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Cleve Jones Joins Call for National LGBT March on Washington D.C.


Guestblogger CLEVE JONES: Exclusive

Cleve Jones is a longtime LGBT rights and AIDS activist and author. He conceived of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983. He worked as an intern in Harvey Milk's office in 1978.

Response To David Mixner's Call For A National March On Washington For LGBT Rights

One of the great pioneers of our movement, David Mixner, has issued a call for a national march on Washington, D.C. this fall. In his call to action, David powerfully articulates the frustration and impatience growing among supporters of LGBT equality throughout the United States.

Jones Over the past six months I have been contacted by many of the emerging new leaders of the grassroots movement created in the wake of Proposition 8, some eager to organize a march on Washington. Up until now, I have discouraged plans for a march, based mostly on my memories of the cost and difficulties of previous marches. I also had high hopes for our new President and the Democratic majority in Congress.

As I write this, we in California are still waiting for the State Supreme Court's decision on Proposition 8. Today is the 30th anniversary of the White Night Riots and tomorrow is Harvey Milk's birthday. Next month we will observe the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the birth of the modern LGBT Movement.

Across the country, a new generation of LGBT leaders is rising up, learning how to organize, speak out and fight back. These young activists reject compromise and delay; “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” described so aptly by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They are demanding nothing less than full equality under the law for LGBT people in all fifty states.

Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...

In my travels throughout California and around the country, I have been stunned and inspired by the determination and fearlessness of our young people. This is the generation that is going to win. This is the time to unite and push - as we have never pushed before - to achieve victory.

Sadly, at the very moment we are poised to reach our greatest goals, President Obama and the Democratic leaders of Congress have turned their backs, forgotten their promises and betrayed our trust. In recent weeks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated that repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act is “not a priority.” President Obama has ignored the appeals of brave young people serving in our military as they are drummed out of the services for being gay or lesbian. Indeed, Lt. Daniel Choi who recently “came out” publicly, was dismissed from the army, even though he is a highly valued fluent Arabic speaker and a veteran of the Iraq war.

Apologists for the Democrats counsel caution and patience. They speak of “political reality.” The time has come to change that reality.

I applaud and endorse David Mixner's call for a national march with the following four suggestions:

— Schedule the march for the weekend of October 10 - 11, 2009. This is National Coming Out Day and the 30th anniversary of the first national march. Several subsequent marches and AIDS Memorial Quilt displays have also occurred on those dates. The Columbus Day holiday provides a three-day weekend for many and the weather is generally favorable.

— Have one demand only: “Full Equality Now - full and equal protection under the law for LGBT people in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.” Let's stop settling for fractions of equality. Every compromise undermines our humanity. We must declare our equality.

— Organize the march from the grassroots with a decentralized internet-based campaign. Keep it simple; avoid bloated budgets and cumbersome structures. The primary objective must be to turn out the largest possible crowd. We don't need elaborate and expensive staging or fabulous dinner parties and concerts - we need a million or more people in the street demanding equality now.

— Encourage and enlist our allies in the broader progressive movement to build the march. Involve the labor movement, racial, ethnic and immigrant communities, progressive faith leaders, peace and social justice advocates and other supporters. LGBT people of all ages and races recognize the challenges facing our nation and our planet. We are eager to stand, as equals, with our fellow citizens in meeting these challenges.

We are on the verge of a new chapter in the history of our country and our movement. There is a bold new spirit and a powerful new resolve within our communities. Now is the time. We are equal.

(cleve jones image - bkusler on flickr)

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  1. How many times has Cleve Jones called for a march on Washington?

    Posted by: LA | May 21, 2009 11:54:15 AM

  2. Yes! The Gay Superbowl is actually that weekend in DC already - great timing!

    Posted by: Cyd | May 21, 2009 12:04:47 PM

  3. if you don't want it to be "some old, rich, white guy" then get the fuck involved. make it yours. make it ours.

    you have much more in common with that old, rich, white guy than you do with lots and lots of people.

    the marriage equality rally in nyc last sunday was not exactly huge, but it was moving. we are all so much stronger together.


