‘Radical Minds’ Meet at ‘Secret’ Tennessee LGBT Activists Retreat

We had one thing on our agenda: Discuss ways to build a national network of activists to demand full equality now. We believe that it is time to escalate our demands through coordinated nationwide nonviolent direct action, and we hope to build a broad base of organizers to work with all who struggle for justice and dignity in their lives.

We know that many people across the country feel the same way, and that many have been actively working within their own communities for a long time. The Highlander Center can comfortably accommodate about 35 people, and we broke those limits because we wanted more people to participate in the conversation. We had no secrets, only limited space and resources, and a very short time to organize this retreat. We wish we could have invited thousands.

We want to work with everyone to help inspire our community to bold action. We want to be what Kate Bornstein described as "an unpredictable outspoken force," and we want everyone at the table – no matter the sex, gender, race, class, look, age, ability, religion, family status, citizenship, class, and everything in between. We want to make the White House and Congress take notice. And we want everyone who stands in the way of full equality to be held accountable and wonder what just hit them.

We wish every voice could have been present at the Highlander Center this week, but that was neither a beginning or an end to the conversation. If you want to be involved, or if you have something to share, please let us know. You can email us at kip@neworganizing.com. Also, if you're coming to Creating Change in Dallas next week, we'd love to get together to talk in person.

With hope and love,
Robin McGehee and Kip Williams

So there you go. Here's Williams' post on Facebook.


  1. Rob G. says

    Building on the phenomenal success of the March last year…

    “Some have worked on national LGBTQ issues, such as ACT-UP, Equality Across America and Join the Impact; some were connected to organizations outside of LGBTQ rights, such as PETA, Presente.org, Unite Here, Colorofchange.org, Greenpeace, etc.”

    In other words, the heads of a variety of failed initiatives coupled with leaders who washed out of successful grassroots organizations.

    The timing is impeccable: the country moves decidedly to the center so a faction of our community lurches as far as possible to the left.

    Remember all the hoopla about Cleve Jones which led nowhere except to an abandoned web site and two failed campaigns?

    Well, here we go again.

  2. says

    There is nothing “radical” about group leaders meeting in secret and only inviting who they want to make plans for ewveryone which will probably get bogged down in various committess and boards that will be set up. Just the same ole rhetoric from supposed activist who want to feel important.

    If they REALLY wanted to do something radical the 45 of them would have met in DC and walked to whe White House and hancuffed themseleves to the fence and demanded Equal Rights.

  3. B says

    Wow, I had often heard stories and rumors about the Highlanders when I was growing up in a nearby town but was never able to confirm any those rumors and the fence, driveway gate, and quarter-of-a-mile driveway were pretty ominous. I went by this place everyday on my way to high school. Cool to hear my native neck of the woods still have a liberal element.

  4. Chris says

    Rob G hits the nail on the head. Despite the chest pounding and high fiving still going on with all those involved with the National March, despite the continued battle cry of “we made a difference” from the same folks, as well as the voices from all these other listed orgs, what has been accomplished? The march was stimulating, but nothing more. Do we now have to go through another year of email BS about how this group is going to do something “daring”, like holding another rally?

    WOLF has it right as well, radical would have been handcuffing yourself to the fence at the White House. I don’t foresee anything “daring” or “direct action” coming from these folks. For all their “progressiveness”, they refused to let certain people speak at the National March simply because they refused to follow a prescribed script. Sounds kind of “conservative”, doesn’t it?

    They’re back “networking ideas” to follow the same path and ideology which has failed miserably, while we watch LGBT rights crumble all around us. Generally, when you’re losing, which this group has become good at, you CHANGE your strategy, you let others take charge, you don’t drink tea in the mountains until it’s time to give the tired tactics another go…

  5. says

    Oh joy, the fringe left are going to scream and throw tantrums and claim to represent our community. Goodie. I wonder if they took time to endorse PITA’s robot groundhogs and to vote on whaling.

    I was hoping that our community had grown past the “Everyone on the Lunatic Left” coalitions and were actually appeals the the vast majority of Americans who don’t think that KFC is morally equivalent to Auschwitz.

  6. Clay says

    The Highlander Center has for decades acted, not as some secret retreat, but quite openly as a training for activists, with an emphasis on non-violent direct action. Rosa Parks was trained there, for example. There’s nothing secret about the place; you can go on tours.

  7. DaveB says

    Positioning gay rights as part of the radical fringe is completely counterproductive. If anything, it’s a great way to keep the issue side-lined, and most likely just alienates the majority of the electorate. Ever wonder why gay people in the UK/most of Europe/South Africa (including some very conservative/traditionally homophobic countries) have legal equality while folks in the US don’t? There was a lot of work involved, but it didn’t generally involve trans-activists chaining themselves to the parliament building or leather daddies parading naked through town, however psychologically satisfying those activities might be (telling a hostile world to f-off has its appeal). It mostly involved using personal and political connections to quietly lobby those in power. Back rooms deals might not seem all that admirable, but, sadly, that’s the way the world works.

  8. says

    Daves, you seem to forget thsat the UK is a civilized country and the USA isn’t. NEVER in the USA has anyone been given thier rights by asking nicely. Also for those of you who think that radical activities, protest, and civil disobedience are not the way and that everything should go through legislature its just not possible as long as you have career politicians who are more worried about thier jobs, perks, and power than actually doing whats right. I would think that Health Care would have taught us that.

    I for one think that we need to go back to radical activism. Back to pickets and marches (Spontaneous angry ones. Not the ‘preplanned circut parties and seminars that have made us impotent) Cleve Jones had one thing right. We need to DEMAND ALL OUR RIGHTS at once and stop this pissing on and fighting a million small battles. Thats where they beat us. They splintered our fight

  9. BCLance says

    Trying to blame the difference between the state of affairs in Europe and the state of Affairs in the US on “radical activism” is deeply misinformed. The few rights gay people eked out in the 70s and 80s were thanks to activists who put gay rights on the agenda in very public ways, and fought bitterly for gay issues. Indeed, what was not long ago considered fringe activism here put marriage equality on the horizon.

    Gay rights has benefited from effective, collaborative activism across Europe and other countries as well. To pretend that it has all been the genteel work of backroom deals of individual gay lobbyists betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the situation abroad. Advances in Spain, which has full marriage equality, have been the product of broad-based coalitions with other progressive groups and intensely public activism.

    Differences in results are more related to fundamental cultural differences and legal particularities. Just because a country has what you perceive as a more traditionally homophobic or “macho” culture doesn’t mean that it hasn’t culturally been more open to gay issues or women in power.

  10. Chris says

    DaveB doesn’t know much about LGBT activist history in the United States. His statements are in direct opposition to actual history. Another example of how anyone can post a comment on an internet site, acting all high and mighty, when their actual knowledge of our own American history is pretty much devoid of intellect and education.

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