From NDO to MLK – Communities Marching for Equality

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sam-sanchez2010It was a glorious day. The sun shone bright, the temperature was mild and it seemed like all of San Antonio had shown up for the 20th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. March. People were in a great mood. Photos of the event which flooded the internet gave the impression the city was engaged in a great group hug.

One photo published on the Facebook page of KSAT-TV drew a lot of attention. It is an aerial shot of the march showing some of the tens of thousands who walked the route. The picture is memorable because there among the throngs, so large it is instantly visible from the air, is the Rainbow flag carried by activists.

It is a powerful image, one that is a tribute to the LGBT community’s integration into the larger community. However, not everyone on Facebook was happy to see the presence of a gay symbol at the event.

LGBT community supporters carry a large rainbow flag during the 2014 MLK Day march. David Jordan Cisneros of GetEqual Texas.

LGBT community supporters carry a large rainbow flag during the 2014 MLK Day march. David Jordan Cisneros of GetEqual Texas.

“Why are the gays & lesbians throwing their pride??? Today is NOT a day for that. I’m so sick of this, nothing against them but now they feel they can do this all the time,” read one disgruntled comment.

“Of course the homosexuals would be there. Shame!” wrote one black lady whose Facebook profile suggests she’s a devout churchgoer. “Why are they marching in a march that was based on equality and peace between whites and blacks?!”

Another comment echoed what scores of others were inferring: “MLK knew what the Bible said about homosexuality and he knew what it didn’t say about race. He fought for racial equality, not for the freedom to sin with impunity. Those who believe otherwise are ignorant of MLK and his God.”

A Flag Too Large?

The photo showing the half-block-long Rainbow flag unfurled at the MLK march might not have happened if not for the persistence of David Jordan Cisneros of GetEqual Texas.

LGBT community supporters carry a large rainbow flag during the 2014 MLK Day march. David Jordan Cisneros of GetEqual Texas.

LGBT community supporters carry a large rainbow flag during the 2014 MLK Day march. David Jordan Cisneros of GetEqual Texas.

“Roughly ten minutes after opening the flag, an MLK march marshal approached Ivan Juarez and told him it needed to be put away. That’s when I was called over. The marshal repeated himself when I asked why since it’s never been a problem in previous years,” Cisneros told QSanAntonio.

“The marshal said the flag was too large and would break up the parade too much, that it took up too much space,'” says Cisneros. “I asked him how this flag could affect the flow over 100,000-plus people and to show me the rule banning flags past a certain size. As he made a phone call to someone else, I told him not to make me sing ‘we shall not be moved.’ Then (he) walked away.”

Despite the hitch with the flag, Cisneros says the acceptance of the LGBT community at this year’s march was an improvement over his experience last year.

“The reception from others marching in the crowd and onlookers was much more positive than last year. I recall a group that walked along side us last year and as we chanted, ‘What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!’ They’d shout: ‘Never!’ This year, I saw young and old clapping, cheering us on, and even chanting with us.”

The Ivy Taylor Effect

District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor

District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor

In early January, QSanAntonio received an email from a reader who was unhappy that the publication’s web site had included the MLK march on its calendar of events.

Why was a gay publication promoting this march after Councilwoman Ivy Taylor voted against the nondiscrimination ordinance, the reader asked. Didn’t we know that Taylor is Honorary Chair of the city’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission? Didn’t we realize she betrayed us? Shouldn’t we be boycotting her event?

Taylor’s relationship with the LGBT community was already fragile prior to her vote on the NDO. In 2011, she sought the endorsement of the Stonewall Democrats but did not get it.

At the time, the San Antonio Current wrote:

“Perhaps what was most surprising about the day’s discussion was that a sitting council member like Ivy Taylor would expose herself as being so uncomfortable about LGBT issues. In response to a candidate’s survey, Taylor said that if she were endorsed by Stonewall she would not carry that endorsement on her website or campaign literature. ‘Many in our area would look at that as something that would be divisive,’ Taylor told the group.”

Last September, just minutes before the vote on the nondiscrimination ordinance, Taylor explained to the standing-room crowd in the city council chamber why she would not support the measure.

“My main concern has been that the passage of this ordinance may cause some individuals to have to choose between the law and their faith,” she said.

“As a person whose faith guides many decisions, I can understand that perspective. I also don’t think there can be agreement on what constitutes ‘discrimination’ and I don’t believe that people of faith should be forced to promote that which is in conflict with their basic moral values … I would not be able to sleep at night if I voted yes. It’s not just about me, it’s my job to represent my constituents.”

