The Black church has, for years, been known for not being the biggest supporter of the LGBT community, but today, Kirk Franklin, a respected force in the religious community, has come forward to apologize on their behalf.
“I want to apologize for all of the hurtful and painful things that have been said about people in the church that have been talented and gifted and musical, that we’ve used and we’ve embarrassed… and all this other horrible crap that we’ve done,” he told The Grio. “We have not treated them like people. We’re talking about human beings, men and women that God has created.”
The “I Smile” crooner explained the Bible was not written as an anti-gay work, but rather, the opposite: “The Bible is not a book that’s an attack on gay people,” he said. “It’s not a book written to attack gay people. It is horrible that we have made it where the Bible is a homophobic manual.”
Bringing it all together, Franklin said that he just wants all LGBT-identifying people to know that God is in their corner. “I mean, you want to talk about things that God gets at… pride and jealousy and envy and arrogance,” he said. “But what we also see is God sending his son to save us all, because we were all… straight, gay or whatever, lost and in need of a savior, and there’s room at the cross for all of us.”
There was a time when Melina Abdullah wanted to be the next Maxine Waters.
A year or two ago, I recognized that those middle-class aspirations are done,” Abdullah says now, in the soothing voice of a therapist or guidance counselor. “You can’t go in and yell at people or camp in front of the mayor’s house and go, ‘Now I’m running for office.’ I had to make peace with that.”
Abdullah lives in a three-bedroom house in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles with her three children. She drives a Volvo. She’s a tenured professor and chairs the Pan-African Studies department at Cal State Los Angeles. She’s a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first black sorority. She was appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to the county’s Human Relations Commission. Abdullah, in other words, has more than a toe in the American middle class.
But Abdullah, who was born in East Oakland and whose dad was a union organizer and self-proclaimed Trotskyist, has chosen to immerse herself in the black working class and its struggles.
She’s not unlike most of the Black Lives Matter leaders — college-educated, middle-class black women who felt compelled to fight against police violence directed at the black community. “Our degrees won’t save us, our middle-class status won’t save us,” she says. “Who’s being killed? Andrew Joseph in Tampa, Florida. His parents are college-educated, middle-class people. Trayvon Martin was killed in a gated community. Aiyana Jones, 7 years old, sleeping on her grandmother’s couch. I have two little girls. How can you sit back? That’s how a lot of us feel. We’re really facing wartime conditions.”
In a nation where black women are still stuck at the bottom of the power structure, Black Lives Matter is the only major national protest movement to be led by them in modern times. It has in the past two years become the most prominent left-wing movement in the country, a persistent topic on the national news and in both Democratic and Republican presidential debates.
The Black Lives Matter movement also could end up having a significant impact on local, state and national elections — which might be cause for concern among politicians like, say, Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The national organization founded by three black women — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi — takes its cue from the local chapters; the L.A. chapter, in which Abdullah is a key figure, was among the first.
The elements of Black Lives Matters’s DNA — young, female, gay-friendly, artsy — set it apart from every previous civil rights movement.
Although the group prides itself on its leaderlessness, Abdullah is one of five or so black women who, having helped start the L.A. chapter, now serve as its chief organizers. Nearly all are rooted in academia or performance art — or both. Their rhetoric leans toward the highbrow, their tactics toward the theatrical.
“We’re fighting against white supremacist patriarchal society,” says Shamell Bell. “That’s why you need black women to fight it.”
Bell, who’s been involved in Black Lives Matter from the beginning, is perhaps its prototypical organizer. A 31-year-old former professional dancer and former student of Abdullah’s, she’s currently a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA. In a movement that draws on each of its members’ gifts and abilities, Bell often leads street protest dances. While occupying the mayor’s front lawn, she taught a group of activists Jerkin’.
Cullors, 32, who coined the now-global hashtag #blacklivesmatter, is a performance artist who studied religion and philosophy at UCLA. When she was just 17, she joined the Bus Riders Union, a somewhat iconoclastic advocacy group in L.A. that pushes for more funding for the bus system and less funding for light rail.
A distinctly working-class nonprofit, the Bus Riders Union was Cullors’ entry into political organizing. She later started Dignity and Power Now, a coalition that fought brutality by sheriff’s deputies who work inside the county jails.
Cullors grew up in 1990s Pacoima, a low-income northeast San Fernando Valley neighborhood, during the height of the federal war on drugs that disproportionately imprisoned thousands of minorities. Cullors’ father and brother were in and out of prison for most of her adult life.
“That really shaped my understanding of what it meant to be black in this city,” Cullors says. “I had a lot of anger. And I was clear that I wanted to do something about it.”
In Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter has emerged as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s fiercest antagonist. Garcetti was elected without much support in the black community, which backed Wendy Greuel. But Garcetti will almost surely need the backing of black voters should he run for higher office, as is widely assumed.
“Whether he’s running for governor or U.S. senator, the political calculus that his consultants are going to use is that the black vote in Los Angeles can put him over the top,” says Dermot Givens, a political consultant. “Which is why he has to do everything he can to solve this situation.”
