Three… two… one… Happy New Year! Yes, it’s time for well wishes, resolutions and new beginnings. I do it. You do it. We all partake in the annual wish-making and dreaming that is New Year. With a new calendar comes hopes for change, progress and success. And, as much as we each wish better for ourselves, here’s to new hopes that our community and world experiences better days as well.
2011 was a rocky year. Bad news seemed constant. The economy was and remains in shambles. Politicians and civic leaders seem deadlocked in constant disagreement. Dysfunction abounds. Despite it all, our community saw its fair share of successes last year — accomplishments I hope we can build on for bigger and brighter goals in 2012, a year that will prove historic for Charlotte and North Carolina.
Our city’s and state’s LGBT communities will be handed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shine on a national and world stage this year — the highlights, of course, being the impending anti-LGBT constitutional amendment vote in May and this September’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
In the next few months, the campaign to defeat the proposed amendment — which would forever ban recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships — will heat up. Both sides will begin fundraising ferociously (if they haven’t already) and TV ads, radio spots, billboards, yard signs and mailers will soon become as commonplace as the Carolina pine trees that stand tall in nearly every single backyard in this state.
The amendment will be an uphill fight. Thirty states across the country have passed similar constitutional measures, though North Carolina’s is one of the most draconian. Fortunately, Tar Heels have a long, progressive tradition and history to draw upon, giving us a firm foundation for building coalitions and working toward the defeat of the amendment. And, regardless of the amendment’s eventual fate, the organizing and grassroots work undertaken will leave an indelible mark on LGBT communities in every single city and town, no matter their size.
This fall, LGBT community members in Charlotte — and even those across the state — will have the opportunity to engage in a conversation that could prove useful for creating more progressive and inclusive movement at the local level. Thousands and thousands of LGBT and LGBT-friendly politicians, activists, lobbyists, Democratic Party workers and media representatives will pour into the Queen City for the 2012 Democratic National Convention and become our captive audience.
For the week the convention is here, and for the several weeks preceding it, local LGBT community leaders and members will meet and mingle with some of the nation’s most influential LGBT leaders and visionaries. Such access, I hope, will serve as a boon to efforts to increase our visibility and credibility as an active, politically and socially dynamic constituency.
I sincerely hope my fellow community leaders will take this opportunity and use it for its maximum potential benefit. A wasted opportunity such as this would be quite sad, indeed. I envision speaking engagements and leadership discussions and public projects and initiatives to increase our visibility. We all know our community is culturally vibrant — now it is our turn to become politically dynamic and viable. We’ve been ignored for far too long, hidden away in the Queen City’s dusty closet.
Our community’s continued journey out of Charlotte’s proverbial closet is, perhaps, my most ardent and heartfelt wish for our local community this new year. We had a glimpse of the possibilities during Pride Charlotte’s Uptown 27,000-plus extravaganza in August. We are a large and powerful community — but only if we choose to be, such as recent efforts to engage the Charlotte City Council in continued conversations on a non-discrimination ordinance and domestic partner benefits.
Pride Charlotte’s 2011 theme — “Stand Up. Stand Out. Stand Proud” — was perfectly symbolic and it’s a message we should take to heart as this new year unfolds and we begin to face the amendment’s challenges and Democratic Convention’s many blessings. : :