Millennium March on Washington Under Fire

A public outcry from the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender communities about a proposed "Millennium March on Washington" (MMOW) will be featured in the September 18, 1998 issue of the Washington Blade. The two-page centerfold ad is signed by nearly 300 individuals, including many well-known organizers, artists and activists. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner; syndicated cartoonist Alison Bechdel; noted author/activist Barbara Smith; Cliff Arneson, President of New England Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Veterans; executive director of the Audre Lorde Project, Joo-Hyun Kang; Nancy Bereano of Firebrand Books; executive director of the Esperanza Center in San Antonio, TX, Graciela Sanchez; Deb Kolodny of BiNet, USA; and Gilbert Baker, originator of the Rainbow Flag are among the list of signers. (See text below.)

This effort is spearheaded by the Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process, a group of veteran organizers that formed in March, 1998 in response to the top down process of the Human Rights Campaign and the Universal Fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Church as they announced plans for a March on Washington, DC in the year 2000. Members of the Committee for an Open Process include many of the central organizers of our movement's three previous national marches on Washington: Steve Ault, Joyce Hunter, Leslie Cagan, Eileen Hansen, Michelle Crone, Billy Hileman and Nadine Smith.

While concern about the MMOW has been steadily growing, the Sept. 18th ad is the largest public outcry to date and represents an unprecedented critique of some of our national organizations.

The initial goals of the MMOW, "faith and family", quickly drew opposition both on and off the record from executive directors and grassroots activists alike. MMOW organizers are also under fire for secretive and high-handed decision making.

As part of a continuing campaign for democracy and accountability, the Committee for an Open Process is organizing a national meeting in Pittsburgh on Thursday, November 12th. The session will bring together those concerned about the closed-door decision making of the MMOW, as well as open discussion about the increasingly conservative direction of the l/g/b/t movement. More details about the Nov. 12th meeting will be available shortly in an Open Call. The Committee for an Open Process will also carry its message into a set of workshops being planned for the NGLTF Creating Change Conference that same weekend in Pittsburgh.

The continuing controversy over the MMOW has received the attention of national media outlets including The Village Voice and The Nation. The Committee for an Open Process invites all who support our goals to join this effort and participate in the Pittsburgh meeting.

Text of Ad in 9/18/98 issue of the Washington Blade:

They say it's a March on Washington. We say it's trampling on our movement.

We believe in inclusion, respect for our diverse communities, justice and democracy. And equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But the first step toward equality should always begin in our own communities. That's why we are concerned about plans for the Millennium March on Washington.

Since February, when the Human Rights Campaign and the Metropolitan Community Church initiated their call for an event in the year 2000, there has been a disregard for our movement's history of grassroots empowerment. Closed door meetings. Back room dealings. Last-minute invitations after the table had long been set and the main course served.

In June, nine community activists brought our proposal for an open process to their invitation-only planning meeting. Polite discussion soon gave way to condescension as we, the community activists, were offered one vote in exchange for silence by the other eight. We refused.

Yes, we want the process opened -- but much more is at stake.

This is about re-claiming the heart and soul of our fight for equality, justice, freedom. This is about power and how it is wielded, manipulated and abused. Who sits at the table and who decides how the table is set. This is about the direction of our grassroots movement and what we are fighting for.

We want a movement that fights for the rights of each of us. Even if we do not fit into the corporate image of an "American family." That these national organizations project white Christian middle-class representations and set the agenda accordingly is nothing less than institutionalized racism. Claims to diversity mean nothing if the sexual is sanitized and no genuine effort is made to include the perspectives and leadership of lgbt's from different races, classes, sexualities and genders.

You can do something - you can join our effort. Almost 300 people in our community have already signed on to our demand for an open process. Help us organize community meetings, let the national organizations know what you think, write letters and columns for the press, and join our Thursday, Nov. 12th meeting in Pittsburgh and attend our workshops at the Creating Change Conference.

Contact us today and make your voice heard. To sign on send your name and address to: Leslie Cagan <lcagan@people-link.com>.

©1998 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.