Browse Tag: diversity


How to Increase Media Diversity: 3 Lessons from the London Feminist Film Festival

A few months ago, the London Feminist Film Festival approached me for help in reaching out to African feminist filmmakers for their open call. The media activist I am, I admit that I did make them jump through hurdles before I agreed to help them spread the word of the festival on my blog. But it was only fair.

In my relatively short experience as an activist (who is also a person of color), I’ve received so many requests from white-run organizations and campaigns asking me to “help them create more diversity”, often without any proof that they’ve attempted to do any of this outreach on their own. It’s almost as though they view brown people as the people primarily responsible for alleviating the “burden” of creating the diversity they claim to want in their spaces. Oh, who am I kidding? 9/10 times that’s actually the case. But I digress.

After a series of sharp-shooting, poignant questions to the committee (“What have you done to reach out to feminist filmmakers of color?” “Who is missing from your lineup, and why?” “What have you done to make this relevant to African feminists, specifically?”), and receiving thoughtful (and honest) responses, I found myself in a strange place: satisfied, and affirmed enough to see myself as partly responsible (as an afrofeminist) for ensuring their success. I didn’t just write about the festival; I volunteered to be one of their media partners and a judge for one of their jury awards as well.

Why am I telling you this? Well, there are lessons about diversity to be learned (and shared) here. 

It’s only been a few months since the LFFF’s initial email to me, but judging from the film festival’s program, the organizers efforts have really paid off. The lineup of films included in the program look fantastic; the panelists and jurors represent a wide range of perspectives, aaaannd (so far), they’ve avoided appearing to be The London White Feminist Film Festival, which is quite commendable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed “universality” (i.e. lack of intersectionality), result in the white-washing of so many spaces which would — with some effort — have the potential to truly empower and unify communities within communities.

It’s not every day I get to see I’m impressed with an organization’s outreach efforts (and results). So, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight A Few Awesome Things the London Feminist Film Festival Did to Support Media Diversity:

1) They Avoided the “We Are One” Trap: In my post calling for support of the London Feminist Film Festival (LFFF), I talked about the importance of diversity in media, especially in the context of solidarity groups; it’s actually quite easy to let diversity slide under kumbaya umbrella politics i.e. “we’re all feminists, women, etc,” ignoring inequalities as we embrace sameness. But the festival organizers, tempting as it may have been to default to what was familiar, made a commitment very early on in their organizing process to keep the inclusion of minority groups in mind, including queer/LGBTI women, African/Black women, etc.

2) The Organizers Did Their Own Outreach Before Contacting Minority Stakeholders: As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there’s a different between being asked to solve an organization’s (lack of) diversity issues for them (i.e. being tokenized) and being asked to lend your efforts and guidance to work with them towards a more inclusive space. As my communications with LFFF revealed a progressive approach to diversity, I was happy to become more deeply involved in ensuring the festival’s success. When I asked the organizers what they’d done to reach out to other minority groups, I was pleased to hear about their efforts, as well as their honest observations about audiences they were having trouble reaching, making it easy for me to see my role as offering support vs. being saddled with the entire responsibility of creating a diverse program for their festival. Still, I’m obviously not the only partner LFFF has been working with obviously; the LFFF committee has done a phenomenal job building a team of partners, community stakeholders, vendors, and feminist advocates with unique perspectives and talents to both both shape and amplify the 3-day event this weekend. So, this is a PSA to festivals, organizations, campaigns everywhere: outreach isn’t a buzz word, it’s work that needs to be done. So please do it vs. asking marginalized people to do it for you.

