Cleve-Apalooza March on DC:
1-Year Later, Who Profited?
On this day a year ago, between 150,000 and 200,000 gay activists and allies flocked to Washington to participate in Cleve Jones' National Equality March. A fair number of critics, myself included, complained about the lack of democracy, public meetings and community engagement. We were all told to just come to the rally on the West Capitol grounds, listen to Cleve and his pals deliver speeches, revel in the cast of Broadway's "Hair" performing a number from the revival, and miraculously we would affect change in Congress and at the White House.
In response to his critics, Cleve said:
This march is an organizing vehicle to create a national grassroots movement to change votes in Congress. That's the purpose.
Sorry to say those votes didn't happen on ENDA, DADT or DOMA. Cleve and his principal co-organizers, Kip Williams and Robin McGehee, also promised they already had created "a network of decentralized organizers in every one of the 435 Congressional districts."
Of course, they had no such network nor was one created out of the event. But a few months after the march, Williams and McGehee directly profited from it when they were given more than half a million dollars from Democratic gay millionaire Jonathan Lewis, to start GetEQUAL and pay themselves robust 5-figure salaries.
Looking back on it all, I can't help thinking that if those egomaniacs had engaged in democratic community organizing, held open meetings, allowed ideas to bubble up, some lasting good might have come out of it all.
Imagine if the march included protesting at three of the largest organizations holding back gay rights - the Democrat Party, it's affiliate the Human Rights Campaign, the GOP - and we took our righteous anger to the headquarters of those orgs. I believe much good would have flowed back to us and our struggle if we had organized strategically, instead of participating in the Cleve-Apalooza.
Since the march, we've witnessed GetEQUAL's elitist leaders, and two dozen or so of their followers, trying to pressure the HRC and the Democrats to address our concerns. Basically, an entire year of decent community organizing didn't happen because of lousy job Cleve, Robin and Kip did leading up to and at the march.
A year later, Cleve has lots of news clippings for his archive, and Robin and Kip have fatter bank accounts. Not sure what else came from the National Equality March of 2009.