Monday, September 26, 2005

Al Sharpton's Lesbian Sister

Back on August 18, when I blogged about Kanye West's thoughts about homophobia in hip-hop and rap music, you might have missed my comments on a meeting that I attended at which the Reverend Al Sharpton introduced an anti-homophobia initiative aimed at the African-American community. At the meeting, the Reverend spoke movingly about one of his mentors, Bayard Rustin, and how Rustin - a close advisor to the Reverend Martin Luther King - was shunned by some black leaders for being gay.

Today in the mail I received the October 11th, 2005 issue of "The Advocate" and - in a feature about the Reverend's initiative - he also credits someone closer to him for his interest in launching the initiative: His sister.

"My sister is gay. I understood the pain of having to lead a double life in the system [since] we grew up in a church. She is gay, and she fought that perception in church while she embraced it in her private life," says Sharpton in the article.
The article also says that the Reverend's desicion to march in a gay pride parade for the first time ever (see photo above taken at this year's Heritage of Pride march in NYC) was part of this initiative, though I don't remember seeing any anti-homophobia flyers being passed around and, at the time, it seemed more of a political move to deny other local political candidates his endorsement.

I also
just blogged about Keith Boykin and Jasmyne Cannick's effort to confront the black church and its hypocrisy on gays. So it might seem a natural fit for the Reverend to join forces with these African-American leaders in challenging the black church. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be in the works:
"Soon after word of Sharpton's initiative spread," says The Advocate, "Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at the Washington, DC-based gay group Human Rights Campaign, flew to the Big Apple to strategize with Sharpton. 'We're going to be among the financial sponsors, but we're also working with him to get in touch with people doing similar things around the country,' Knox sais. And Sharpton's voice garners great attention. 'We're glad he's raising it on our behalf,' Knox says. HRC is contribuiting $5,000 in the initiative's projected $50,000 start up costs.'"
Now, I have met Harry and admire the work he has done, particularly while he was working at Freedom to Marry. But one of the fears I heard when word went out about the Reverend's interest in fighting homophobia in African-American communities was that his interest would be co-opted by the larger national LGBT advocay organizations (who have proved so ineffective in reaching out and working with minority LGBT activists and organizations).

Here's hoping that something can still come out of it.

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