When I was first assigned in 2008 by the Human Rights Campaign’s Campaign College program to work on a state house race in Norristown, Penn., I was eager to begin immediately. At the time my ambitions were for what I considered bigger and better things, like major congressional races or other national endeavors, but I was not the least bit disappointed with my new job. I took on the charge with a positive attitude because I knew that if I had gone to a larger campaign, my responsibilities — and therefore my opportunities and potential — would have been greatly diminished.
In the Matt Bradford for State House campaign, I was given the title of finance director, which became a rather large, involved position. In addition to my fundraising tasks, I also coordinated the campaign’s get out the vote effort, as well as a variety of other duties.
While I was largely correct about the advantages of working on a smaller-scale campaign, I could not have been more wrong about its significance. From working with the rest of the campaign’s team and in getting to know other local community activists, I quickly began to develop an appreciation for community activism.
As influential and high profile as the national offices and organizations are, local communities are absolutely critical to affecting real change. A television, radio or newspaper ad designed for mass consumption does not contain the necessary element of human connection to change a person’s perspective. A phone banker in another state cannot look you in the eye and convince you to care. It is only we who have the ability to change minds by talking with our neighbors and community members.
Community activists, I learned, truly are heroes. These social and political warriors are not in the bright spotlight of popular culture, and they don’t particularly want to be. Instead of being active for the praise or the fame, they’re in it for the common good. Of course, they alone cannot save the world, but they work tirelessly to improve their own little piece of it. It’s these people working collectively around the country who are the cause of real change.
Thanks to my experiences in Norristown, I became energized to do this work in my own home city of Charlotte. Soon after stumbling upon the Mecklenburg G & L PAC (MeckPAC, whose name I am proud will soon be officially modified to “Mecklenburg LGBT PAC” to demonstrate our strong convictions of inclusiveness and openness) I began learning about the local political scene and I got active in working for the values of equality and justice I revere so much.
MeckPAC’s work paid off in late 2009 when the Mecklenburg County Commission voted to enact domestic partnership benefits for county employees. On the other hand, we clearly have a long way to go, as exemplified by a new policy of the city that commendably prohibits employment discrimination against gays and lesbians but unacceptably allows that discrimination to continue against transgender people.
Personally, I would like to see this exclusion rectified and other positive changes in the very near future. In order for that to become reality, we must first overcome a number of obstacles. The greatest challenge for all of the non-profit organizations I’ve worked in has been attracting support from volunteers. We certainly appreciate expressions of gratitude, but since our goal is community progress, what we need is action. Whether it’s MeckPAC or any other organization, whether for a social or political cause, in Charlotte or anywhere else in the world, your support is needed.
For more information about MeckPAC, please visit meckpac.org.
MeckPAC will host its annual candidate reception at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte on Oct. 7. As in years past, candidate endorsements will be announced for the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners and Mecklenburg County Sheriff. (City council and mayoral elections will be held in 2011.)
— Tyler DeVere is a member of the MeckPAC Steering Committee. He also works as an editorial intern with qnotes.