At a Black Lives Matter Rally July 13, Jasmine Richards, one of the activists gathered outside of the Los Angeles Police Department’s downtown headquarters, said LGBT organizations are not doing enough to support the movement for black lives.
“The LGBT community, they know we are the front lines of this movement, so that’s why we are seeing so many queer folks out here, but we need the queer organizations — we need them to speak out and stand out with us,” Richards, of Pasadena, Calif.’s Black Lives Matter chapter, told The Advocate. Richards was arrested in June on a charge that was until recently known as “felony lynching” for her attempt to intervene in what she and other activists believed was the unjust arrest of a black woman last year.
In the wake of the recent shootings of two black men by police — Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement of solidarity. “We are horrified and profoundly saddened by the recent murders of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, at the hands of police in Baton Rouge and near Minneapolis,” wrote Chad Griffin, the HRC president. “Today, as we grieve and mourn, we are also united in demanding solutions to stop the tragic epidemic of police-involved deaths.”
Ashley Williams, a queer activist and independent organizer for the movement for black lives, told The Advocate that what groups like the HRC must do to assist the movement is to “use their privilege and money to support the work of BLM, whose work centers the most marginalized folks in our communities — the black, the differently abled, the neuro-divergent, the trans.”
“For us in North Carolina, we believe that [assistance] literally looks like paying us to do the work we’ve been doing instead of using programming money to reinvent the wheel and hire white people to do work that we do well, in our own communities,” said Williams, who interrupted Hillary Clinton at a private fundraiser in February in South Carolina to confront the Democratic presidential candidate over what she meant when she used the term “superpredators” in a 1996 speech.
Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC senior vice president for programs, research, and training, said the organization is “very open and eager to ideas of concrete ways that we can plug in.”
“It matters to raise our voices and to say [Black Lives Matter] and to keep saying it until its true in our criminal justice system, in our schools, and in our streets,” Maxwell said. “It’s a necessary thing; I’m not suggesting that it’s sufficient, but it’s a necessary thing.”
The National LGBTQ Task Force honored Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, at its Creating Change conference in 2015 with the Empress I Jose Sarria Award for Uncommon Leadership for their roles in creating and launching the movement. Two of the founders — Cullors and Garza — are queer.
In a statement to The Advocate, Rodney McKenzie Jr., director of the Academy for Leadership and Action at the Task Force, said the group’s work is “intented to support key components of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, such as radically reforming the criminal justice system from one that is designed to persecute & punish Black people to one that is based on the principle that Black lives really do matter.”
The group is also focused on advocating for legislation that “aims at ending racial profiling and that reinstates critical components of the Voting Rights Acts so that Black people can fully participate in democracy.”
Task Force officials told the Advocate that it is in conversation with members of the Black Lives Matter movement to help assist the efforts of the movement on a local level.
Part of the discord between the movement for black lives and LGBT organizations is due to the fact that many of the latter have a broad, national focus, Williams said, whereas groups like Black Lives Matter are focused on local issues.
“Individuals know what they need in their own communities. HRC could apply the same stuff to national projects,” Williams said. “Ask more questions and support organizations already fighting.”
Richards is ready for LGBT organizations to join the movement for black lives: “My plea to gay rights organizations is to step up and step out because our LGBT community is here and we’re woke and we’re live and we’re unapologetically black.”