(Gay youth leaders debate gay opponents in
SF on January 3. Photo credit: Chris Heuer.)
Equality Camp Overthrows Equality California;
Wired Gay Youth v. Control Queens
The tumbleweeds were blowing down Second Street near Harrison Street in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon as I rode my bike down a desolate street of pavement, not a soul in sight near the building housing the Citizen Space. That was where the day-long Equality Camp was being held, and even though lack of accountability from the No on 8/Equality California leaders was not on the agenda, my top issue, I still decided to check it out.
By the way, before I even walked in the door, I had posted some comments on the Equality Camp's web site, and one of the organizers took the time to post public replies, a sign of real transparency not much on display at EQCA's site.
Why were they holding the event in such a remote location? Was Siberia unavailable? I was sure maybe a dozen folks would be there.
I spent two hours at the camp, sat in on two sessions and got a sense of the assorted topics being discussed throughout the day. My first session was about overcoming divisions in the gay community and I just listened to what was said, offering no comments. My second session dealt with outreach and engagement with communities of color, and the discussion was led by Molly McKay of Marriage Equality, who gave everyone a chance to speak, including me. I remarked that answers were still needed from No on 8 leaders who bragged on TV about not engaging the hearts and minds of gays, their base.
I also spoke with one of the organizers, Tara Hunt, asking why accountability over what went wrong, to the tune of $45 million, didn't make the camp's agenda. She explained that at the beginning of the day folks decided to not backwards, and instead to look at what can be done, and better, in the future.
Sheesh, if these folks were in charge of accountability after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Michael D. Brown would still be effing up FEMA, I thought, but said nothing to Tara about how strongly I disagree with leaving accountability off the agenda.
A few observations: More than 80 people were present when I took an informal head count. The enthusiasm of so many was quite high, in terms of building links to Yes on 8 voters and crafting better online social networking. Attendees were overwhelmingly under 30, full of cockiness, a good trait IMHO, and wired to the teeth. I was embarrassed to take out my paper and ink pen to take notes.
There was so much electronic media and tools being used the floor was practically a carpet of power strips and wires. All sorts of cameras and recording devices were being employed, some quite small. I saw no one asking if reporters were present or any effort made to throw out reporters.
And this camp just wasn't my cup of tea, but so what. It seemed geared toward the "We're wired up, won't take it no more!" generation and they're gonna put themselves out there for the world to see, no permission asked or needed. That is absolutely fine because not all such attempts at community organizing are going to necessarily meet the political needs of an almost 50-year-old activist.
Let me also say big thanks to the youths who put on the Equality Camp and everyone who was there over the long day. Everyone who wanted to attend was allowed in and given the right to speak and record the proceedings, and efforts were made to capture sessions for later sharing on the web, giving anyone in LA or Santa Cruz or Fresno the chance to listen in and watch.
Here it is four days after the camp happened and lots of reports, pics and videos are available for viewing at the Equality Camp web site. Click here to start looking at stuff.
Compare the vast openness and engagement of the camp with the latest b.s. from EQCA and its organizing committee and cochairs from the Equality Summit planned for January 24 in LA. The summit is off to a rocky start, thanks to unclear policies about media access, withholding names of people on the planning committee, and critics alleging the same "us v. them" mentality that doomed the executive committee of the No on 8 forces.
While the summit organizers are acting in true grand poobah fashion, with a maze of layers and double-speak at work on their private conference calls or in emails, and no commitment to full transparency and a diversionary conflict over allowing reports access, with lots of bad blood and feelings circulating, EQCA control queens stumble to maintain leadership positions under attack.
Click here and also here to Queerty.com's coverage of the stinks with the EQCA summit leaders. Fears of these leaders about our enemies attending summit session and learning our super-duper secret recipe for undoing some of the damage done by the No on 8 campaign that led to rescinding gay marriage are quite silly.
The secret to our future success was widely and loudly discussed and embraced at the Equality Camp. It's called visibility. Oops, now that I've let the cat out of the closet, EQCA will never let me attend the summit. ;-)
Oh, and if you're wondering about how to handle adversaries showing up at the summit or any meeting called by gays to discuss advancing our agenda for equality, click here to see how the camp dealt with religious opponents at the camp.
Speaking as a critic of the Equality Camp, I must say it really overthrew the cautious, closeted, control queen ways of Equality California last weekend. We California gays are truly fortunate to have two radically different groups in formal organizing responses to our post-Prop 8 agenda.
One, Equality Camp, welcoming everyone, even me!, to have a seat at the organizing table, with lots of cameras present. And the other choice is the Equality California approach, which, equals elitism, closed-door decision-making, and no recording devices.
Now, if only we could get accountability addressed by both groups, this queer would be happy. Until then, I'll enjoy watching the Equality Camp leaders show us all a better way of organizing for gay liberation.