Top notch organizer Cleve Jones announced a March on Washington to take place October 11 of this year at the Lincoln Memorial. While speaking at a Gay Pride event in Salt Lake City, Utah, he let the Mormons know in their own backyard that thousands will be coming to the nation's capital in October. Making his mark as a young man in the halcyon days with Harvey Milk, Jones is probably known best for bringing big projects to a completion such as his remarkable work in founding and creating the AIDS Quilt. In this primary stage organizing effort, he is joined by Robin McGeehee, Torie Osborn, Corey Johnson and many other talented people. The plans are in the infancy stages and many details have to be ironed out.
Others have called for a march in addition to Jones and the groups are hopefully working out the details so everyone is on the same page - and stage. As you know, this site has been a strong supporter of such an effort and continues to be even more excited given the leadership of people like Jones and McGeehee. Although among more traditional organizations and longtime activists there has been doubt about the wisdom of a march, the young and many grassroots activists have shown amazing enthusiasm for it. Time will tell whether Jones has tapped into the right spirit or if the people who want to continue with more traditional approaches will prevail. My guess is that this country, straight and gay, is ready to march and demand all of our rights now.
What appeals to me is that the team led by Jones has a very unique and new approach to creating and organizing the march. They will employ modern technology to allow locals to meet each other by congressional districts instead of top-down organizing. Every congressional district in the country will have a self-created committee that will enable activists to continue to work together after the march. This might not seem like a big deal in New York or California but in Oklahoma, North Dakota and other more remote places this is a very big deal. The locals then can decide after the march what they think should be their next steps!
Also love that Jones has adopted the theme similar to the Dallas Principles of "FULL Equality NOW!" We no longer have to meet in long drawn-out meetings that end merely in assembling an interminable laundry list of choices and grievances. We all know what we want - we want full and inclusive equality now. That is no mystery. No one should be left behind; no right, benefit or protection should be denied and everyone's full dignity and freedom should be guaranteed. None of that is to be negotiated.
In addition, Jones is aiming for a low cost march that will have full transparency. Marches in the past have had their finances questioned and have had huge expenditures for programming and staging. This time, in the name of transparency, the expenditures will be disclosed every day on the Internet so they can be held accountable by the community.
It has been sixteen years since the last march and clearly a lot has changed. Thousands and thousands of young people have joined the movement. Local committees have sprung up in areas where none existed before. Every state has joined the battle for full marriage equality. While not involved with this one, I have helped organized successful marches on a number of occasions and even had one big failure. One thing I can say with absolute certainty over my fifty years of activism, is that every single time there has been a successful march on Washington, the community left stronger, more empowered, and with a greater national network of activists. There is simply no question in my mind about that fact...none.
The major concern that I have seen expressed so far about a March on Washington is that somehow it will make the work we are currently doing more difficult by taking people's time and resources away from local organizing. First of all, believe it or not, this community is capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. In comparison, when Dr. King marched in 1963, there were massive protests all over the country, some of them led by SCCC and some by other organizations. Many people were filling the jails. Many activists were demonstrating locally. Many created black and white alliances at the local level. However, does anyone believe that the 1963 March on Washington hurt those efforts by draining energy and attention from their work at the local level? I don't think so.
Finally, I believe it is time to use this vehicle to have our straight brothers and sisters march by our side in full solidarity. I would urge everyone who attends to bring at least one straight friend or family member to make them feel part of a larger civil rights movement. I also strongly urge you give these bright young organizers a chance to show their stuff, to support this effort with the spirit it is intended and to go to www.nationalequalitymarch.com and sign up. If you need immediate attention or support, contact Robin McGeehee at meetinthemiddle4equality.com
President Obama and the Congress need to know that we will not and cannot wait any longer. Join tens of thousands of others the Lincoln Memorial on October 11, 2009.