Chuck Wolfe

Out black candidates can bridge a divide

Filed By Chuck Wolfe | February 25, 2008 5:49 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: African-American, election campaigns, government, representation

Enemies of the LGBT community have long sought to divide Americans for political gain. In recent years, they’ve worked hard to break up a progressive coalition that has included gay people and the African-American civil rights community. African-American gays and lesbians understandably are sometimes caught in the middle, and that has to be a painful place to be. So what’s to be done?

Our friends and partners at the National Black Justice Coalition are hard at work on this. Their annual Black Church Summit and the upcoming Power of Us conference in Baltimore help people face down the ugly tactics of the hard right. In fact, they’re sponsoring a special Candidate & Campaign Training for people of color by the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute (GLLI) in conjunction with the Power of Us conference. Together, we’ll work to train out candidates and campaign workers who can bring change to their own communities.

But working to heal the divisions of the past—and steel ourselves for future attempts to divide—will take the effort of all of us, and it will take the leadership of committed people who can speak truth to all sides. That’s why today we at GLLI announced the establishment of the Bayard Rustin Award to honor excellence in scholarly research about the participation of the African-American LGBT community in electoral politics. The cash award will go to the best graduate student paper on the topic, and it will be judged and awarded by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists at their annual meeting. The idea is to learn more about how LGBT African-Americans participate in politics, and what barriers exist to running for office.

About 11% of all openly LGBT elected officials in the U.S. are people of color. (That’s far better than the overall picture. Just 2% of all elected officials are people of color.) But African-Americans are underrepresented in that 11%. Working together, we can change that, so let’s begin.

Check out columnist Deb Price's article today on this topic.

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Michael Bedwell | February 25, 2008 9:14 PM

Thanks, Chuck, for all you and your organization do. I have long admired your training programs for activists and potential office holders. And, thank you, too, for naming the award after one of my greatest heroes, Bayard Rustin.

As I'm sure you know, if he were still living, he would have LOVED your training programs, and volunteered to be a trainer himself, because he viscerally understood that good intentions alone do not pave the road to change, and was a leader himself in the instruction of others in organizing generally, and non-violent action specifically. Too few still understand that it was Rustin who transformed Martin Luther King's rudimentary knowledge of Gandhi into a life philosophy and action.

Perhaps you can invite Rustin's surviving life partner, Walter Neagle, to present the first award.

Way to go, Chuck! I'm proud of you and Alexander for starting this!