(Originally from my updates at OC Progressive)
I had so many questions before last weekend. And honestly, I still don't know exactly what lies ahead. However, I had many of my questions answered as I saw a glimpse of hope rising after the storm.
And yes, believe it or not, my questions were answered in Fresno!
I arrived in Fresno on Friday for Meet in the Middle 4 Equality, and I was already being blown away from the very beginning! Local LGBT civil rights activists, like Meet in the Middle Organizer Robin McGehee and Jay Matthew from Erase the H8, have clearly put together a stellar operation for this weekend. And with support from other state groups like Courage Campaign (Rick Jacobs himself was there!) and OCEC, it looked like the town was already filling up for this one-of-a-kind event.
My friend Linda and I arrived in Fresno just in time for the press conference for local media. Before the radical right could get any start demonizing all of us as "teh homosexual invaezjon army!!111!!!!1", such luminaries as Cleve Jones, Lt. Dan Choi, and Robin Tyler & Diane Olson explained that they're here in Fresno not to provoke controversy but to start dialogue on marriage equality and greater issues of civil rights. Local activists like Robin McGehee also explained that they're here all the time and they're committed to working with allies in other social justice movements to achieve equality for all in The Central Valley.
Not too long after the presser, I checked into the hotel... But only for a few minutes. I then rushed off to the other "first event of Meet in the Middle", which was the pre-party hosted by Equality Army and Erase the H8 with most of the proceeds benefitting Meet in the Middle. I connected with a few old friends, met plenty of new ones, and all around had a blast partying with my fellow queer love warriors. It was a great way to get fired up and ready to go marching the next day!
And speaking of that next day, we started off the morning walking from Selma to Fresno early Saturday morning. Yes, that's right. Hundreds of queer folks and straight (but not narrow!) folks who care about civil rights marched up Golden State Highway, many marching the entire 14.5 mile route, to demonstrate how much we want full equality for all.
We sweated together. We walked together. We jogged and ran together when necessary. But together, we all sent a powerful statement on today's civil rights struggles.
After my group marched for about 10 miles and over 3 hours, we arrived at the rally site in Downtown Fresno. We were greeted by numerous thousands of cheers! And yes, the cheering supporters far outnumbered the scattered few counter-protesters insulting us.
Once all of us marchers arrived for the rally, we were also greeted by some amazing speakers.
Charlize Theron, T.R. Knight, Eric McCormack, Cleve Jones, Rick Jacobs, Robin McGehee, Robin Tyler, and many more came to speak. But more importantly, the progressive grassroots from the Central Valley was present... And was backed up by many good activists from all over California.
I met wonderful new friends in Fresno. I chatted with old friends from Courage Campaign. I hanged with my BFFs from OCEC. It was truly a beautiful experience.
This truly felt like the start of the movement to repeal Prop H8, the start of a new way forward on securing equality in California and nationwide. I had so many questions before last weekend. And honestly, I still don't know exactly what lies ahead. However, I had many of my questions answered as I saw a glimpse of hope rising after the storm.
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to stay in Fresno for the LGBT Leadership Summit. Remember when I told you all about that Equality Summit in LA in January? Well, it looks like we've all learned some important lessons since then. Courage Campaign and Equality California are getting along better. Most activists are ready to move on from the past. And yes, we're mostly ready to build a winning campaign for 2010 and beyond!
Yep, it seemed like this time we didn't have a problem coming together. And really, that's what we all need to do in order to secure our civil rights once and for all. We've survived the mistakes of the past, so now we need to work together to build a better future.
I feel like I saw a glimpse of the future in Fresno last weekend. I saw it with the young students who are organizing their schools. I saw it with the various grassroots Equality Teams from all over the state that are committed to changing hearts and minds one door knock at a time. I saw it with the new outreach strategies that aim to educate by showing the people in our community, not hiding them. This is the future, and I hope I'll be seeing much more of it in the days ahead.