On Friday, January 27, 2012 at the Creating Change Conference Baltimore, FIERCE delivers a message to the LGBT Liaison to the White House, the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development at “The Obama Administration and LGBT Community” session.
“Mic check” a single voice, a little shaky, interrupted from the back row.
“Mic check!” echoed nine more voices in a roar of anger, love, support, solidarity.
“MIC CHECK!!!” a little louder now, yelled the voice more stably grounded in the feeling of security that love and solidarity gives to oppressed voices.
“TELL PRESIDENT OBAMA A MESSAGE FROM US QUEERS:
WE WANT JUSTICE FOR OUR PEOPLE…
WE DO NOT APPRECIATE THE WHITE HOUSE COMING HERE
TO PINKWASH AND DISPOSE OF ITS CRIMES…”
Our collective interruption—written down on paper so we didn’t choke up with feeling, but truly imbedded in our hearts and minds in a way that we would never forget—had one main goal: calling out the injustice we saw as LGBTQ Young People of Color trying to reframe the so called “LGBT agenda of Equality” that was about to be discussed at the Obama panel meeting.
Later, as we reflected on what happened, everyone voiced a true feeling of fear. A fear that was so viscerally intense that it was pulling our bodies to leave; walk out the same doors that our shaky legs and inspired minds had just compelled us to enter. But there was something that kept us in that room. Whether it was our individual needs of speaking out, our collective understanding of our speeches’ importance, or just out of love and support for each other. We stayed. We stood our ground. We embodied our vision of “Building Power, Taking Action, Creating Change.”
The reactions to our mic check were varied.
Some people shook their heads in uncomfortable disapproval while others applauded us, seeing the truth and necessity in our words. Those in the audience that agreed did so passively—not actively speaking up after we finished our mic check with “Is there anything anyone else needs to say?!” This lack of response, though, might have been due to the fact that almost immediately after we were done, Amanda Simpson, a representative from the Dept. of Defense quickly and aggressively deflected with, “Okay, so back to our regular agenda.”
Five minutes of overtly ignoring us passed while tension in the room grew.
It wasn’t until Jennifer Hadlock from CVH stood up and derided the panel for not acknowledging us that the conversation finally shifted back to addressing our disturbance. Also in solidarity, Urvashi Vaid advocated for us by asserting that we had presented a challenge to deepen and broaden the conversation of what it means to be Queer in this world.
After the attempts made by adults to validate our voices, some of the panel timidly talked around the issues with lists of the Obama Administrations’ ‘successes’, while others remained silent. But, in frustration to the lack of a direct response, we collectively exited the room.
After our exit, and as many people greeted us outside with thank you’s, one thing was for certain: we had grappled and shaken the room—transforming it into a space that promoted creating change. We stripped away the sophisticated suit of regular panel Q&A discussions, making it much more real than it would have been.
We uploaded the video of our mic check on Friday afternoon.
What followed has been a steady outpouring of gratitude, excitement and pride from conference attendees and social network commenters, followers and writers.
It is Saturday evening and there are 1,255 hits on YouTube.
As we take in this solidarity around celebrating and affirming our resistance and our message, we have hopped, skipped and jumped with pride. Our feet have felt more planted on the ground, our smiles wide, and our chests open, fearless.
We knew we did good. We knew we were powerful. What we didn’t know was precisely how threatening that power was.
So threatening, it was erased by NGLTF on their blog— which described a peaceful Friday morning session as if our act of dissent never occurred:
Would you have ever known about what we did and said after reading the NGLTF blog? Friday morning is history now, and that history has so quickly been rewritten.
Our voice, already shaky with a message so vital for our existence in this world, swiftly deleted. The sweat stains of fear from Friday morning have settled. Our bodies are tired from unpacking what it means to be excluded from our own movement.
Who benefits from this erasure? And more importantly - At what cost?
Does youth inclusion at Creating Change only mean hospitality suite burritos, dress up parties and photo ops? Does youth inclusion mean sitting in silence in workshops and feeling like we don’t have the language or the experience or the knowledge to speak out?
In her “State of the Movement” speech, Rea Carey (The Executive Director of the NGLTF) called on conference participants “to not [play] the game, to do something extraordinary…to work against the forces that drag us down as human beings, that pull us down and limit us as a movement, that portray us as something that we are not”.
Isn’t it ironic that a national organization claiming to represent the LGBT movement strategically polices a message from Youth of Color leaders doing exactly what Rea Carey called on us to do? What does it mean to erase a message that so boldly steps up and speaks out against the militarization and policing of our people, and demands an end to war and violence?
We are fighting for queer justice. We will not be co-opted. We will not be silenced. We will not policed and militarized. We will continue to fight for our liberation!