I’ve been reflecting on steps forward and setbacks, the ebb and flow of actions and impact. We are impatient when we see injustice, and at the same time steadfast and tenacious about social justice issues. I understand both sides and experience both sets of emotions within myself.
Watching the news this week as the President signed the Respect for Marriage Act was a bit surreal to be honest. Not because it wasn’t important to me as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, but because as a woman of color, and a child of an interracial marriage, seeing this bill also protect interracial marriage impacted me emotionally. Fifty-five years after the Supreme Court decision prohibited states from banning interracial marriage (Loving v Virginia), our Congress has passed a law to protect people like me, my parents, and my children. Fifty-five years. How could I not realize that there was no law on the books protecting interracial marriage?
We are on a long journey, and I hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice say, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I believe it, and some days are harder than others to be patient.
At the 1993 march, being in the nation’s capital with a million people from the LGBTQIA+ community was indescribable. It wasn’t just the march – it was being in restaurants, on the metro, in museums and parks; we were everywhere and it was the norm, not the exception. We saw each other and saw ourselves in each other’s eyes. It has been 29 years since that march, yet I still feel the memories as part of one million people seeking one thing – to be seen and have the same legal rights as others. The Respect for Marriage Act is profound, yet, I’m uneasy that interracial marriage was included in the bill so quietly – not talked about by the media during the congressional debate or during the signing ceremony.
On April 25, 1993 I joined the “March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation” and the bracelet I wore still sits on a table. The National Park Service estimated that more than one million marchers were present. This has been on my mind because of our recent trip to Phoenix with colleagues for Facing Race, a conference held for the first time since 2018 by Race Forward. Being in community with thousands of people who share something in common is really powerful, and several people (staff and partners) have commented on it to me since our return to the Northwest – it was amazing to be surrounded by people of color.
So many of us are at intersections in our lives; I hope you can spend some time thinking on that for yourselves, and the next time we meet in person. I am a descendent of two amazing and loving families who put me where I am today – originally from Africa, France, Panama and more. My family lived in poverty, but I didn’t realize it until I got my first job after college, when I earned more than my father did when he retired after 33 years working for the federal government. There is no single word or affinity group that would encompass the whole of who I am. I imagine that is true for so many of us.
As North Sound ACH sees its future, we are having conversations that range from radical imagination to radical love. Without acknowledging past harm we cannot get to ways of healing, and we believe we can get there if belonging (radical love) is included in our framework. I imagine it sounds kind of out there, but if we believe we are connected and interdependent on each other, what else could bind us but love?
That is the magic in the approach we’re taking, and yet it isn’t radical or magical at all. We will create new structures, ready to take the place of current structures that keep community members from thriving. One of our recent panelists asked, “What will be in place the day after we dismantle structures that perpetuate systemic racism?” As I think about the work of 2023 and beyond, I can’t think of a better question to kick us off in the new year. I am grateful to the amazing team I’m honored to work with, a fantastic board that leaves room for our work, and partners who serve and care for community members every day. Thank you for all you do.
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