Thursday, January 20, 2011

Harvey Weeps: A-Gays Jones & Black
Cut Backroom Deal With HRC

While he was alive, gay icon Harvey Milk was well-known for standing up to what he called the machine bosses and their politics, and for also democratically engaging friend and foe alike with public debates and discussions. In keeping with his democratic principles, Harvey participated in a number of open forums with John Briggs, anti-gay state politician who was pushing a prohibition on openly gay teachers in California schools.

The Milk/Briggs debates are so integral to Harvey's legacy they were immortalized in Gus Van Sant's biopic "Milk", written by Black.

But those democratic ideals of Harvey have been tossed aside by A-gays Cleve Jones and Dustin Lance Black, who recently engineered a backroom deal with the Human Rights Campaign over the group taking over the lease of what had been Harvey's camera store. Some history is in order here.

First, remember when Cleve-Apalooza was being organized for the autumn of 2009? There were no public forums held leading up to the ego-driven event, one that was supposed to produce, according to Jones, a nationwide network of activists in every congressional district. That network never formed.

Second, barely a month ago Jones railed against HRC and their plans: "I think Harvey would be appalled by this. I resent it, I find it offensive, and I intend to do everything I can to stop it." Black was equally appalled at HRC moving into the shop. It's all water under the bridge now.

According to Towleroad, Jones and Black have made statements applauding HRC agreeing to share some of the space in the Castro Street store with the Trevor Project. I don't have an issue with the Trevor Project benefiting in a small way from the controversy surrounding HRC taking over the store.

What I object to, though, is that the fundamental issue of lack of public engagement and democratic open meetings with HRC were in no way addressed by the agreement with the Trevor Project. Sure, Jones and Black are happy because they are seen by some as heroes for striking this agreement, and their egos were well-massaged, but the key issue of HRC's elitism, so important last month, has been dropped by these two A-gays.

Over at the Bilerico Project, Alex Blaze adds his critical voice to the HRC/Trevor Project/Jones arrangement:

Wait, how does this "resolution" deal with any of the original problems with HRC running a store out of that site? Am I surprised that gays can't even isolate the original problem? Does Cleve really think a lack of phone calls with gay kids from Altoona was the reason people were complaining? Was it the reason he was complaining?

... Since HRC will still be selling the mystique of real activism and using the profits for their execs' bloated salaries (only now some phone calls will happen in the same building, even though more phone calls could probably happen on cheaper property), I'm guessing what happened here is the Trevor Project put their name on the idea and then people feel like they can't say anything since the Trevor Project is beyond criticism because they deal with gay teen suicide.

Rest assured, Alex and everyone else still concerned about the lack of openness and democratic engagement with HRC, the criticism is not easily going away.

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