Saturday, February 28, 2009

Disjointed Impact: 100K in SF
for Prop 8 Supreme Court Hearing?

Until a few days ago, I had no idea a small city, 100,000 people, were descending on San Francisco for the Supreme Court oral arguments hearing on March 5. I checked out the latest news from Amy Balliet at her Join the Impact site and learned about all these folks getting ready to be here in less than a week:

In an initiative begun by California college students, and joined by equality groups around the nation, we ask that you join us on March 5th for a moment that will make history! Please, come to San Francisco on March 5th and show the nation just how important equality is to you. We know that we’re asking a lot in this current economy, but this is huge!

If I didn't know Amy was a woman, I'd say, based on her fixation with large crowds, numbers and huge things, I'd imagine the person writing her posts was a size queen of the male species.

There is only one comment at Amy's post, and it's from me, questioning if 100,000 people are actually going to show up. Amy's partner, Willow, replied to me:

I know of student groups that have gotten funding for vans from their universities, and am getting several emails a day from folks coming from as far away as Boston, Cincinatti and Virginia- and I know not everyone would reach out and tell me. I think there’s just lots of folks that are arranging their own car pools and not relying on eride share.

This is mostly being organized by college students, who have their own ways of spreading the word to get folks to come from all over CA. Since we knew many people throughout the country would want to be involved we’re letting folks know what’s up.

That's nice, but if these activists really are expecting 100,000 folks in San Francisco, they should get around to recruiting a few of us locals to be there and maybe pitch in to fill the Civic Center plaza. No announcement about the huge rally was made at the February 26 town hall, nor was any flyer distributed to encourage us locals to attend, and after days of asking everyone I know if there were planning to be at the rally, knew nothing about it.

Would it be so terrible for those college students to build coalitions with gay grandfathers like me and other San Francisco adults?

A harsh-on-the-eyes web site, created by unnamed organizers, is up for the 100,000-person rally. Click here to read it. (Memo to the organizers: Please create a second version of the site for gay senior eyes such as mine that have trouble reading dark black background sites. A softer color tone would be appreciated by this old-timer.)

The site brags what anti-gay forces are saying about the upcoming rally:

So the Yes on 8 folks are taking us seriously.

Too bad the same can't be said of the local gay and alternative press, or activist community. Even if the unnamed organizers are young and not into reaching out to the dead-tree media and those who still rely on it to learn about demonstrations, it still behooves them to make an effort to make the publications aware of the 100,000 about to hit town.

Nothing appears in the Bay Area Reporter, the Bay Times, the Bay Guardian, the SF Weekly, and of course the SF Chronicle and SF Examiner. If there's been any promotion by local bloggers or signs posted around the Castro, Polk and Mission districts, I've missed it.

At the e-rides share site, there are only 7 rides offered listings and just 6 listing for those needing rides. And at the FaceBook page for those attending the rally, 16 messages are posted, about half from folks expressing regret they can't be in SF on March 5. This leads me to ask the question: Exactly where are the 100,000 folks coming from and who are they?

Maybe the web site creators and Amy and Willow at Join the Impact can turn out one-hundred thousand folks on March 5, and all it's going to take are a few blog posts and a site. If that happens, I'll be the first to applaud the throngs and encourage the organizer to patent their organizing idea.

On the other hand, if there are far fewer than that six-figure estimate who show up, I'd like an online discussion with the organizers about their tactics and efforts. Maybe they can tell me who is helped when community organizers announced enormous numbers,and only 1,000 or so actually make it to the rally. Whose credibility will be shot to pieces if 100,000 don't show up?

In the coming days, I suggest the March 5 rally planners do serious outreach to the local community and press, both online and dead-tree versions. There is still much time left to expand the extremely limited and poorly executed outreach of Join the Impact.

Let me end by saying I'm all in favor of big ideas, youth organizing for grand societal change, pounding the pavements for justice and gay equality. But none of those ideals are met when a disjointed impact occurs because of lazy organizing and the inability to attract a promised crowd the size of a small city.

(Photo credit: MO Obama 4 President site. Picture of 100,000 people cheering Obama in St. Louis in October. I don't think we'll see that size crowd in SF this week, not unless the president shows up!)


Amy Balliett said...


I appreciate your comments regarding reaching out to leaders in the community and organizing this event better, but I do wish that all information was verified before posting. The 100K march to SF was not planned by JTI and is not a JTI event. The organizers did, however, reach out to JTI and many many other organizations asking for help to get out the word. We at JTI decided that this was something worth helping to get the word out on, especially after our member base responded with a resounding: "We'll be at this event!"

I heard about this push to get 100K people to SF about 3 weeks to a month ago, so I know that these students have been planning it for more than a week. My thoughts are, if someone wants to make a push for something like this and their intentions are genuine, then why not help get the word out? When Willow and I called for national rallies on November 15th, it would not have been even close to the success it was if it weren't for people like you who have weathered these storms before and were willing to help spread the word and give us a ton of well needed advice. We are still constantly seeking advice, and appreciate it when it comes. I am sure that those planning this event feel the same way.