“I have sacrificed a lot to serve in this role on city council, but I will not sacrifice my core values and beliefs for political gain or to be in alignment with a particular platform,” Taylor added.

Skin versus Sin

There’s a slogan used in black communities among those who do not support the comparison of the LGBT fight for equal rights with the struggle for racial equality. The saying goes something like this: “Don’t compare my skin with your sin.”

Standing on the steps of City Hall last August, black pastor Charles Flowers, one of the main opponents of the nondiscrimination ordinance, reaffirmed this notion to his compatriots. “While we love the (LGBT) people involved, we cannot allow their agenda to stain the fabric, the tapestry, of the civil rights movement,” he said.

Flowers told the crowd that Jim Crow laws, lynching and slavery were not shared experiences with the LGBT community. He said lifestyle choices, not genetics, were the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Where Paths Converge

“Poor Ivy Taylor, caught between being politically correct and her church teachings,” wrote Brenda Johnson last summer on Randy Bear’s Concerned Citizens blog in an essay titled “Black Folk, the Church and LGBT Issues.”

“So many cannot understand why African-Americans cannot see the struggle for LGBT civil rights as the same as their own. To me the answer is as simple as it is complex: the church was front and center in the Negro struggle for civil rights in the 60’s; and it is front and center for many in African-American activism against LGBT civil rights now,” Johnson explained.

Her response to those who would use the bible to deny LGBT rights: “I suggest they heed Jesus’ own words on the separation of church and state: ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But now (or ‘as it is’) my kingdom is not from the world.'”

Civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who was a gay man, with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who was a gay man, with Martin Luther King, Jr. Public domain photo.

Johnson also recalled Bayard Rustin, the gay black man who was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“(Rustin) was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, fired from important leadership positions, and ultimately cheated from his prominence in civil rights movement history because he was gay . . . It’s time to honor Bayard Rustin as the architect for civil rights he was and support the LGBT community in their struggle for equal protection under the law.”

 

This article has been republished with permission from QSanAntonio.com.

Sam Sanchez is publisher and writer of QSanAntonio.com, an online source for LGBT news in San Antonio. After graduating from St. Mary’s University in 1975, he’s lived in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, while pursuing careers in publishing and marketing communications. He came home to San Antonio in 2006. Contact Sam via email or follow QSanAntonio by liking their page on Facebook.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “From NDO to MLK – Communities Marching for Equality

  1. This article brings up many points. Perhaps they can be summarized with Dr. King’s statement: “No one is free until we are all free.”
    SAMA (SA Museum of Art) recently hosted a series of events for Dreamweek. I was fortunate to attend two films at SAMA. The first was about the case of Richard & Mildred Loving, the mixed-race couple who were married in Wash DC then arrested in their bed in their home in Virginia afterwards for breaking the miscegenation law in place at the time. I mention this because Mildred wrote in 2007 on the 40th anniversation of the Loving v. Virginia victory (one year before her death) a manifesto on marriage, stating, “I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.” (Mildred Loving’s entire statement is here: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/page/-/files/pdfs/mildred_loving-statement.pdf )
    The next film I saw at SAMA was about the 1961 Freedom Rides. It was followed by a panel of four of the actual Freedom Riders. It was a privilege to be in the same room with those Freedom riders and to hear their stories. When the panel concluded, one of the Freedom Riders asked the audience to join hands and sing “We Shall Overcome.” I think it had been decades since I sung or heard that wondrous song. As you can imagine, it was a powerfully moving experience. On the way out, I spoke with one of the Freedom Riders, a women who lives here in SA, and told her we need to hear “that song” more often these days. She agreed. There are many things that we shall overcome one day. And that will happen when we all honor each other’s struggles as our collective struggle.

  2. It’s understandable. The movement was to end racial segregation. The movements followers were black, some were Latino and the majority were religious. Regardless of the arguments involved I can see where some people would be offended by the obvious infiltration of the group by those they can only see as outsiders.

    The LBGT movement has to be strategic here if they really want acceptance. By stretching out a flag that wasn’t approved by the organizers you’re pretty much saying that you can do whatever you want. You appear to be taking it over instead of trying to be a part it. It’s childish to threaten that you’ll chant if you don’t get your way.

    If this is what the fight for equality looks like this it is definitely going to be a slow and painful road.

    • “Those they can only see as outsiders.”

