With all the attention paid to the Marriage Equality Summit [in San Bernardino] and whether or not we were going to go back to the ballot in this year or that year and who was going to get to decide how to decide what to decide, there was not a great deal of attention paid to an event which may prove to be more important to the health and growth of the grassroots movement, ultimately. Unfortunately, a lot of people had to catch planes and so forth, and even more people just left in a huff, but it's a shame that more people couldn't stay for the Grassroots meeting that was held in a wonderfully well-air-conditioned room just after the larger event.
A little over 30 people attended the meeting that was co-moderated by Kristi Campbell of Equality Inland Empire and myself. We had a very loose agenda, but the main point of the meeting was to get people talking about the work that has to be done. I opened the meeting by saying something like: "Imagine for a moment that the decision has been made about when we're going and it's exactly what you wanted. Ok. Now, what does that campaign look like? What do you know to do? What do you want to learn to do? How can we in this room help each other with that?"
It became a chance to share ideas of, "Hey! This worked great in our community!" and to ask questions of each other and to offer support and suggestions. Some good ideas came up and there were little nuggets of wisdom that were mentioned and suddenly you'd see someone's eyes light up and start taking notes. Here are a few of the ideas floated, advice given and suggestions made:
- On behalf of OUTWest, I offered to share our Constitution with anyone who might want to form a coalition in their part of the state. It would have to be tailored, of course, but my hope was that other groups might be able to skip some of the growing pains with support or advice or tales from the trenches from OUTWest's formation.
- OUTWest is also sponsoring an event called Boot Camp...it will educate about some of the more advanced issues in running a campaign in terms of finances and what areas need to be targeted and how certain areas were won in the last campaign and so on. People who attend that will definitely be able to leave and go help their communities to lead. (More info to come.)
- Robin McGehee brought up the need for the true grassroots groups to communicate together better. For example, if we know that there's going to be a major summit, we should coordinate a separate meeting for just the grassroots folks. And I know in my perfect world, there would be coalitions all over the state and reps from those coalitions would be in constant contact with each other...offering help, advice and support when needed.
- There is a website called blue-friends.com that is used as a sort of LGBT activists social networking site.
- We really need to create the sense of a movement...someone proposed doing a Freedom Ride through smaller towns. (I hear Equal Roots may be working on something like this already!)
- There were stories of having events in some of the smaller communities on the outskirts of the big cities in some of the suburbs and areas that never get any attention.
- We need to keep all LGBT issues in the media because they all tie together and make sure the media gets that. For example, there's going to be a vigil in West Hollywood this Friday to show solidarity and support for the victims of the murders in Tel Aviv. We want the press there and we want them to see that any inequality at all makes us a different class of human that is "ok" for haters to attack. DADT, teen suicide, marriage equality...they all tie together and every time the press comes, we need to keep making that connection for them.
- Take advantage of local public access television...it's cheap!
- SD Pride had an Olympic-style torch relay through all the smaller suburbs and they got proclamations of support from the mayors or officials of each one of those areas.
- Join The Impact offered to continue to help networking and facilitating communication between the grassroots groups.
- We had a long discussion about the trans community and how it is often marginalized...but one transgender woman also talked about how many people in their segment of the community do too much to marginalize themselves. Both sides need to reach out. The idea of a Transgender 101 sort of workshop came up to help educate groups and coalitions that may want to support them but not really know how.
- We also had a very interesting talk about race that started with my asking: "I'm a big, tall white guy. Does it really do any good to have a face like mine canvassing in a neighborhood of people that don't look like me? I'll go anywhere, of course, but does it hurt or help?" A number of interesting points were raised after that...the main one was that it doesn't matter what you look like as long as you are well-educated and friendly. However, some good caution points were brought up that may not be getting addressed by the canvassing orgs. For example, more than just having someone in the group who is able to speak the languages of that neighborhood, is there someone who understands the cultures? Is there training going on to make sure that canvassers know that some cultures appreciate a hand-shake and some do not? Or that sometimes you need to ask to speak to the head of the household or it would be considered rude? These are the sorts of details that we need to attend to...if we want their vote and support, we should make sure that the message is delivered in such a way and with a level of respect that will engender and facilitate open dialogue and the possible changing of minds.
- I also mentioned that I was going to be working with some local POC communities to help them produce microtargeted spots since I have the technical ability, but not the cultural know-how. I know that Eugene from TruthAndHope.org ran a successful campaign for Obama doing just that and they are already talking to pollsters about how to run similar spots in California to target specific communities...cheaply, quickly and efficiently.
In the week since the summit, I've started to sense a new movement...a sort of pragmatic need to start the work now, regardless of when we go. Everyone's tired of the bickering and infighting and my hope is that more creative ideas are being generated all over the state and that the work is starting already. (Speaking of which, I'll have a new PSA to share in the very near future!)
I hope we all take a breath and choose to see where we fit into the next campaign and start working on THAT...whatever THAT is...right away. 2010, 2012, 2014...it won't matter when we go if we don't buckle down and start the work right now.
Good luck to us all!
Josh Einsohn, Founder