3) The Film Festival Resisted the Urge to “Caucus”

Instead of creating a ‘special’ track for Black films, LGBT films etc, the festival opted instead to create special tracks for their “outreach”, in order to improve representation in the larger pool. The result is an impressive festival program that reflects a range of perspectives and experiences, rather than the separation of “main” from “other.” Now, can everyone just adopt this policy? I’m tired of having to choose between discussions, sessions, films etc that represent fragments of who I am, and I’m pretty I’m not the only person with multiple identities that feels this way. Check out some of the films that I’m most excited about (and the range of countries represented), which will be screening next weekend:

  • Lesbiana – A Parallel Revolution is a documentary about the lesbian writers, philosophers, and activists who were key players in creating a revolutionary sisterhood in the 1980s (USA)
  • As a Warrior (Como una Guerrera) is a drama about a victim of domestic violence who finds the strength to be her own knight in shining armor (Argentina)
  • Sari Stories is a short about women in rural India documenting their everyday lives and talking about the problems of growing up as women in a patriarchy as they’re trained to become video journalists (India)
  • In Beautiful Sentence, women prisoners experience the therapeutic effect of creative writing (UK)
  • The Witches of Gambaga is an award-winning documentary about a community of women condemned to live in a camp for ‘witches’ (Ghana)
  • Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 highlights the contributions of award-winning, African-American, lesbian, feminist poet, Audre Lorde, to the Afro-German movement (Germany/USA)
  • And last, but not least, Kung Fu Grandma is about elderly women in Kenya undertaking a self-defense course to help protect themselves from rape by young men in their community (Kenya)

Note: Some of these films are available for free viewing online, so I encourage you to check them out. The LFFF has also granted me access to a few of the features as well, so I’ll be publishing my reviews (and reflections) of several of these films leading up to the festival. I’ve already published a few. But stay tuned for more!

Spectra Speaks London Feminist Film Festival

The London Feminist Film Festival Seeks Submissions from African Women Filmmakers

Dear Readers,

I was contacted by the London Feminist Film Festival committee to help share some very exciting news. Not only are they receiving great film submissions from all over the world (from as far as Sudan and Burkina Faso!), but they seem very committed to making sure African women and the Diaspora are represented in the festival’s programming, including the films themselves and post-screening panel discussions.

If you’re an African woman filmmaker (or know of any) who identifies as a feminist or has produced a film exploring feminist themes, please submit! The deadline for submissions is August 31st, so you still have time to prepare your reel.

I may actually submit something myself; I’ve been in a feminist erotica filmmaking mood of late. On a more serious note, I’ve been casually collecting footage of African women having conversations (or proclamations) about feminism for the past few months via my Africans for Africa project. The London Feminist Film Festival (LFFF) committee is interested in seeing it, so perhaps their impending deadline will serve as enough motivation for me to edit the first round of footage so that I can send them a short on African feminism. We shall see.

Meanwhile, here are some quick-hit submission criteria:

  • Women directors can be from any country
  • Films should deal with feminist issues and/or be feminist in their representation of women
  • Films can be of any length or genre, and from any year
  • Non-English language films must be presented in English-subtitled versions

NOTE: Submissions by mail will still be accepted as long as they are post-marked on or before that day. Read the full call for submissions here.

More info about the inaugural London Feminist Film Festival below:

The London Feminist Film Festival was set up as a response to the underrepresentation of women in the film industry, as well as to the lack of films addressing feminist issues and the fact that the representation of women on screen is often narrow and stereotypical. The festival aims to counterbalance the mainstream film industry’s narrow representation of women and its neglect of feminist issues by showing a season of feminist feature films, documentaries, and shorts made by women directors from around the world.

Festival Director, Anna Read, says “We want to celebrate women creatives whilst ensuring that this feminist ethos also extends to the films we show. The festival will be a celebration of feminist films past and present. Our aim is to inspire discussion about feminism and film, to support women directors, and to get feminist films seen by a wider audience”.

The festival’s first matron, writer, critic, and broadcaster Bidisha, released shared in support,“In a year when the Cannes film festival had no women in its official selection, when less than 10% of industry directors, writers, cinematographers, and leading characters are women, the London Feminist Film Festival is here to challenge, change, inspire, redress, entertain, and satisfy. I support it wholeheartedly as a women’s advocate and also as someone who has always loved film and sat in countless screenings watching the action and the credits and thinking, where the hell are the women? Well, here they are.”

