Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
On Oct. 15 an opportunity for historic inclusion of LGBT African-Americans in the Millions More Movement event was fumbled and lost due to homophobia.
Back in February of this year Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan announced that all would be welcome at Millions More, an event to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the Million Man March.
“The makeup will be our people whoever we are,” Farrakhan said. “Male, female, gay, straight, white, dark, rich, poor, ignorant, wise.”
These remarks were not lost on LGBT activists.
“For Minister Farrakhan to welcome us this time shows tremendous growth in understanding and respect for us,” National Black Justice Coalition President Keith Boykin said in March.
A powerful hand was reaching out to LGBT African-Americans through the din of indifference and discrimination.
Unfortunately that hand reached only so far.
After months of effort by Boykin and other activists, Farrakhan met for the first time with gay and lesbian leaders. On Oct. 13 Farrakhan invited Boykin to address the march.
“I am honored to be asked to speak at the Millions More Movement March, and I strongly support the Movement’s goals of unity and inclusion of our entire community. I have met Minister Farrakhan previously, but this is the first time I have met with him privately,” Boykin said. “This dialogue is long overdue; we were only able to scratch the surface. Future conversations will involve more substantive discussions about our ideological differences.”
On the day of the march two days later, the Rev. Willie Wilson, the executive director of the Millions More Movement, rescinded Boykin’s invitation. Wilson made headlines in the gay press earlier this year when he made outrageous and inaccurate anti-gay statements from the pulpit of his church.
In the end homophobia won out. Boykin made his speech at a much smaller LGBT and allied gathering and Wilson successfully kept the message of an openly gay African-American man from being heard by the thousands at the march.
Boykin’s message is one that is long overdue and by shutting him out of the Millions More event a beautiful opportunity for healing and understanding was lost.
“Ten years ago, I joined more than a million of my brothers on this very location for the Million Man March,” Boykin said, though not to the people who needed to hear it most. “At that time, there were no openly gay, lesbian or bisexual speakers at that March. This time, however, I am able to speak here today as an openly gay man because of the courageous leadership of one man – Minister Louis Farrakhan. I publicly and honestly thank him and salute him for the invitation to speak. The diversity of speakers assembled here today is a powerful signal that we in the Black community will not allow ourselves to be divided by differences of opinion, religion, gender, class or sexual orientation ever again.” (Boykin’s full remarks are available at his Web site at http://www.keithboykin.com/arch/001598.html.)
“The march’s goal was unity but the result was division,” said Donna Payne, NBJC vice president and senior diversity organizer for the Human Rights Campaign. “Minister Farrakhan and Rev. Willie Wilson went back on their word this weekend. It’s past time for us to speak the truth and that means being honest about the diversity within the African-American community. We’re owed an apology.”
Yes, they are.