Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cleve Jones Responds To Questions About Upcoming National Equality March on Washington, D.C.

San Diego News Network asks: Tell us a bit more about the planned LGBT march on Washington in October. Why is it necessary, what message do you hope it will send, and when was the last time we saw something like this in the nation’s capitol?

Cleve Jones responds: I don’t think we’ve ever seen something like this before, because the technology didn’t exist to do it. A quick thing on the march: after the film [Milk] came out in November, hundreds of young people e-mailed me and wanted a march on Washington, and I discouraged them. I saw marches through the lens of previous marches that were difficult and complicated productions that cost millions of dollars; and some debts didn’t get paid, and many felt alienated by the marches because they became entertainment events, not political statements.

At that time, I also held a lot of hope for Obama and the new Democratic majority. But, by inauguration, I was already nervous and facing skepticism. And when Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi said repealing DOMA is not a priority, I thought, “Oh my gosh, we’re in trouble.” About that time, David Mixner put out a call for a march on Washington, and I found myself saying, “Yes, I’ve changed my mind – we do need to march.” We have to do everything we can; I mean everything. We have to write letters, we have to lobby, we have to do sit-ins and acts of civil disobedience. And shortly after, David Mixner gave an interview, I think to the The Advocate or someone, saying I should lead the march, and I thought, “I have a family and a job, but, um, OK.” So the response to that was overwhelming.

There was a fair amount of criticism too all over the blogosphere, but for every naysayer blogger, there was 1,000 e-mails from people saying they wanted to march. So, it’s the National Equality March, on Sunday Oct. 11, and we’re hoping to fill the weekend with training workshops and town hall meetings. We do not want parties; no raves, no circuit parties, no fundraisers – nothing like that. That isn’t what this was meant to be. We want to make a serious political statement, and think very carefully about the tone and content of that weekend. We want people to leave their dancing shoes at home, and put on their marching boots. Let me be really clear, though: I’m not talking about hiding the trannies or any of that crap. This is for everyone in the LGBT community – the lesbians, the gay men, the bisexuals and most certainly the transgender community. When I talk about the tone of this march, I’m not talking about any of that closet nonsense. I want it to be serious and focused on politics.

photo credit: Mark Finkenstaedt For The Washington Post

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