Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Doesn't Matter When We Return to the Ballot, the Work Must Begin Now!

Contributor Josh Einsohn has lived in Los Angeles for 14 years, working in the Entertainment Industry, and is a Dallas, Texas native. Like so many others, he woke up after the defeat of Prop. 8 and realized that he had more to give than had clearly been given in the last campaign. He founded ALLorNotAtAll.org and is producing PSAs and adding content so that his site can slowly become an educational hub for all sides of the debate. ALLorNotAtAll is also part of the OUTWest.

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.
We spent 90 minutes talking with each other and it was friendly, respectful and supportive. It felt good...so many people pay lip service to these ideas but never really discuss them and help each other out. After a rough day, I'd say the people who left this meeting were in a much better space than the people who left the main summit as soon as it was over.

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!

In solidarity,
Josh Einsohn, Founder


  1. get this longwinded ego-maniac an editor! way too much verbiage to cut through and i can't find his central point.

    the work, whether for 2010 or 2012 or 2014, has already begun and we've seen what a mess it is at the fresno and san bernardino summits.

  2. I agree the work has already begun, and should continue regardless of when we go back to the ballot.

    But what about the point made by, among others, David Mixer (best wellness wishes to him, btw), that the REAL work requires the existence of a campaign?

    Funds that would not otherwise be raised. Changed minds that might be changed again and again. Those sorts of things.

    I happen to agree with that point of view, and think this notion of "let's do the work anyway" is a bit naive.

    I hope this Coalition of the Whatever They're Calling Themselves Now can get a measure on the ballot with little money (and a few thousand volunteers). I think the rest will pull together ... but only if there's an actual campaign to wage.

  3. Overall, I think this is a great article. There is so much to be be done regardless of when we go back to the ballot.

    I wanted to note that the title, "...the work must begin now," and the last few words, "...it won't matter when we go if we don't buckle down and start the work right now," seem to indicate that work isn't already underway.

    I've noticed many activists using this language as of late, and I think we need to revise it. So many of us, including the author, have already started doing the hard work to win back marriage and reduce homophobia here in California.

    When we say, "the work needs to happen now," it discounts all this work, and incorrectly signals to others not yet involved that nothing substantial has transpired.

    I hope we can all find a better way to communicate the urgency of working now. Maybe: "Join us NOW to do this critical work!"

  4. that blue website has 78 members, so many other networking sites like queertoday.com, join the impact, etc. would be better equipped.

  5. Syd, you are right.

    In collaboration, Josh and I came up with the headline. He came up with the first half, I came up with "the work must begin now!"

    So Syd, I take your point. Josh has been working hard, you have done great work canvassing, I've worked hard - well, WE ALL HAVE BEEN WORKING HARD.

    The "now" part was an attempt to reference the debate of when we return to the ballot.

    So I'll be sticking to "join." Because boy, we sure could use more people. :)

  6. I think perhaps the specific type of work needed for a ballot measure is different than most of the work that's been done so far.

    Canvassing is that type of work. A few groups have been doing it for a long while, a few more started pretty recently. That's campaign work.

    Fundraising is another. I don't know of a single dime that's been raised to conduct a ballot measure campaign yet ... though I'm sure some donations are waiting in the wings for a campaign to donate to.

    Perhaps some of the PSAs and other visual media produced to date can be used in concert with the eventual campaign ... but I daresay the vast majority of advertising, publicity and media campaigning has not even been conceived - much less paid for and produced.

    So without meaning to discount the activist work that's gone on for appropriately 9 months of gestation, the campaign work is in its infancy. Yeah, it's time to Begin (in earnest).