On Saturday night, it hit me like a rushing train.
At an early leg of my True Colors concert tour this summer, I was in Washington DC preparing to go onstage at DAR Constitution Hall and on the very same stage that contralto Marian Anderson was turned away in 1939 because of the color of her skin. It took the heroic intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt to invite her instead to sing to thousands of Americans from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter morning.
That moment at Constitution Hall had even more irony for me, just knowing that afternoon Hillary Clinton had given closure to her presidential campaign, and embraced her 18 million voters just a few blocks from where I was about to perform. I was filled with deep emotions remembering how much Eleanor and Hillary and others had worked so hard to break down barriers in America, to give many of us starting as children just the chance to succeed.
Growing up as a kid in the 1960s in New York was rough. On the other hand, I found a world of amazing kids and friends around me. Many were different, some made it, and some like me had music or other passions to help them express their feelings and make it through tough times.
Many families were not like mine at all, and I came to know friends of all colors, and often, through their eyes saw what bigotry, fear and hatred do to people when they see someone different. Call me naïve, but that was the first time I really saw that America doesn't include everyone.
A kid of the 60s and kids today actually have a lot in common. We care about fairness and equality, and we all know that differences of gender, race, color, religion, and sexual orientation don't really matter. But all of America hasn't learned that yet, and that's why we must vote.
To me it means we have to fight for change and vote for equality. Staring at faces black and white made it clear that civil rights are everyone's cause -- including mine. That's why I made my vote count, and why I absolutely believe everyone's vote counts -- and why I launched the True Colors tour last year and why I'm on the road again in 2008. Wherever I travel and in every audience I meet, I ask everyone especially my lesbian and gay, bisexual and transgender friends if you really want inclusion, then include yourself!
When I was old enough, one of my first votes was to support an amazing black woman, Shirley Chisolm in her dream to be elected a Member of Congress from New York. She realized her dream by serving on Capitol Hill for seven terms. In 1972 she even saw her name placed in nomination for President -- the first black woman in our history -- it was clear she paved the way for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008. She showed us that we can overcome differences of race and gender.
That's also why this summer I am taking my original musical avalanche, True Colors to the streets again this year, and trying to fire up everyone about the power and the obligation to vote. I'm not a politician, and it's not my job to tell anyone who they should vote for, but it is my choice to encourage everyone I know and love to vote as though their lives and equality depend on it.
I'm still stunned that most Americans have no idea today that in most states a person can be fired just for being lesbian or gay, transgender or bisexual. I am outraged by crimes of violence and hate against young people because of their sexual orientation or gender expression and identity. When I was growing up, it did not occur to me that many Americans are still denied full and equal rights -- including the simple right to be who they are and to love whom they choose to love. That is not the America I love so much, and it is a cause worth singing for and working for and voting for.
This year, with True Colors, I'm going to 25 cities throughout the United States but I'm not going alone. In select cities, I'm bringing along the B-52s, Carson Kressley, Rosie O'Donnell, Wanda Sykes, the Indigo Girls, Joan Armatrading, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Regina Spektor, Tegan and Sara, Nona Hendryx, Deborah Cox, and The Cliks. I'm also armed with a posse of believers from the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG and CenterLink (the nation's LGBT community centers) to beat the drums loudly for us.
My message is simple: If you are eligible, join me by pledging to register and vote this year. Take your power and use it to make equality come to life.
So get fired up. Include yourself. Vote like it really matters.
Our tour is a non-stop 5 hour music party with a message that everyone can understand and embrace. The True Colors Tour asks for equality for all, not just for some, a principle upon which our nation was founded. So let's celebrate and have fun this summer while we spread the word to get out the vote and all become a part of the changes in America.