Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Importance of Community Events

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking at the 4th Annual March for Equality. The event is hosted by Central Arizona Rainbow Education (C.A.R.E.). It kicks off with a march and then goes into a festival. The theme this year was the importance of community and I was asked to speak on the importance of community events. It was a great day and I wanted to share the speech with you all here:

It is an honor to be here today. The 4th Annual March for Equality is an event that gives us a chance to come together – create awareness about the injustices that face the LGBT community and participate in a festival that allows us to celebrate who we are. Our community loves events. From Prides to parades – from dinners to the drag shows – we have community events constantly. The events are important to our community. Not just as fundraisers and time to see each other but because of the direct impact they have had on our movement.

The famous lesbian poet and activist, Audre Lorde once said, “Without community there is no liberation.” I couldn’t agree more. A perfect example of this is the Stonewall Riots. On June 28th, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, known to many as the only gay bar in NY City. But this riot wouldn’t end like the others. See these individuals had found a place where they could meet, they could dance, they could drink, they could establish a sense of strength in each other. They were not alone. That night the patrons of the bar fought back against the police. Within days, gay rights organizations formed and within two years there was a gay rights organization in every major city across the country. This small bar community led to visible communities all across the country. On the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots the first Gay Pride March was held and is a tradition that we honor by marching today and each time we attend a Pride event.
While Pride marches and festivals let us celebrate and provide an opportunity to be visible in the society we live in, Marches also allow us to show our strength and to let our voices be heard. In 1979, the first March on Washington was held. The purpose was to nationalize the gay movement, which had previously been focused on local struggles. The event had approximately 100,000 participants and included a Congressional Lobby Day and organizational trainings. Having such a large number of LGBT and allied individuals participate in the March showed that our community was not willing to be in our closets. The LGBT community was willing to fight publicly for our rights. When the next March on Washington was held in 1987 more than 500,000 people participated. This March was held on Oct. 11th – which has become known as National Coming Out Day. To date there have been five Marches on Washington by the LGBT community. Each one has strengthened our community and our voice.
So whether the community event happens in a bar or on the National Mall they have importance. The event has importance because it reminds us that we are not alone - that we are all fighting for the same thing - that there is strength in numbers. Author and activist Terry Tempest Williams said, “I have inherited a belief in community, the promise that a gathering of the spirit can both create and change culture. In the desert, change is nurtured even in stone by wind, by water, through time.” What a powerful statement – to believe that a community can come together to create and change culture. That’s why I am so excited to be here today. To watch as our Arizona LGBT community comes together to change the culture of our state to a place where LGBT individuals are no longer discriminated against. To look out and see so many faces looking to create that culture. This is a critical time for our movement. Our visibility and the visibility of our allies have never been more important. So thank you for being here today and for being an active part of our community and I will see you at the next community event!

1 comment:

  1. Great speech Kathy! Thanks for all you do for and in our community.