Read / download their Full Press Release.

Incidentally, the LFFF has confirmed Jacqueline Williams, author of Out of the Shadows: Black Women in Film 1900-1959, a book which explores the contribution black women have made to movie making in the first half of the twentieth century. They are still confirming more speakers which they hope to represent a wide spectrum of feminist perspectives on film and the industry.

As with many feminist spaces, the emphasis on “women” almost always tends to universalize the experiences of the dominant group (e.g. straight women, white women, theorists/academics with class privilege and a macbook, etc.) so that over time the space becomes monolithic and unwelcoming to minorities. The organizers are aware of this and are working quite hard to get the call out to as many communities as possible.

I deeply appreciate LFFF’s effort to ensure diverse voices are represented in every aspect of the festival, including their decision to do outreach so that they can mainstream films from minorities (vs. create a separate track for them). Hence, I would love to see ALL kinds of submissions make it into their submissions pool, not just for the sake of sustaining their enthusiasm about working diligently towards diversity (however important), but so that the voices of African women and the Diaspora (including LGBTI people) will be heard in this very important forum.

So! If you’re an African woman who either identifies as feminist or would like to submit a film/short that explores feminist themes, read the full criteria, then submit!

If you have any questions about submissions, feel free to get in touch with LFF directly via Feel free to join the LFFF Facebook Group and/or Like their Facebook Page. You can also follow the LFFF on Twitter @ldnfemfilmfest for more information and updates.

Spectra Blog Journey

Year in Review: Top 5 Posts from Last Year

Today, on the 6th day of September, I am celebrating my 30th birthday! *include claps and applause here, please*

This past year has, per usual, been filled with growth, uncomfortable and welcomed. I learned, for instance, to harness the power of vulnerability, that people relate to the journey more deeply than they do the lessons learned, that practicing self-care literally makes you a stronger leader, and that this strength is much needed because —  in the words of one of my artist friends — “haters love to comment.” For real, I had to learn that lesson this year and not take things personally.

But what I’m most happy about on my 30th birthday is that I’ve learned to love myself, deeply, through both praise and perdition. After 30 years, I realize that self-love is the most important kind of love everyone needs, and I am no different. 

My writing and creativity are deeply connected to my spirituality. Hence, as I prepare for my upcoming year — yes, my new year begins on my birthday — it is part of my process to look back and reflect on the past 12 months via all my writing and every single bit of media I have created. (Sidenote: I’ve written something nearly every single day since last September, so I’ve been reading and reflecting for the past several days!) 

I can’t describe how powerful and affirming the experience of looking through pages and pages of words has been; from stream of consciousness prose to pensive morning reflections, from photo-poetry to snippets and chapters from upcoming book projects, I really am blown away by how far I’ve walked, mentally and spiritually. This blog alone is a testament to how much stronger and more confident my ‘voice’ has become and I feel so lucky to have gotten the support and engagement of my readership that I have.

So, for my birthday today, I ask that you indulge me, and share at least one post that truly resonate(d) with you from the list below.

If you are relatively new to my blog, welcome! I encourage you to pick one or two (or go for it — read all five) posts to get to know me a little better. I plan to update this blog a lot more frequently this Fall now that my summer staycation is over, so there’ll be more to come.

If you have been following this blog and/or my work for a while, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, for affirming my need to speak, and for listening and engaging me on some very important, and often times, divisive issues, especially when we don’t agree. I hope these Top 5 Posts from Last Virgo Year serve as a reminder of the power of using online media to raise our own voices in order to change the world, one conversation at a time.

So here’s my Year in Review, My Top 5 Posts from Last Year: 

+ Preventing LGBT Youth Suicides: A Case for Diversity — As new students (as well as returning) begin their fall seasons, it is worth reminding school officials, policy makers, and activists everywhere, that it’s going to take more than single-issue politics to create safer spaces for young people of color. This piece, published in Color Magazine, contains a personal account of my experience with bullying and depression as a young immigrant LGBT student.


