â€śLooking Forward: Whatâ€™s Next for Equality California?â€ť is an Op-Ed series where LGBT Californians write about the direction that Equality California, our statewide lobbying organization, should take as it searches for a new Executive Director.Â Today’s post is written by Christine Marge of Los AngelesÂ I interviewed Christine in 2009 for my Grassroots Profiles series about her work addressing homelessness and fighting for marriage equality.Â Christine is still serving as Director of Housing at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, where she helps businesses, government and nonprofits together to effectively address homelessness.Â –Syd Peterson
During a Time of Great Fragmentation, Equality California is Uniquely Positioned to Bridge Movements
by Christine Marge
I started working in community organizing and policy change 10 years ago, at about the same time I began coming out as a lesbian to just about anyone who would listen.Â I was fueled by a passion for social and economic justice and a belief that the commitment of advocates on the â€śright sideâ€ť of a given issue would always prevail.
I began my social change work advocating for transsexual womenâ€™s inclusion in women-only space.Â I worked on a campaign against a racist ballot initiative next, then on homelessness, marriage equality, union organizing, mental health advocacy, (and the list goes on).Â As I entered the advocacy arena on each of these issues, I would get to know a different set of players: grassroots activists, faith leaders, policy wonks, and elected officials who were allied in that movement.Â It would seem there were limitless activists in California passionate about social justice.
This phenomenon is not without reason â€“ each of us wants to use our limited time and resources to create the biggest impact.Â But when I look back on these campaigns, I see that, disappointingly, few of them succeeded.Â The transsexual women were not allowed into the â€śwomyn onlyâ€ť music festival.Â The workers were unsuccessful in forming their union.Â Prop 8 passed.
We know why, in part, so many of our efforts fail: While the grassroots activists, policy wonks, and faith leaders I worked with on each campaign were different, the organizations and leaders opposing us were, by and large, the same across all of these issues.
Our most successful and visionary progressive leaders create change by bridging movements and harnessing our collective strengths.Â While not a small task, this coalition building is doable: many leaders have succeeded.Â For example, Nancy Berlin at California Partnership refuses to let divisive state budgeting fragment these movements and instead brings grassroots groups together to present proactive alternatives. Elise Buik transformed United Way of Greater Los Angeles to focus on the interconnected nature of poverty through reforming education, promoting economic stability, and ending homelessness.Â Rodney McKenzie, while at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, led a partnership with Action for Grassroots Empowerment and Neighborhood Development Alternatives (AGENDA) to defeat the racist Prop 54.Â It was Rodneyâ€™s movement-building vision that brought me into the mainstream LGBT movement to work for marriage equality alongside the fight against racism.
LGBT Californians, and the larger community of progressive Californians, are ready to come together for real change. Equality California is uniquely positioned to bridge these movements because EQCA represents a community of LGBT people affected by myriad social and economic justice issues.Â The new Executive Director of EQCA inherits an organization with great strengths, at a time of great fragmentation and crisis in our state and our country.Â This leader must work across movements to bring together grassroots activists, labor leaders, policy wonks, elected officials, faith leaders, and LGBT Californians and our allies.Â It will require tremendous leadership and vision, but there is much at stake and these times demand nothing less.