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From Dreams to Action: Economic Empowerment As A Social Justice Tool

By | 2014-10-08T09:00:00-04:00 October 8th, 2014|Opinions, Viewpoints|

During the week of Sept. 24-27, I attended the National Black Justice Coalition’s “Annual Black LGBT Leadership Summit: Out on the Hill” in Washington D.C. This year’s summit was themed, “Emancipation Campaign: What does freedom mean to you?” During the week, we explored economic empowerment, lobbied around our issues on Capitol Hill and attended a nation town hall about the Pan-African Progressive Movement for “LGBTI Dignity, Inclusion and Justice.” Some of us attended the Congressional Black Caucus’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference while others were invited to Black LGBT Leaders Day at the White House for a briefing about “HIV Among Gay and Bisexual Men.” Finally, there was a “State of the Black LGBT Community” where we discussed our role in the LGBT movement and in black America.
The week began with “Many Faces One Dream: LGBT Economic Empowerment Tour National Stakeholders Briefing” held at NASA Headquarters. Representatives from the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), Industrial Bank, TD Bank, Black Enterprise, Nation Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) sat on panels throughout the day that focused on various aspects of economic empowerment and financial literacy. To set the tone of the day, a message was given that “economic empowerment could be used as a way to help solve social issues.” With that statement is where I enter; the majority of the issues in society are financial-based issues, for example: poverty, hunger and homelessness. The mission of the SBA is to create jobs through assisting small businesses: “55% of all jobs are created by small business and 66% of all new jobs since the 1970s.” A base can move even issues like a lack of political voice and access to health care with the dollars behind their words. Data based on communities is taken to legislators and presented as buying power.
Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of NBJC, told us “equality does not equal equity.” Equity is often referred to in the social justice realm as acknowledging barriers to access and eliminating barriers to full participation of all people. During the briefing, we focused not only on access, but also on equity in terms of ownership. As we determine the LGBT agenda, we must realize that the right to marry has less weight in the lives of people who don’t have access to employment, health and housing. Beyond working, how are we building ownership in the community so that we may move from consumers to producers? Producers of jobs, producers of goods, and most importantly, producers of possibilities to people who look like us. As the program coordinator at KICK, I accept the charge of providing accessible information about financial literacy throughout our Careers & Employment quarter.
In moving our dreams to action, we must not only have the vision and determination, but also the discipline to do the work in between.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.