Garcetti, who appears galled by this vocal new opposition from the left, has dealt with Black Lives Matter rather clumsily.
After 25-year-old Ezell Ford, who’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was shot to death in August 2014 by LAPD officers in South L.A., the group camped out on the front lawn of the mayoral mansion in Hancock Park. Garcetti made the news, along with Black Lives Matter, when he was caught on video trying to sneak away in a black Suburban SUV.
Bizarrely, when the well-to-do, Encino-raised Garcetti finally met with these black leaders in July, he at one point started speaking to them in Spanish. In the eyes of the organizers, it was as if he saw all minorities as the same and dealt with them accordingly.
“[Garcetti] does a really good job at tokenizing people,” says Black Lives Matter co-founder Cullors. “He does a really good job placating. But he doesn’t actually do the work that it takes to change the culture and change policies that are anti-black.”
“There’s been a shift in politics in the black community,” says Givens, who argues that Black Lives Matter has not so much caused this shift as it has reacted to it. “And the mayor is playing old-school politics. He’s surrounding himself with old-school black people who have no idea what’s going on.”
The origin of Black Lives Matter dates to July 13, 2013, when George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
President Barack Obama, already known as the first U.S. president to advocate for gay rights during an inauguration speech, just became the first Commander-In-Chief to pose for the cover of an LGBT magazine.
Gracing the cover of OUT magazine’s OUT 100 issue as “Ally of the Year” comes as no surprise — Obama is likely to go down in history as one of the most progressive presidents, if not the only one who has fought so tirelessly for LGBTQ rights. Shortly after taking office, Obama signed a bill repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And in June, after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, Obama delivered an emotional address to the nation, calling it a “victory for America.”
“This is the first time a sitting president has been photographed for the cover of an LGBT title, a historic moment in itself, and a statement on how much his administration has done to advance a singularly volatile issue that tarnished the reputations of both President Clinton and President Bush,” OUT’s editor-in-chief Aaron Hicklin wrote.
Obama granted the magazine an interview that highlighted his own upbringing and how it affects his perspective on equality.
“My mom instilled in me the strong belief that every person is of equal worth,” Obama told Hicklin. “At the same time, growing up as a black guy with a funny name, I was often reminded of exactly what it felt like to be on the outside. One of the reasons I got involved in politics was to help deliver on our promise that we’re all created equal, and that no one should be excluded from the American dream just because of who they are. That’s why, in the Senate, I supported repealing DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act]. It’s why, when I ran for president the first time, I publicly asked for the support of the LGBT community, and promised that we could bring about real change for LGBT Americans.”
He also discussed how daughters Sasha and Malia have helped him recognize the generational shift in attitudes towards the LGBTQ community, urging for the end of damaging conversion therapy for young people that doesn’t allow them “to be who they are.”
“To Malia and Sasha and their friends, discrimination in any form against anyone doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t dawn on them that friends who are gay or friends’ parents who are same-sex couples should be treated differently than anyone else,” Obama said. “That’s powerful. My sense is that a lot of parents across the country aren’t going to want to sit around the dinner table and try to justify to their kids why a gay teacher or a transgender best friend isn’t quite as equal as someone else. That’s also why it’s so important to end harmful practices like conversion therapy for young people and allow them to be who they are. The next generation is spurring change not just for future generations, but for my generation, too. As president, and as a dad, that makes me proud. It makes me hopeful.”
John Legend and Tyrese Gibson were honored for their positive impact on the community at the Triumph Awards, which took place Saturday night in Atlanta and will air Oct. 3 on TV One.
Legend received the Presidential Award for service and humanitarian efforts. The Grammy-winning singer was not in attendance, but accepted his award in a pre-taped video sitting alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton. (The network collaborated with Sharpton and his National Action Network.)
Gibson was presented the entertainer of the year award by Martin Luther King III. After the singer was given the award, he took the stage to perform his single “Shame.”
The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery received the Chairman’s Award for historic and transformative service as a civil rights leader, while comedian Wanda Sykes was given the Activism in the Arts honor for years of service to youth homelessness and engagement within the LGBT community.
Intel chief diversity officer Rosalind Hudnell was presented with the Corporate Executive of the Year.
Actress Tichina Arnold of the Starz series “Survivor’s Remorse” hosted the show.
Rapper T.I. delivered a spoken-word piece titled “United We Stand,” urging youth to not lose focus and the meaning behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
Other performers included Tasha Cobbs, Ledisi, Jazmine Sullivan and Estelle. The Youth Ensemble of Atlanta unveiled “Put Your Guns Up,” a tribute recounting the victims of unfortunate deaths as a result of gun violence.
