unusual experience for me to be in agreement with Barney Frank, but I have to agree with him on this: this 'march' will not accomplish anything positive for the LGBT community. It's important to point out that no national LGBT march on Washington has ever moved legislation; the inclusive ENDA & federal hate crimes bills are already moving forward, and there are more effective ways of advancing legislation to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Don't Ask/Don't Tell (DADT).

What the march will do is divert scarce resources from those state and local organizations doing the real work of the movement just at a moment when they most need resources because of the recession. In fact, a lot of state and local organizations already have events planned for Oct 11 -- which is National Coming Out Day -- and so the scheduling of this march on that day will force many of those organizations to choose between continuing to organize events in their home communities or send members to Washington.

It is the height of arrogance for Jones & Mixner to claim that this march will help organize the community at the state and local level. In fact, there is already a strong infrastructure at the state level -- the Equality Federation (formerly, the Federation of Statewide LGBT Advocacy Organizations). At the Equality Federation annual summer meeting in St. Louis earlier this month, representatives of statewide LGBT advocacy organizations from across the country held one meeting specifically to discuss Cleve Jones' appeal to the Federation to endorse the march; while a few people spoke in favor, the overwhelming majority opposed the march and urged Toni Broaddus (the Federation's executive director) to issue a statement distancing the Federation from it, which she did in an op-ed in the Washington Blade.

There are serious process issues with this march as well as substantive, stragetic and tactical issues, as indicated by Steve Ault in his op-ed for Gay City News. Steve was co-coordinator of the first National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights in 1979 (which I participated in), and co-chair of the second in 1987, and his analysis of the march should be carefully considered by anyone thinking about heading to Washington on Oct. 11.

It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that this non-event will do little if anything to advance marriage equality, transgender rights or any of the other important elements of the LGBT movement's agenda. If you do want to advance marriage equality, go to Maine. We have the chance to win full marriage rights at the ballot box for the first time in the history of the United States, but that will only come through work in Maine, not from an ill-timed and ill-conceived national march on Washington.

As an openly transgendered woman of color, I feel compelled to point out that the march was called and is being pushed by two gay white men with no consultation whatsoever with members of the community they claim to represent. A 'march' that purports to represent the entire LGBT community but whose organizers have excluded youth, women, transgendered and bisexual people and people of color from any significant decision-making role in the planning process is a march that lacks any legitimacy in claiming to represent me, and I cannot support it.

Do not be deceived by the propaganda coming from the head honchos: this 'march' is not a grassroots effort in any meaningful sense of the term; this is not a road trip, it's an ego trip.


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PriyankaMitra PriyankaMitra | September 17, 2009 11:05 AM

What absolute nonsense. The march is a very grass roots effort. Since i am participating in the NY contigents, i am fully aware exactly how grassroots it is. A lot of the work load is being carried out my small groups like the ISO, Swish, and ex- ACTUP activists.

Cleve Jones is dead on about that this march does help organize at the local level as well. It brings together several stripes of acitivist: marriage, aids, employment, POC, trans activists.

I absolutely detest people who cannot build their own large coalitions so seek to destroy those of others.

Re-energizing the activist base and showing DC that we count for something is not a wasted effort. Denouncing this march without knowing anything about the ground level organization however is.