By Imani Williams
The series continues by recognizing the contributions and talents of a sister in the movement who moves with grace and style and the old soul wisdom of someone who believes that “when we know better, we do better.”
Courtney Snowden on Being Black and Gay:
“Each day I live as an out lesbian, I honor the history of all black people – gay and straight. It is through Bayard Rustin’s vision, Thurgood Marshall’s integrity, Shirley Chisholm’s persistence, Langston Hughes’s ability to paint the joy and pain of the black gay experience, the example of my parents and so many other unknown foremothers and forefathers that I can take pride in all of who I am Black and Lesbian.”
Simply put, activist and master organizer Courtney R. Snowden “brings it.” The “it” being referenced speaks to a skill set that allows Snowden to communicate effective messages on organizing and strategizing with a commitment to move from talk to action. She comes in prepared and is able to reach and teach with down to earth confidence which both strengthens and builds community.
At 27, Snowden has accomplished more than some people twice her age. A senior associate with the Raben Group in Washington, D.C., Snowden possesses an impressive portfolio. She brings grassroots organizing, electoral and policy experience to the table and works with the firm’s corporate and non-profit clients to help them identify and reach their policy goals. Through direct lobbying, strategic planning and coalition she also develops and implements effective legislative and public relations message campaigns.
No stranger to Detroit, Snowden has come in to assist on various projects. She is a familiar face with SPICE and other area groups. In 2003, she answered the call to assist the Detroit lgbt community in its efforts to put an end to the harassment and bullying of lgbt students in Detroit area schools. A community alert was announced inviting community members to meet at the Ruth Ellis Center one week before Christmas. Snowden with the blessing of GLSEN came in to help the Detroit community mobilize an effort that was an unnamed entity which later became known as Neighborhood Organizations Implementing Safe Education, or (NOISE). For the first three months of 2004 meetings continued to be held and the numbers grew in an effort to make some noise. On April 9, 2004, NOISE produced a Day of Silence Event in front of the Detroit Public Schools main offices that included parents, students, lgbt community members, allies and political figures all coming out to denounce the lack of communication around Detroit Public and Highland Park Schools not being “safe” for all students. Governor Jennifer Granholm signed and issued a proclamation recognizing the efforts of NOISE. Today, NOISE is the official Detroit chapter for GLSEN.
Snowden came back again in 2004, as the director of communications and Detroit Field Operations for the “No On 2” campaign the organized effort to defeat the anti-gay marriage initiative in Michigan.
Prior to joining the The Raben Group, Snowden served as senior lobbyist for the National PTA, directing their advocacy efforts on a variety of legislative issues including budget and appropriations, vouchers and no Child Left Behind.
During her tenure at National PTA, she chaired the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE), a coalition comprised of more than 50 education, civic, civil rights and religious organizations devoted to defeating state and federal efforts to create publicly funded private school vouchers programs and tuition tax credits.
Before working for National PTA, Snowden served as the first federal policy manager for the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), where she developed proactive strategies to raise awareness among members of congress and the public on the detrimental impact of bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity in our nations’ schools. Snowden was also instrumental in the effort to retain a hate crimes prevention program in the legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. This program funded under the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program provides resources to educate our nation’s young people about the importance of respecting diversity and preventing hate based harassment and violence.
Snowden began her career in the office of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), where she was responsible for advising the Congresswoman on the array of legislative issues including small business, labor, Native American and women’s issues. Immediately following her congressional service, She worked in the political department of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay and lesbian civil rights organization in the United States.
Snowden earned her bachelor of arts degree in political science from Beloit College, in Beloit, Wis. A highlight of her undergraduate career was her candidacy for the Beloit City Council. Although the youngest candidate in the nine person field, Courtney garnered broad community support and was only five percent shy of winning a council seat.
Snowden is a sought after key note speaker and presenter. She currently sits on the Board of D.C. Black Pride.