Grammy-winning jazz artist and producer Robert Glasper was the show’s musical director of the house band. Chante Moore and R&B singer Stokley Williams performed in a duet, singing a rendition of Donny Hathaway’s classic song “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”
Scandal star Kerry Washington accepted the Vanguard Award at Saturday’s 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles at the iconic Beverly Hilton. Ellen DeGeneres, who was previously honored with GLAAD’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award, presented the honor. The Vanguard Award is presented to media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equality. Previous Vanguard Award honorees include Jennifer Lopez, Kristin Chenoweth, Charlize Theron, Elizabeth Taylor, Antonio Banderas, Drew Barrymore, Janet Jackson, and Sharon Stone.
Check out the video of Washington below:
In an acceptance speech that had the audience on their feet, Washington said, “I don’t decide to play the characters I play as a political choice. Yet the characters I play often do become political statements. Because having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian, as a trans person, or as any member of any disenfranchised community, is sadly often still a radical idea. There is so much power in storytelling, and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling, in inclusive representations. That is why the work of GLAAD is so important. We need more LGBT representation in the media. We need more LGBT characters and more LGBT storytelling. We need more diverse LGBT representation. And by that, I mean lots of different kinds of LGBT people living all different kinds of lives. And this is big—we need more employment of LGBT people in front of and behind the camera.”
Washington continued, “We can’t say that we believe in each other’s fundamental humanity, and then turn a blind eye to the reality of each other’s existence, and the truth of each others’ hearts. We must be allies and we must be allies in this business, because to be represented is to be humanized, and as long as anyone anywhere is being made to feel less human, our very definition of humanity is at stake, and we are all vulnerable. We must see each other, all of us. And we must see ourselves, all of us. And we have to continue to be bold and break new ground until that is just how it is, until we are no longer ‘firsts’ and ‘exceptions’ and ‘rare’ and ‘unique.’ In the real world, being an ‘other’ is the norm. In the real world, the only norm is uniqueness, and our media must reflect that. Thank you GLAAD, for fighting the good fight.”
Washington is best known for her role as Olivia Pope on the LGBT-inclusive hit show Scandal, executive produced by Shonda Rhimes. In addition to the ABC drama, Washington has appeared in other LGBT-inclusive projects like Peeples, She Hate Me, The Dead Girl, and Life Is Hot In Cracktown. The actress is a longtime supporter of equality for LGBT people. She has participated in GLAAD’s annual Spirit Day, a campaign to end anti-LGBT bullying, and has advocated for marriage equality both at-home and abroad.
Ellen DeGeneres presented the Vanguard Award to Kerry Washington. Channing Tatum presented the Stephen F. Kolzak Award to director Roland Emmerich. Comedian Tig Notaro hosted the event. Guests included: Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy); Patricia Arquette (CSI: Cyber); TV producer Shonda Rhimes; Viola Davis, Jack Falahee, Matt McGorry, Aja Naomi King, Peter Nowalk (How to Get Away with Murder); Portia de Rossi(Scandal); Graham Moore (The Imitation Game); Pauley Perrette (NCIS); Jill Soloway, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, Alexandra Billings, Rhys Ernst, Kiersey Clemons, Michaela Watkins, Alison Sudol, Clementine Creevy, Brett Parasol (Transparent); Michael Harney, Samira Wiley, Nick Sandow, Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black); Andrew Rannells(Girls); Murray Bartlett, Daniel Franzese (Looking); Ron Perlman (Stonewall); Jordan Gavaris (Orphan Black); Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace; Michael Mosley, Kevin Daniels, Kevin Bigley (Sirens); Peter Paige, Bradley Bredeweg, Gavin MacIntosh, Hayden Byerly (The Fosters); Yara Martinez (Jane the Virgin); Serayah McNeill (Empire); Alex Newell (Glee); Gregg Sulkin, Rita Volk, Michael J. Willett, Carter Covington (Faking It); Barrett Foa (NCIS: Los Angeles); Jessica St. Clair, Lennon Parham (Playing House); Wilson Cruz (Red Band Society); stylist Brad Goreski; Gary Janetti (Vicious); Guy Wilson, Freddie Smith, Christopher Sean (Days of Our Lives); musician Our Lady J; model Nats Getty; Hannah Hart (My Drunk Kitchen); DJs Sam Sparro, Kim Anh, Derek Monteiro; GLAAD Board member Meghan McCain; GLAAD National Spokesperson Omar Sharif, Jr. and GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
In an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, President Barack Obama on Tuesday night said that he expected Russia to welcome gay and lesbian athletes to the 2014 Sochi Olympics because the country has “a big stake in making sure the Olympics work.” The conversation stemmed from a question Leno asked about the treatment of the LGBT community in Russia, which Leno characterized as a place where “homosexuality is against the law.”
A top Russian government official recently stated that, even during the Olympics, the country would enforce a new law that prohibits “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors.” The law, signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in June, also bans public events that promote gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples.
The International Olympic Committee has stated publicly that athletes and visitors attending the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia will not be affected by the anti-gay legislation. “I mean, this seems like Germany,” Leno said. “Let’s round up the Jews, let’s round up the gays, let’s round up the blacks. I mean, it starts with that. You round up people who you don’t — I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?”
President Obama responded that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”