Monday, November 17, 2008
Reportback From The Oakland No On 8 Protest.
Wow. I'm just recovering from co-organizing this rally. I have to give mega-props to fellow organizers Monifa Porter, Lawrence Ellis, Maya Scott-Chung, Carrie Leiser-Williams, Jen-Mei Wu and special props to Natalee Kehaulani, Molly McKay, Michelle Rodriguez, Aimee Suzara, Xiaojing Wang, Chelsey Oda, Ruth Villasenor, Sapana Doshi and Tracey Osbourne for all the support, behind the scenes work, and documenting (awesome pics Natalee! check here to peep the beauty!). So much love and respect also going out to those who delivered an uplifting, essential performance. And much love to everyone who showed up, and all who support this cause in any way!
This was really difficult to get together, with zero time for outreach (i still have so many flyers leftover!!) so we are thankful that it actually had a really good turnout!! There was a point in the organizing process where we came up against a huge obstacle. The name of that obstacle was unconscious racism. Without naming anyone, i will say that two queer white men (not listed above) who did a lot of work to procure the permits, and get some high profile politicians to sign on... also then proceeded to feel a sense of ownership over the process, and was expressing their unconscious racism by not wanting to "allow" people of color from Oakland communities to represent on the mainstage. Yes, we are taking about Oakland! They felt that they "couldn't be racist" because they invited Congresswoman Barbara Lee & Mayor Ron Dellums (who didn't show unfortunately). As a straight ally, i didn't feel like i could get all up in their face about how effed up their politics were. This really could have turned into a protest of the mostly poc organizers against a whitewahed rally in Oakland, with a separate stage of people more represenative of Oakland. But in the end, we actually came to a compromise. And it became a micrcosm for the work that has to be done to move forward into positive Change. So despite differences of vision and consciousness, and across lines of race, privilege and sexuality... we worked it out, and shared the stage and had a beautiful program.
There was so much that happened. The Two Spirit-Drummers created sacred space by opening and closing the event with the sacred ceremonial drum Two Eagles, which had been made by Two-Spirit/LGBT Native elders. We heard from LGBTQ families of various backgrounds. We heard from recently married couples. We heard a maybe 8 year old boy speak simple yet immensely powerful words about the humanity of his two moms. There was an emotional testimony from City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan. Aimee Suzara took the crowd by storm, debuting her poem "Dangerous" that was made for that moment in time (go to aimeesuzara.net to read it and see what else this amazing poet/educator/perfromer is up to!)). And there was much much more. I was proud to represent str8 black ally, and to evoke to power of the ally: Bio allies for Transfolks, Men and boy allies for girls and women, white allies for people of color (white allies that would intercept dialogue that would make people look at me and assume i voted yes on prop 8, etc). I also then presented a piece that was directed towards people of faith who interpret their sacred texts to disapprove of love between people of the same sex. I call it the Parable Of Empathy (forward liberally, but please ask permission before utilizing in a program or something):
Parable Of Empathy
You, who love your God, Love your place of worship, love your community
Imagine that your religion, like all religions have been, is oppressed by a majority religion.
Imagine that this majority religion has a lot of power.
Imagine that the people of this majority religion very deeply believed that your ways were wrong, immoral, heathenlike. And though you love your ways and they are so right for you, it was wrong for them.
Imagine that they used their power to take away your places of worship that you so dearly love.
How would you feel?
How would you feel, knowing that instead of just loving their gods, they chose to take the time and energy to strike down how you love your God, strike down your place of worship, strike down your community?
How would you feel, knowing that the people of this powerful religion are people that you work with? Friends? Members of your family?
In your heart, you would know that not everyone in this powerful religion did this, but wouldn’t it be difficult to see the humanity of those who associate with people who assaulted your way of of living and loving?
Is what we need to cultivate right now.
We all have a task up ahead.
And that is for everyone, on both sides
To figure out how to see the Humanness
In the other.
(c) rmw 2008
Yes yes y'all. The work towards affirming the humanity of all continues! And I have good feelings about these revolutionary baby steps we are making. Fight The H8! Liberate The Love!