The LGBT community is often criticized for setting an agenda that is taken largely from a gay white male perspective. For instance, marriage equality is currently front and center, but for some same-gender-loving people of color, marriage is not necessarily a top priority. More pressing for us may be issues like HIV/AIDS, employment discrimination, homophobia being preached at the pulpit, and plain economic inequality.
But how are people of color stepping forward to ensure that our voices are heard? NoMoreDownLow.TV took our cameras to the 2012 International Queer People of Color Conference (QPOCC), which was held recently on the campus of California State University Northridge. The event focused on the importance of diversity within the greater LGBT community.
In this NoMoreDownLow.TV newsbreak, conference goers sound off on the revelation that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) had a specific strategy to drive a wedge between the black and Latino communities on one side and the LGBT community on the other.
The 500-plus attendees at QPOCC came from all parts of North America to discuss social reform and unite in solidarity and empowerment, focusing on the injustices and oppression faced by same-gender-loving people of color. The three-day event included workshops, panel discussions, and caucuses on issues ranging from politics to gender identity, from HIV and safe sex to the coming-out process for ethnic people.
Lawrencia Dandridge reporting for NoMoreDownLow.TV
Martel Okonji, QPOCC organizer: "For me, I've learned all about the gay white male ... pretty much just learning about a different identity within that, especially of color. It's something that definitely everyone should be a part of, because we are definitely a part of building America today."
Darnesa Morris, Hospitality Chair of QPOCC: "When you come to a conference like this, you really get an insight, and you learn what there is out there. It's not just queer people; it's queer people of color -- race, gender, and their class, all in one."
Warren Scherer, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin: "Many conferences that are queer-focused, in my opinion, are incredibly driven by mainstream or broad queer culture. ... And frequently queer-people-of-color voices get minimized or marginalized and pushed to the side."
Taylor Curry, of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: "There isn't much space for racialized queer people in the community. Though the community is big, a great percentage of it is predominately white people. So it kind of makes you think and act: where do you fit in?"
Jonathan Adrias: "A lot of people don't know that gay people exist, even. In my own family, when I came out to my sisters, they were kind of like, 'Gay... what's that?' So I think definitely just awareness is really important."
But the recent news reports of the National Organization for Marriage's strategy to pit the black and hispanic communities against the LGBT community became a hot topic.
Jotika Samant: "It just doesn't make sense in my head to do that, because that's not reality. That's not life."
Morris: "No, it's not going to work. I mean separation, that's what we're fighting for, equal rights, and we don't want to be separated."
Scherer: "It doesn't surprise me. I think it has long been a tool to pit marginalized populations against each other. ... I hope that the communities respond and work to dismantle the work that NOM is doing."