Back in July when the Hungry4Equality action was announced by the Michigan Community Center Network, I knew immediately I wanted to participate. I signed on as soon as the press conference was over. For 100 days leading up to Election Day – Nov. 6 – people have been volunteering to fast for 24 hours, hoping to call attention to the lack of basic protections and rights LGBT folks are denied in our state by both ignorant and heinous politicians and our state constitution.
The project has a voter education and get-out-the-vote component and is bringing awareness to the public about six politicians in particular, who have attacked LGBT citizens from their elected positions in Lansing and as Mayor of Troy.
The strike is taking place at Affirmations Community Center where strikers spend 24 hours essentially in the window on Nine Mile in Ferndale. When I arrived for my turn last Friday, I already knew this would be very important for me. What impressed me throughout the day was just how much it had also impacted the other strikers that preceded me. Many folks visited and some would say, “Hi, I’m 16,” “Hi, I’m 53.” I now know that I will always be number 61. One in a chain of 100 people determined to make a statement, in the tradition of peaceful protest, about the conditions LGBT people are subjected to due to unjust laws and ignorance.
Earlier in the month some friends asked me why I would choose to do this? Hadn’t I done enough through my work with BTL? What difference would it make?
Frankly, I felt compelled to do something – take some action connected to my community – especially as the election grows close. Perhaps it’s because of the many stories I learn about on a regular basis, stories that reinforce how unjust the situation is for so many gay and transgender Michiganders, that this strike made sense at a core level.
Every time a phone call comes in asking me what someone can do about being fired for being gay or being unable to have their partnerships acknowledged or adopt their child, I bank a little more anger, a little more determination to fight back. Hungry4Equality offered a small way to take a stand and reconnect with community members to raise awareness.
Making a conscious choice to give up something for a day actually provided a great opportunity for me to get rid of the isolation and make the connection that is sometimes missing in my work. A visit from a stranger, who had asked what I was doing, prompted me to reflect on an earlier time when “consciousness raising” opened a floodgate of change. I remembered the roots of the modern U.S. feminist movement and “gay lib.” A time when small groups of women, meeting in living rooms across the country in the 1960s, ignited a movement that has changed the world forever. Those groups also ignited the first coming out gatherings that were a huge piece of the early gay rights movement.
It was amazing to go back 40 years and remember how I was connected, and how important the basics always are in organizing.
It reminded me that the thing that still matters most is the human connection. When our lobbyists need people to show up, it is these kinds of events that can motivate and reinforce engagement.
I am proud to be connected to a number that is one of 100 numbers. And I am proud to be a part of a community effort that I hope re-elects President Obama and changes the Michigan Supreme Court so gay and transgender people are finally treated equally as we move forward in the next decade.
This strike isn’t just symbolic; it is what this community center was built for. Sometimes in this fast-paced, high-tech, news driven digital headline world (which seems so important now but not in 10 minutes), pausing is the solution, and the common ground that connection offers is so healing and full of possibility.
Watching the folks walking by the window of the community center, and seeing them read the signage, look in, wave, offer a thumbs-up – I know there will be a time when full equality will be the law of the land.a