    Posted by: tony | May 21, 2009 12:13:53 PM

  4. i'm all for it. :-)

    Posted by: liz templin | May 21, 2009 12:38:27 PM

  5. You can count on this black gay man to be there front and center. We deserve full equal rights under this law. We pay our full taxes to this government. We never pay a fraction of our taxes, so why should we accept only a fraction of our countries civil liberties. The time to act is NOW!!!

    Posted by: Timothy K | May 21, 2009 12:44:21 PM

  6. Having meet my partner at the last MOW in 1993 I fully support the need for this one focused on Marriage and DADT. My big question is why pick a weekend when Congress will be out of session. Columbus day weekend is a federal holiday and Congress usually shuts down for a few days in each direction. Why haste a trip?

    Posted by: DCS | May 21, 2009 12:55:11 PM

  7. I too marched on Washington when Clinton was elected -- then he dithered, let the ground shift under him, let the Repubs gather momentum, compromised his Election Promises, and then CLINTON FUCKED US OVER. That was Six-frickin-teen years ago! Obama is dithering in the same direction. His "It's a State issue" is bullshit that denigrates the federal history of Civil Rights in the U.S. Full Equality Now.

    Posted by: Strepsi | May 21, 2009 12:59:37 PM

  8. I'm in...NCOD is my birthday!

    Of course, The Messiah(tm) will need enough notice to plan to be out of town that weekend -- just like Slick Willie did for us in '94. Maybe we'll get a 'personalized' video address again:

    "My fellow [insert placard saying 'Homosexual'] Americans, I feel your pain..."

    Posted by: BradK | May 21, 2009 1:44:34 PM

  9. Im all in!! Keep us updated, start a facebook group, lets get this thing going!!

    Posted by: Drewboo | May 21, 2009 1:55:46 PM

  10. It appears that most of the commenters (and avid marchers!) so far are gay men, which is nice. As a trans guy, who identifies as gay, I want to march too. Mr. Jones says a national LGBT March - if he means actual trans folk, and not the quiet, sanitized version, I'm in.

    Posted by: Rafe | May 21, 2009 1:57:13 PM

  11. We don't have the luxury of time! Let's go!

    Posted by: Peter Crawford | May 21, 2009 1:58:41 PM

  12. I think it makes total sense: 30th anniversary of White Nights, 40th Anniversary of Stonewall, Washington's continued lack of support, and a new generation to take part in demanding equality of every kind. And Coming Out Day/Columbus Day weekend is the perfect timing. It's time to discover the NEW America folks. let's stick together and stand as ONE. The march for EQUALITY - period. Not for marriage only....all together now!

    Posted by: RitchieLA | May 21, 2009 2:19:32 PM

  13. I will be there!

    Posted by: Miles Woken | May 21, 2009 2:26:15 PM

  14. YES, I will so be there! And then I can go back to the Smithsonian while in town, I do so love it. Let's go!

    Posted by: SebastianQ | May 21, 2009 2:26:41 PM

  15. I have been to all four National LGBT MOW's (it's easy, I live there) and I don't expect to see another. Mostly because the last one was such a debacle: both politically ( and financially ( Of course, I lot of people seem to think that you can just put a facebook notice up and have a big event. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps The Task Force will sponsor the event. I hope so. Then we can trash them the way they trashed HRC over the Millenium March.

    Posted by: Charlie | May 21, 2009 2:48:50 PM

  16. civil disobedience, protesting in front of Lyndsey Graham's house, tying up the morning & evening rush hour commute.
    I hope I read plans for that & not some quaint walk-on-the-Mall that self-important gas bag Mixner proposes.

    Posted by: mike shackleford | May 21, 2009 3:22:33 PM

  17. I volunteered when they showed the AIDS quilt in the 90s for 3 days..that was an event I will never forget!

    OK....WHAT HOTEL TO STAY AT??? suggestions please...near everything and not $1000 /night plz!

    I WILL BE THERE!!!!!!!..we are OVERDUE for a march!