+ In Memory of David Kato: We Will NOT Abandon Hope for Fear — When David Kato, a prominent African LGBT activist was murdered in his home earlier this year, my world stopped spinning. The only way I could push through the sadness I felt was by writing. The popularity of this post and the support I received for it was a reminder that even one person, one blog, one moment, can have a profound impact on people’s lives.


+ The Birth of Kitchen Table Converations Podcast: LGBT Africans Speak on Culture, Queerness, and Media — The post contains a link to my very first podcast in the Kitchen Table Conversation series, and includes the voices of four really inspiring LGBT Africans. The podcast itself has been downloaded ~250 times by people in the US, Europe, and Africa, many of who have reported that it’s sparked dialogue and action in their own local communities. I am so very proud of how it turned out, and will forever be grateful to the panelists (who I know call friends) for that life-changing conversation.

+ We Will Not be Unwritten: Preserving Queer Women of Color History — As someone who writes about media and the importance of documenting our own histories often, I couldn’t have asked for a better teaching moment. Bay Windows, New England’s Largest LGBT Newspaper, posted a factually incorrect article that erased the contributions of local black lesbian activists (myself included) re: an annual women’s health fair. Needless to say, I wasn’t having it.


+ A Creative Piece about Gender Roles That Caused So Much Controversy: Hunting Boi — I rarely post creative pieces on this blog. So when I was asked to contribute something to Bklyn Boihood’s site, a collective which calls for conscious masculinity through socials, dialogue, blogging, and other projects, I was thrilled, and jumped at the opportunity. What ensued was the most controversial comment thread my work has ever incited. To borrow from Erykah Badu, I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit, but the positive and negative feedback reminded me that art has the power to spark really important conversations across divisive lines (i.e. race, class, gender presentation etc), which the typical blog or “critical” essay would alienate. For the richness of conversations that followed, I am so grateful for the experience of sharing this piece and look forward to sharing more creative pieces with you all this upcoming year.

Again, to you all, thank you for your continued support of my work and my writing! There are tons of blogs on the internet, so I am grateful for every single time you take a few minutes to read one of mine. I am so looking forward to sharing and learning with you all as I embark on this next chapter of my life. Please stop by often, and remember to leave me a comment so I know you’re reading!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Preventing LGBT Youth of Color Suicides: A Case for Diversity

Written for Color Magazine (November 2010 Issue)

In September, just short of one month into the new school year, 5 out of the 9 reported suicides were confirmed to have been motivated by “anti-LGBT” bullying. Since then, I’ve witnessed a strong sense of urgency to end what is currently being referred to as an “epidemic of LGBT youth suicides” lead to a push for more LGBT-based protections and formal systems of support (e.g the creation of more Gay Straight Alliances in schools and colleges). However, these singular-identity based solutions fail to adequately address the problem of providing comprehensive support systems to youth of color due to their multicultural identities.

As an activist, I understand the LGBT community’s natural inclination to respond to the recent tragedies via overtly LGBT-specific suicide prevention campaigns, particularly as we face budget cuts to AIDS/HIV research programs, delays in ending employment-based discrimination in the workplace (ENDA) and in the military (DADT), and setbacks to our fight for federal equality via equal marriage. But as a queer woman of color who is also a survivor of attempted suicide, bearing witness to passionate, yet single-issue LGBT political rhetoric that continually lacks inclusion of the voices of people of color, on top of the seemingly lackadaisical response to this issue from straight communities of color, has been extremely frustrating.

