Notes from a bitch…house cleaning…

My most vivid memory of my maternal grandmother is of her cleaning her house. She was incredibly disciplined about cleaning and started each day the same way – she’d put on a pot of coffee, tidy the bedroom, dust and/or vacuum, scrub down the bathroom, iron and lay out her clothes for the day and then fix some grits for breakfast. I spent an entire summer with her and marveled at the ritual and the sense of calm she got from it.
As an adult I took up my Grandmere’s ways, although not the every day part. Weekends are still for organizing, cleaning and preparing for the week. Not only is it relaxing for me to put things in order, but it also helps me prepare for the week ahead.
House cleaning can also apply to organizations…and I’m not just talking about recycling projects and tidying up desks. ‘Tis house cleaning that I thought of when reading a recent post by the fantabulous Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend on the President’s remarks to the centennial conference of the NAACP. Spaulding has put the full text of President Obama’s speech to the NAACP up and her post specifically highlights Obama’s inclusion of discrimination against gay and lesbian people of color within the black community and in America at large.
Now, many of the comments to Spaulding’s post rightly critique President Obama for his lack of action on LGBT equality issues…but that’s not what I’m going to write about here and now. What I’m thinking of is the long overdue house cleaning within my community regarding LGBT people of color…our issues and struggles…and how Obama’s remarks may serve as a catalyst for change within the NAACP and the communities of color it represents.
I am not a gradualist nor am I known for my patience, but I am an activist who is well aware of how change happens. I am also the great granddaughter of a man who joined the NAACP when membership could cost a person their life…the granddaughter of people who joined the anti-lynching movement when that cause was anything but popular…and the daughter of Civil Rights activists who were two of the thousands who ventured into a violent South to register people to vote, organize the masses and help bring about the social pressure that resulted in some of this nation’s landmark civil rights legislation. The NAACP is a thread that weaves through the history of my family, so I feel particularly connected to the organization even as I feel frustrated with the pace of it’s LGBT outreach and advocacy.
Pam Spaulding’s post points out that the centennial event featured “a 96-page program full of essential sessions on the promises and challenges facing the black community in America today failed to include anything regarding the inequality black LGBTs face within and outside the community.” It should be noted that the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) announced the rollout of the NAACP’s LGBT Equality Task Force, a new partnership of the NAACP and NBJC, at the centennial convention. NBJC hosted a reception, co-sponsored a session on black LGBT film, distributed literature and NBJC’s CEO H. Alexander Robinson addressed the NAACP Board of Directors and Trustees at their annual Luncheon.
I applaud the new partnerships and initiatives…but clearly one of the first tasks of the new Task Force should be the inclusion of LGBT people of color and our issues on the NAACP’s official to-do list program of key issues and concerns.
Which brings me back to President Obama and his speech to the centennial gathering. The establishment of an LGBT Equality Task Force within the NAACP is a great development and having the President specifically mention gay and lesbian people of color during his speech was like a light clicking on in a room exposing a house in need of cleaning to it’s many residents.
Clearly we now need action, education and outreach to follow…both within the NAACP, communities of color and America as a whole. I now imagine myself putting to work the many skills my parents learned through NAACP trainings and passed on to me to bring about change within that organization. Now is not the time to look inside from the outside and discuss the mess on the floor. A door has been opened and the shades are up…this happening presents an opportunity to be a part of addressing problems and helping the NAACP realize the full potential of it’s mission to advocate for the advancement of all people of color.
Many thanks to Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend for her dedicated coverage of this story!

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