Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mixner Calls for HRC Town Halls;
No Forums for his March on Washington

(David Mixner addressing the October 9, 2009, gay rally at the U.S. Capitol. Credit:

What's good for the goose ought to be good for the gander, except in some sectors of the gay movement.

Back in 2009, longtime Democratic and gay leader David Mixner was involved in mobilizing the LGBT community to attend the National March for Equality in Washington, DC, in October. Many accountability types, myself included, asked Mixner and his colleagues Cleve Jones, Robin McGehee and Kip Williams to organize geographically diverse open meetings.

We wanted full transparency over the march and the key people behind it, simply because sunshine is crucial to viable, sustaining and effective grassroots organizing. Unfortunately, Mixner and colleagues refused to hold a single public meeting about their efforts, and when it was all over, the promised network of 435 Congressional district captains and other promises were unkept.

Recently, Mixner called for the Human Rights Campaign to hold six town halls across the country before they choose their next executive director:

However wouldn't it be both really smart and also genuinely a right move if they held town meetings where anyone can come and express where they think the organization needs to go at this stage of history? They could pick out six locations that would be sure to be reflective of all segments of the community from rural areas to large cities.

Yes, I know that at times it will require enormous patience for the panel listening to the suggestions. There are those who'll attend the town meeting to simply express anger. Also there will be a significant number of people eager to express their needs, constructive frustrations and some with amazing ideas. Listening is not hard ...

Great advice, and I wish Mixner had followed it in 2009 leading up the march on DC. Today I wrote to him asking a few questions. Why didn't he and his colleagues hold town halls, does he regret not doing so, what's his reaction if HRC cites his lack of town halls as part of their rejection argument, has HRC responded, does he understand why it seems hypocritical to ask something of HRC that the march organizers themselves never delivered, and would he hold his own town halls at the NYC gay community center.

Mixner has not responded, which I find curious since his I'm sure he issued his call to HRC hoping to generate community discussion about his idea and he won't dialogue with me about these concerns.

Down in Los Angeles, veteran reporter Karen Ocamb picked up on Mixner's town hall suggestion for Frontiers LA, but omitted anything about the 2009 march's lack of open meetings. However, Ocamb expanded the idea of forums to another Gay Inc component:

This suggestion might be a good one for the board of Equality California as well, as they undertake a search for a new executive director to replace Roland Palencia.

You may recall that as EQCA searched high and low for a new leader, spent thousands of dollars finding a three-month executive director, they never held a public meeting anywhere in California about their search with grassroots folks. And they wonder why the grassroots and others are over EQCA's elitist methods.

On the east coast, experienced reporter Paul Schindler of Gay City News plugged Mixner's suggestion:

Longtime activist David Mixner last week suggested that the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hold a series of town hall meetings nationwide as it undergoes its search process to replace its president, Joe Solmonese, who leaves early next year.

Good of Schindler to give the town halls a mention, but he too missed the opportunity to nudge Mixner to hold a public forum of his own and show HRC how it's done.

As someone who has for many years demanded regular democratic engagement through open board meetings and public forums with Gay Inc and AIDS Inc advocacy organizations, I wish to clearly state what I see as the essential problem why our groups are undemocratic.

The likes of our top groups and powerbrokers fear open forums because they fear hearing directly from average constituents and they don't want to give us any opportunity to genuinely mobilize the grassroots beyond check-writing or phone banking.

Witnessing the general assemblies of the Occupy movement, we see how all sorts of regular and not-so-normal folks come together to speak their voices and have their words fall on receptive ears. The general assemblies are beautiful street town halls and there should be a few of them taking place outside HRC's headquarters in Washington, or their store on Castro Street.

Let me state my 100% support for Mixner's town halls for HRC suggestion, while again requesting that he hold a meeting or two at the NYC gay community center.


Carrie Hathorn said...

Mixner was not in control of the National Equality March. He put out the initial call but soon after he stepped back as the organizing started to take on a life of it's own with new activists and more seasoned activists getting on board and pushing the movement forward. The HRC on the other hand, got on board with the march way late in the game after months and months of not supporting the march. The really didn't do much to support the movement - and only supported it once it became clear that LGBTQ folks were mobilizing from across the county and that the turnout would be large. The HRC's behavior was very disappointing, so I don't except they will host any town halls any time soon unless they feel massive pressure from our community. They just aren't in the business of grassroots organizing, they are more into lobbying, schmoozing with politicians and rich people and paying their top staff over $200,000 a year - if you ask me they are completely disconnected to the reality of most LGBT people. We are better off organizing our own town halls that waiting for the HRC to do something. I say stop funding them and instead start your own local LGBT rights groups!

Michael said...

hi carrie,

while mixner was not running the organizing leading up to the october 2009 march on DC, he was key to making it happen. he could have used his voice and resources to make sure his friends who did the grunt work put on town halls in 2009. also, he could hold his own forums at the NYC gay center and show HRC how it's done.

regarding your suggestion of town halls regardless of HRC agreeing to them or not: YES!

i support that idea in full.