Single-Issue Politics Alienates People of Color

I recently participated as a feature speaker at a “Candlelight Vigil for the Victims of Anti-LGBT Bullying” in front of the MA statehouse. That evening, I was delighted to see over 400 people in attendance and a crowd rich in cultural diversity, sexual orientation, age etc. Yet, in spite of a very diverse turnout, all but one of the speakers before me had placed nearly all of their emphasis on political/policy improvement action as it affected LGBT youth specifically, from “increasing funding for Gay Student Associations (GSAs)”, “introducing tougher legislation to protect youth from harassment based on their sexual orientation (via the Safe Schools Improvement Act)” to “calling state senators and demanding LGBT equality.” It seemed that yet again, the LGBT movement was on the brink of being consumed by the same single-issue politics that spear-headed Prop 8 into a brick wall and then blamed the African-American community for not standing by LGBT rights, as though they didn’t acknowledge African-Americans as an intersecting subpopulation of the LGBT community and that the language and/or how the Prop 8 movement talked about equality (framing it specifically around “marriage”) failed to align with or resonate with their (and other groups’) cultural values.

In the case of the vigil, our country, almost overnight, had received a shocking message (or reminder) that LGBT youth weren’t just at “greater risk of attempted suicide” as compared to their peers (a stark 4 to 1 ratio), but that this already alarming data fact had moved from clinical euphemism to harsh reality: LGBT youth were no longer just at risk, they were dying, and we needed to do something about it. Given the impact of these events on the gay community specifically, vigils and rallies such as the one that helped bring Boston’s progressive community together in response to these tragedies, have played a critical role in building momentum for change. However, like the gay white marriage movement, the collective call to legal arms and protections misses the mark by alienating people who are put off by political jargon but are empowered by the idea of more personal, direct, empathic, and inclusive strategies to create safe spaces for all of our youth; one that, for instance, recognizes that transgender youth are still marginalized within alleged LGBT-friendly spaces, and that the voices of people of color are often muffled by the cultural incompetencies of whitestream organizing strategies; one that is aware that equal protection as described by mainstream LGBT activists doesn’t automatically guarantee equal protection for the people that fall into any of the afore-mentioned identity groups, myself included.

Lack of Cultural Competency within Formal Support Systems

When I left Nigeria for the world’s largest melting pot, I was met with a shocking reality. Ironically, a group of African-American students — the students who actually “looked” like me — became my biggest bullies and oppressors for the two cold years I spent in boarding school in New Hampshire. Go figure, my African accent and cultural mannerisms were target for ridicule in a racially diverse school with almost no Africans represented.

I received daily hate mail in my PO Box with words that would be inappropriate to disclose, a group of girls began spreading really nasty rumors about me, and they sang profane songs with my name inserted whenever I was in sight. This soon escalated to more physically aggressive attacks — name calling in the cafeteria, stalking me back to my dorm, shoving and worse. I remember staying in my room for two whole days, starving, because I was afraid of running into them in the dining hall.

I felt completely alone. My family was halfway across the world, worried enough that their 17-yr old was alone in a foreign country. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that staff from the “multicultural students office” (a school-sanctioned support system for students of color) to whom they’d entrusted me accused me of “constantly evoking aggression by asserting my African identity all the time”. They frequently dismissed my pleas for intervention for fear of “making other students of color look bad.” When my dormitory head noticed my mood and school performance were on the decline, she encouraged me to see student counseling because I knew the school policy on harassment but didn’t want to get anyone suspended or expelled. Unfortunately, the counselor’s casually expressed class prejudices about the “poor” and “unexposed” black students who were bullying me (even though they were, in my defense) made me uncomfortable. Needless to say, I never went back.

To the outside world, it would seem that my prestigious boarding school did provide me with sound systems of support: a multicultural students office, a resident authority figure in my dorm, unlimited access to confidential counseling services and much more. But none of these formal support systems were equipped to deal with me wholly. In fact, they contributed to the feelings of isolation I felt by warranting that I fragment (or silence) parts of myself to receive the aid and support I needed. They couldn’t appreciate the complexities of my experience as an international student, or a student of color who wasn’t American, nor as an African student struggling to define herself in a world where even black people saw me as an “other”.

