DETROIT, Mich. — Mandy Carter has long been on the front lines fighting for LGBT and racial equality. As Sue Hyde said in her introduction of Carter as the winner of the Susan J. Hyde Activism Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Carter represents “40 years of political troublemaking.”
Hyde Award winner Mandy Carter (left), National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Matt Foreman and transgender activist Pauline Park at the Creating Change 2008 conference.
Carter was honored at the 20th anniversary Creating Change conference, hosted Feb. 6-10 by the Task Force, for her work with Southerners On New Ground (SONG), a North Carolina-based rights group created at the 1993 Creating Change conference hosted in Durham.
“I am truly humbled to receive this award and I do so for everyone who has been, is and will be in the social justice movement,” Carter said.
She began her battle for social justice when she heard a speaker from a Quaker group at her high school. She said that conversation changed her life, and as a result she often follows the lead of the Quakers in her own activism. “We have to go where the people are and we have to interact with them there,” she said.
“The concept of power is that I, we, all of us have the capacity of change. Not everyone acts on it,” she said. “It’s about equality for all… No one gets left out and no one ever gets left behind.”
She also reminded onlookers that it takes time to be included, citing the annual commemorations of the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
Even though the march was largely organized by a gay man, as each remembrance of the event was planned LGBT activists were told this was not the year for their issues to be heard. Forty years later, things changed when Coretta Scott King herself asked that the LGBT community be part and parcel of the events.
“It takes time. It takes tenacity,” Carter told the crowd. “Our movement is at a historical, pivotal crossroads. The question before us: Are we about justice, or just us? It’s got to be about justice!”
Julian Bond hails activism
Julian Bond, chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), wowed a packed ballroom of over 1,500 LGBT activists during his Feb. 7 address at the conference.
“I want to talk about civil rights. I believe gay rights are civil rights,” he said. “That is why when I am asked are gay rights civil rights, I always say of course they are.
“Am I to tell the gays and lesbians who stood with us in our struggle, thanks for risking life and limb, but now they are excluded because of a condition of birth? That I can now turn my back on them and deny them the rights they helped me win? Not a chance.”
Bond, who worked with King and helped to found the Southern Poverty Law Center, spoke about growing up as the grandson of a slave, and about watching the civil rights movement unfold.
“Those were the days when men and women of all color worked together for civil rights for all people,” he said. “Those were the days when the president picked the Supreme Court, and not the other way. Those were the days when the media really was fair and balanced and not just stenographers for the rich and powerful.”
He talked at length about the battles that led to the watershed of the African-American civil rights struggle, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Thus it has just been a little over 40 years that all blacks have exercised all the rights of
citizenship,” he said. “Only 40 years since the protections of laws and Constitution were extended to all. But now some are saying this is enough. The whole country seems proud that a candidate is campaigning in cities that 40 years ago he could not have stayed in a hotel there.”
Bond noted the changes that came with the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia that struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage. He noted that many who supported those laws argued the mixing of races was forbidden by God.
“Does that sound familiar to anyone?” he asked “Then as now, those opposed to gay marriage invoke God’s plan. Well, God seems to have made room for interracial marriage, and he or she will likely make room for same-sex marriage.”
Calling those who oppose gay marriage on the basis of Biblical literalism and inerrancy “cafeteria Christians,” Bond launched into a lengthy series of questions on how we should handle other Biblical passages against working on the sabbath, having contact with women who are menstruating and many more such laws found in the holiness codes in Leviticus.
“Then there is the black church that has much to answer for,” he said, “for refusing to take a proactive stance against HIV/AIDS. Nowhere in the battle against gay marriage are the fields tended more so than the pews of the conservative black churches.”
Bond also took particular aim at the president. “President Bush said he wanted to be a uniter,” he wryly observed. “It took him seven years, but boy did he succeed.
“What happened in 2006 was not an election, but an intervention,” he said of the 2006 midterm elections that resulted in Democratic control of the Congress.
— Todd Heywood is the capitol correspondent for Between the Lines, the statewide LGBT newspaper of Michigan, as well as a Fellow for the Center for Independent Media. His work can be found regularly on www.Pridesource.com and www.MichiganMessenger.com.