      I would have to respectfully disagree, David. The LGBT community is far from “outside” the contemporary civil rights struggles of the U.S./the world. It’s strange that when an LGBT group joins in, it’s called “infiltrating.” What of all the religious groups, corporations, women’s rights organizations, etc. — are they “infiltrating” too? Nope. Just participating in something larger than themselves, something that aligns with their core beliefs.

      Did every flag and sign have to be approved by organizers? (Not being sarcastic, I’m wondering if there is a process.)

      Regardless, the large flag was hardly “taking it over” — Each and every person, of more than 170,000 people, had/has a unique reason for marching on MLK Day. They are not secret agendas. They are humans.

  3. Iris, thank you for your astutely cogent analysis of the accusation of gay people as “intruders” and “outsiders.” You have clearly identified the issues and provided clarity. Is demanding to fold up your gay flag any different from demanding you sit in the back of the bus or not sit at the lunch counter? An old civil rights movement “trick” when doubting a group’s intentions is to imagine a different group doing the same thing and see if the accusations hold up. E.g., if a bunch of white people from a synogague shows up supportively for an MLK parade, are they intruding? A Muslim group? An atheist group? Such groups could potentially offend the “religious” people there but ain’t we all in this together? (Let me repeat again what Dr. King said: “No one is free until we are all free.”) When a group of supporters from the sherriff’s dept. marches in gay lib parade (as happens in many cities), are they infiltrating? I remember seeing a group of chiropractors demonstrating in favor of gay teachers at a demonstration 20 years ago (Yes, it was in California. So what?). What the heck were they trying to pull off, I wonder? Answer: Nothing! What is it that people are so afraid (yes, afraid) of by having supportive gay people on their side? Who was it who said, “Judge not…”? I mean long before Pope Francis said it. And if a big whoppin’ flag bothers you, well that may say more about you than the folks carrying it. (True, my statements could be used in support of, say, a Nazi group or folks in KKK garb marching in MLK parade. I’ll leave that one for the constitution-wavres to address.)

    • Cheers, John.

      I think the difference is that all the people/groups marching have an common mission (in some form, called many things) … goodwill, peace, equality, etc. Hate groups would be obviously unwelcome as they have the opposite mission. Sure they could march if they wanted to start a fight (verbal or physical) and get attention – as it is their right – but they are the ones that could be accurately called “intruders.”

      At any rate, it was a fantastic day in my book.

  4. Iris, for myself as well, I can say it was a fantastic day! This was only the second time that I had marched to celebrate, recognize and honor Dr. Martin Luther King and his message. It was also the second time that I stood next to (by chance) the LGBT group and walk next to the awesome, rainbow Flag that was carried by many on that beautiful day.
    Dreamweek reminds all of us to celebrate and encourage: “Equality, Diversity and Tolerance” as Shokare Nakpodia said this past week. “Freedom is not about one civil rights group but it’s about all of our civil rights for everyone.”- Donna Payne. Check out the link to the March in Washington DC where Martin Luther King III, one of the lead organizers of the 50th Anniversary March on Washington; U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous; and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights President Wade Henderson were among those expressing the theme that LGBT rights are part of the boarder civil rights movement. Link: http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/08/25/march-washington-speakers-gay-straight-call-lgbt-equality/ .

  5. Sorry I didn’t intend on implying – or allude to the idea – that it was an intrusion, that they are infiltrating the group or that the LBGT people are outsiders. I meant that (after speaking with some of the marchers and looking at previous marches) it’s seen as a takeover. I won’t quote them here.

    I may be wrong and I may be a tad pessimistic but this event is filled with a lot of self serving people. Yes, very Human!

    References –

    “One delegation of about 10 social justice organizations marched to protest what they called a takeover of the march by large corporations and politicians — “that’s not what Dr. King’s dream was about,” said Jennifer Falcon with GetEqual Texas, which advocates for same-sex marriage.” – MySA.com

    “Clipboards in hand, volunteers with Battleground Texas, a pro-Democratic Party group, recruited people to register to vote, snagging Mikala Gatewood for this step as her father, Reginald, looked on.” – MySA.com

    “The event also has evolved into something of a First Amendment free-for-all, a constantly moving soapbox for a variety of agendas and viewpoints. Participants represented City Council candidates, starkly opposing views of marriage equality, various strands of environmentalism, anti-abortion advocacy and the anti-politics of Occupy San Antonio.” – MySA

    http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2014/01/20/san-antonio-celebrates-martin-luther-king-day-like-no-other-city/

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Organizers-count-175-000-for-San-Antonio-s-MLK-5159125.php

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/MLK-Day-march-showcases-S-A-diversity-4211966.php

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