The result of a lack of diversity within the formal support systems in my school was that resources became inaccessible to me. I didn’t trust anyone to understand what I was going through. In addition to cultural barriers, their incessant recommendation of resources — brochures, peer hotlines, counselors etc — felt too much like the feeling you get when a doctor prescribes Ibuprofen before you disclose the nature of your symptoms. Too often, I was told what to do — report the bullies, stand up for yourself, ignore them — to counter one part of my problem, when all I needed was someone to listen to me, acknowledge the entirety of my experience rather than offer me impersonal “resources” for select parts of my identity.

Lack of LGBT-Awareness within Multicultural Support Groups

Two years later, a really diverse orientation week at my new college campus confirmed that I no longer had to suffer the loneliness of being an “other”. Relief. There was an African students association, a Black Student’s Union, and even an International Co-Ed living group that I decided to join. Moreover, my dormitory housed multiple language houses, which further satisfied my need for a cross-cultural community. I made friends easily and figured it’d be smooth sailing to graduation. But just when I thought I’d finally arrived at a point in my life where I could fit in, I began to question my sexuality, which alienated me almost instantly from all of the perceivably homophobic affinity groups to which I belonged.

The most cited approach to LGBT suicides that I’ve heard is the creation of more GSAs. I won’t speak for every student, but will say that for me, as a person of color, I never sought out the GSA because every flier, brochure or representation (in the form of students or faculty) that I came upon didn’t resonate with me at all. I often thought to myself that those weird white people that hung out in some lounge on Thursday evenings didn’t have anything in common with me. How could they? They talked about shunning their families for independence and recreating families from a network full of strangers, a philosophy that clashed too much with my cultural beliefs.

But even with my initial resistance to my school’s GSA, I’m sure that I’d have visited at least once if the director had been person of color. Conversely, the black student union was no better. I never felt comfortable among devout Christians who went to church as a group every Sunday, then casually expressed their homophobia over brunch, along with a tirade of derogatory comments made about my African heritage. In a campus that was overzealous with providing resources, support groups, and counseling, I faced the same issue I’d experienced in my high school: lack of diversity within each formal support group, which left me feeling isolated, fragmented, and one night, without any hope. I attempted suicide.

Diversity Saves Lives

Diversity is about perspective. None of the formal support systems at either of my schools had been equipped with adequate enough perspective to empathize with my needs and so they failed in supporting me. It isn’t going to be enough to just harp on administrators and legislators to act quickly to improve anti-bullying policies and create more formal support systems if students with multiple identities continue to fall out of the scope. We must put just as much (if not more) effort in expanding the reach and improving the relatability of formal support systems as we do in creating them. Hiring more POC staff — not just “white allies” — toincrease cultural competency in LGBT spaces is a good start. But straight communities of color must also commit to developing LGBT leadership within POC spaces if we are to achieve full equality for all.

And yet, while we support the efforts of school administrations and advocacy groups, it is important for all of us to be open, transparent, and visible, so that kids/teens don’t feel so alone, or like their struggles can’t be overcome. It is hard to know which parts of our identities a kid/teen may need to see to feel real hope. But diversity begins with the courage to present all aspects of ourselves to the world, all the time, and without fear. So for the sake of our youth, we must be brave enough to be ourselves.

My Angry Lesbian Mug

A Rant — The Ugly Business of Good Social Causes

I really wish the LGBT and non-profit industry in general would stop hiding behind “good causes” and own their mistakes/shortcomings so we can all move forward. [Free Idea: Someone should create a for the non-profit industry]

Companies in corporate America (yes, those ugly ‘for-profit’ entities) get “reviewed” all the time. And guess what? The smart ones make it their business to incorporate both positive and negative feedback into their marketing campaigns, products, and services. They’ve learned that alienating their customers by guilting or scaring them into silence is a sure way to fail. Moreover, they only ever defend themselves from competitors, which — at least in this analogy — would be warranted if a similar non-profit / group was using internet slander to harm your reputation or to make themselves look better.