Those planning this event have sought out advice and reached out to many groups, but they have not gotten the same response that Willow and I did when JTI began, and that is unfortunate. Still, it's understandable. The November 15th rallies awoke a great amount of young activists, calling for many events and I know that it's frustrating for many of the seasoned orgs who have their own agendas that need to be met.

When it comes to the Town Hall meeting, I was actually told that it would be announced at the meeting by another org that is getting behind this event. I'm sorry it was not. Many orgs have told me that they are trying to help get the word out on this event, so it surprises me that you were not informed of it.

So now that we've gotten that all cleared up... thanks for bringing attention to this. You just did what we're trying to do: got the word out about what these students are planning. They have contacted many members of the press but have not gotten any response. This was just brought to my attention today, and I will lend my support in getting the word out to the press... your blog post is a great first start.

You can call me a size queen and maybe I am. I believe that many things make an impact and numbers are one of them. I also believe in setting reachable goals for an event that is run by JTI, which we have done for all of our events. When we started out, we had no clue that we'd reach 1 million people, but we did (our goal was 50 cities, and people like you are the reason it got to over 300). After that, we wanted to take advantage of those large numbers which we did by placing two other JTI events around the goal of 1 Million (focusing not on turning out 1 million people, but reaching 1 million people). We hit those goals, so if I'm a size queen of the male species, I'll never need a corvette to make up for anything tiny :-)

I hope that we can continue to discuss this event and future ones and that all of the young activists (myself included) get the chance to learn from people like you.

Amy (JTI)

Anastasia Beaverhausen said...

Join the Impact was a cute idea, and the kids running it mean well -- but they have no sense of history whatsoever. Their marches and protests have little relation to anything except just "visibility for visibility sake".

On top of that, they're so desperate to be liked they have ceased to be edgy, and so they will soon be irrelevant. They may not be A-gays, but they're definitely wannabe's.

One of their latest productions is some ridiculous "million gay march" on June 28. One million gays in one place? How about "NO" -- they've got them spread all over the place, another statewide pointless rally that only serves to reinforce the stereotype that we're disjointed and focused mainly on the coast. And whose bright idea was it to do this on the same day as SF pride? That's just stupid.

These kids have no sense of history, and lately, no balls either. The JTI website has become a collection house of short-sighted visibility events designed to stroke the ego of their organizers but without any real forethought to the effects and ramifications of their events.

JTI has become what the A-gays point to to demonstrate that they are "in touch" -- when you and I know they aren't. And all of the doting on the JTI kids by the A-gays has simply turned them into A-gay sycophants. I'm done with the lot of 'em.

Jeff said...

I am sitting looking at an Old San Francisco Sentinel Editorial dated Oct 23, 1987, title "March On". this was 3 days after the "Million Man Gay March on Washington." The editorial starts We are still marching. Off Pennsylvania and back in a half a million homes through America, the struggle continues for Love, Life, Liberation.

More than 20 years later we are still struggling. Three days after "The March", the US Senate passed a bill by a vote of 94 to 2 banning federal funding for AIDS Education which promote ot encourage "homosexual activitity".

HISTORY MATTERS. History shows us that VISIBILITY is not enough. Marches are basically MEANILESS, and the only way true truly make significant changes is to get involved in a significant way. Be a part of the polical system, be one of the votes in the House or Sentate. That is when things will change. Did we learn nothing from Milk!

That editorial ends with the words: "Ultimately, love is the point. Long, Long before there was AIDS there was a struggle for gay liberation. That struggle will continue long after AIDS. Two weeks ago we marched for full respect and recognition of our love. Today we are still marching!"

Look around people 20-something years later we are still marching and face the same issues, maybe it is time to take a different approach THAN MARCHING, Obviously that approach is NOT WORKING! I say Now is the time to Learn from Harvey and breed more politicians!

Anonymous said...

It's all about winning, which the gays do too infrequently, under current "leadership." Marching through the streets for visibility is about as effective as putting an HRC bumper sticker on your car. I love the kids' enthusiasm. It saddens me that with $45 million to flush down the toilet in CA, and millions more paying for a fancy building in D.C. and god knows what else, there is not yet real leadership for them to follow. People who challenge "leadership" become toxic very quickly, and then good luck to them. If someone knows what will break the logjam, do tell.

Anonymous said...

Wow, because some students, who by the way have finals coming up and other priorities, took the time to organize for something they believe in we should be bashing them? If history matters then maybe the fact that students have led movements for many things in many countries should be a factor. I personally know some of the organizers of this event and it started with about 5 college students with no help or funding. Cut us a little slack and rather than criticizing because you were not included, join the impact and include yourself. Don't feel sorry and mad that no one called you, show up! This isn't about including or excluding anyone its about making a statement. And saying that marches and rallies don't matter is just ignorant. Lighten up and be a part of the change not a criticizing bystander.