In the wake of the tragic passing of long-time human rights advocate Senator Ted Kennedy, one wonders who will continue to carry the torch to protect our rights. Are we past the era where Kings marched or will new leadership emerge from the grassroots. I often wonder where our new trailblazers will come from. What names will history be emblazoned with? Who will fight for freedom and liberty? Who will protect the castle?
We are losing our leaders faster than we can gain them and on the surface it may seem like there are few who are stepping up. I humbly disagree with this notion. I think there are several fierce advocates who only need support from their peers and like-minded individuals. In history lessons that were most likely abridged, you learned that Martin Luther King Jr. did not single-handedly organize the black civil rights movement, nor did it start with Rosa Parks sitting on a bus; it took months and years of preparation, framing, and practice. Although Rev. King and Mrs. Parks were the faces of the movement, they were supported by a ginormous group of people who were willing to step up, knock on doors and join together in solidarity. Tom Hayden, in a quote from Freedom is an Endless Meeting, says of solidarity, "a group should strive for consensus because you need to count on other people putting their bodies on the line with you." Hayden, a coiner of the term "participatory democracy" also speaks of the great significance and coveting of solidarity and how it affects social movements.
The question is who will stand up. I believe the task rests with us all; Michael Crawford can't say we're leading the fight if there aren't people lining the streets, doing the work of the movement with him. Although Senator Kennedy's death is saddening - he was a fierce advocate for LGBT people and for all people - we must look at this as a symbol of what we should be doing in our own lives. If we are going to strengthen this movement, we must come to a consensus. We have to humble ourselves, map our priorities and frame our movement in a way that will promote success. Haphazard planning and exclusionary tactics will only serve our demise.
In addition to Mr. Crawford, there are others ready and willing to help LGBT citizens become more visible and rights more accessible; just recently The Advocate reported on the nation's first potential, openly gay, black, congressman, Anthony Woods. Want some local inspiration? Try looking up Phil Attey or Paquita Wiggins on Facebook. They were instrumental in the DC Council Vote and also organize political campaigns and participate in several non-profit programs.
We all have a stake in this. Whether we're fighting for local marriage equality, national marriage equality, hate crimes legislation, health care or otherwise, the actions we take determine the overall outcome. If we can organize to change the world by electing the nation's first black president, there should be nothing to stop us from organizing and making America the leader in equal rights. Yes, the hill may seem more steep, but we have to power to change minds. I don't know about you, but I'm strapping on my "Doc Martin" hiking boots and getting ready for the climb.