I was just perusing some non-profit blogs today, and read a number of disheartening, angry remarks from alleged “community leaders” all across the country. Geez — and I thought Boston had issues. It seems it’s not uncommon for people, who are supposedly working angelically towards social justice, to sling low-blow internet shots at social commentators for stating opinions that expose new flaws (or highlight old ones). *In one case, a blogger simply mentioned that a certain social group / organization wasn’t her cup of tea in passing, and was called a fame-monger for using negativity as a means to receiving more site hits. Are you kidding me? This really got me thinking…

Shame shame shame to organizers, non-profit execs, promoters-for-a-cause, or anyone who thinks that manipulating others into feeling guilty for admonishing your “good” work, or worse, threatening them with internet attacks is justified or “good for the community.” None of us are above judgment. I work very hard to bring racial equality into dialogue within the LGBTQ movement but it doesn’t mean that I am without fault — ask my volunteers, I drive them nuts — and it certainly doesn’t do much for my popularity ranking, even if I’ve just been cited as a “celesbian” (lol, I love this new word). Plus,  I know that at the core of our resistance to hear negative feedback (I include myself in this) is a strong desire to be recognized for our efforts, to feel as though people do acknowledge how hard we’re working. However, as leaders, we should learn to pat ourselves on the back. In so doing, we can rid the general public of the responsibility of prefacing each and every criticism with praise, and learn to not take things so personally. Moreover, if we all learn to give cross-issue support to each other, we’ll have each other to lean on (or to rant to) while the crowd chants on…

Moving forward, we should remember to thank community members who voice their opinions (no matter how callously… ok – I take that back – some people need to chill out), and tell them “Thank You” for keeping us accountable. Shoot, at least some of them have an opinion you can take direction from; this certainly trumps the blank stares and shoulder shrugs one typically receives after requesting constructive feedback. But, I digress… Regardless of what kind of feedback you choose to accept, at the end of the day, it all boils down to whether or not you’re sticking to your mission statement. If your mission is too narrow to matter, or too broad that you do a piss-poor job of including all the relevant stakeholders (who then start complaining), consider redefining it, or better yet, scrapping it altogether. You’ve gotta be clear, and listen, cause fact: some companies —  non-profits, organizers, promoters, and lobbyists included — will do a much better job than you if you’re not.

The non-profit LGBTQ community shouldn’t have to deal with mediocrity due to lack of competition or options. Our social justice movements can only be as effective as our ability to listen and incorporate both kinds of feedback into our work.

So, to community members, if an LGBTQ promoter hosts a night that sucks, tell them why, and let them know how it could be better. If a grassroots movement leaves out people of color, damn right speak up, even if they throw buzzwords (like “diversity” and “inclusiveness” at you). Moreover, I dare you to take the next step — volunteer your time. If black people forget to advocate for latinos, asians, white allies etc during conversations about “people of color” then it is up to anyone who notices to call it out. Being unpopular isn’t fun (I should know), but it does get people to sit up and listen (even if they don’t admit that they will).

We are all part of the problem if we choose treading on eggshells vs. keeping people in check.

We are all part of the problem if we discredit our individual opinions based on some smackademic concept of oppression hierarchies.

We are all part of the problem if no one speaks out.

Social responsibility includes more than just donating old clothes to Haiti, or volunteering at a homeless shelter; it means raising your voice whether in solidarity or (respectful) disagreement so that your community leaders never forget who they are serving.  And for leaders, this also means keeping a finger on the pulse of your constituents’s needs, even at the expense of your ego. We can’t call ourselves leaders if we do not learn to hear reason rising from the heat of an angry crowd.

Diversity speaks. (That means you.)

*Note: I’m not posting links to the forums I was reading because the platforms / arguments don’t matter. I’m more interested in debunking the perceived benefits of blogging on the internet, one of which is that free speech is without reprimand (or cost in mental health)

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