    Posted by: tony | May 21, 2009 3:24:21 PM

  18. Charlie, I think the 93 march was so memorable because it was truly appropriate at the time. We just came out of Reagun and Bush I's abhorent treatment of the AIDS epidemic and fresh faced Clinton came in. The Millenium March was more of a pride march without a real reason (anger and frustration) behind it. After prop8 and Obama's flipping on DOMA, DADT and other promises I think the majority of gay people and our supporters are fired up enough to make this one meaningful.

    Posted by: Jersey | May 21, 2009 4:05:23 PM

  19. Count me in! I miss those days of actual effort. I've been sitting here on the sidelines for too long and I'm begging for a fight! All of the cowards can sit and wait for their massa to throw them an ineffective table scrap or two.

    Posted by: Marc | May 21, 2009 4:55:48 PM

  20. I remember in 87 and 93 they had buses that left from Pittsburgh to take people down to DC (although I lived in Atlanta for the 93 one). I guess that would have been set up by the local groups? Seems to me checking with local groups and seeing who would speak at the march should start soon. Anyone have an in with Desmond Tutu?

    Posted by: Jersey | May 21, 2009 5:06:50 PM

  21. Absolutely lets do it!

    Please keep this story rotating to the front page or give it a banner of its own so everyone reads it!

    Posted by: mr. Kristofer | May 21, 2009 5:54:41 PM

  22. Cleve Jones had this very ambitious "Seven Weeks to Equality" campaign and website right after Prop 8...that he apparently abandoned about 2 days after it debuted. (Am I wrong?) I found it personally immensely frustrating and disappointing.

    To Cleve: You've GOT to follow through, or you lose your cred. Not following through on the "Seven Weeks to Equality" website is like Obama not keeping his promises.

    To all: If there is to be march or marches, IMPACT has to come first. That is, what does or would it actually accomplish? What is or may be reasonably expected to be the *return on investment*?

    We need to be smarter. Ever smarter. Smarter and smarter and smarter. We need to be as smart as, say, the extremely smart young woman who started

    I think every single one-city, national LGBT march that has ever happened has had essentially no impact on policy. They were fun, were personally affirming, and were a way to meet people, but their policy, or cultural, impact was miniscule.

    If we wish to embarrass Obama into keeping his promises, I am not sure a 1993-style, old-school March on Washington is going to do it. Such a thing could, in fact, be a huge waste of resources.

    This is 2009. We have different, and better, resources available. We also has lots more people on our side now.

    A blog contributor also made a related point that it may well be very smart to re-conceive the mission of pride festivals that are held every year in various cities around the country. They can continue to be just for fun, for meeting people, and for commerce. But regarding a desired political/cultural/social-change function, I think we need to get out of a 1990s mentality there.

    By the way, this very blog, which is OUTSTANDING, could be a *major* force in getting Obama to keep his promises (and fulfilling The Dallas Principles). Cleve and Andy T., if you haven't met for a chat, you definitely should.

    Posted by: We need to be smarter | May 21, 2009 5:54:51 PM

  23. I'm in. I'd been waiting for this moment for so long. Cleve, like you said after the Oscars on the Rachel Maddow show, it's time to abandon the failed state-by-state strategy and embrace a national one. We need to pursue a legislative agenda on a national scale and this will bring visibility and show our strength in numbers. The Gays United Network is on board all the way, baby!

    Posted by: Nakhone Keodara | May 21, 2009 6:22:54 PM

  24. What does a march in DC actually accomplish?
    I am not for it unless we all sit in front of the capitol and refuse to move until we get some action from congress. It would be much more effective to have simultaneous demonstrations in every major city in the country on a regular basis. Use Skype to broadcast speeches to everyone. That way a lot more people can participate and it doesn't cost so much in time or money like traveling to a distant city.

    Posted by: Jeffrey | May 21, 2009 6:25:02 PM

  25. There is no need to abandon a state by state approach but why is everyone so limited. Why on earth can't there be both a weekendlong march on the capitol to pressure federal changes and state by state activism as well as pressure from the likes of Rachel Maddow, Olberman, Colbert and Stewart? These things are not mutually exclusive.

    Posted by: Jersey | May 21, 2009 6:37:31 PM

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