By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Coming from Bohnett, who carefully chooses when he wants to speak to the press, that statement is a major, and very public, vote of confidence. It may act to keep longtime gay leaders on their toes, especially people who served on the executive committee of the “No on 8” campaign, like L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Lorri Jean.
Jean says the recent spike of activism “has been unprecedented since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.” Grass-roots organizing took off in the mid-1980s, when government barely reacted to the disease that was killing thousands of young gay men. People needed care and services, and AIDS organizations sprung up. “I hope the interest doesn’t wane when it comes to the work of good old organizing,” she says.
With so much progress on the AIDS issue and acceptance of gays, Jean believes gay “people of all ages” became complacent, but younger gays “don’t feel as oppressed.” Jean points to her battle as a law student at Georgetown University, where she undertook an ultimately successful nine-year lawsuit to form a gay student union.
“They have a lot of energy,” Jean says, “but they don’t have experience, and we need to help them gain some knowledge.” Jean plans to provide training through the Gay & Lesbian Center and other organizations.
Vincent Jones, a young grass-roots organizer, who is black, is working to build stronger ties between the gay and black communities through the Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition, says he has “a lot of respect” for Jean, but new training “shouldn’t just show us what they’ve done in the past.”
He wants “peer-led” training that teaches young activists how to use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as well as innovative ways to protest. “We see right now that everything is changing,” Jones says, “and we have to adjust to the times.”
One of the movement’s elder statesmen in L.A., Michael Weinstein, founder of AIDS Healthcare, who has also fought numerous battles against the gay establishment, believes the time is ripe for a major shakeup, whether or not a new generation leads the charge.
“Young people weren’t a part of the debacle,” Weinstein says of Prop. 8’s failure. “They have the energy, and the future is about them. But it doesn’t mean they intrinsically know what to do. Now we have a chance to do something different because the A-gays failed. We can make something better.”
Young emerging leaders like Valk and Jones seem to understand that opportunity, even if they need help to make it happen.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.