The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced a new initiative this month aimed at uniting the sexual- and racial-minority populations to strive for equal rights together.
The NAACP unveiled its LGBT Equality Task Force during its Centennial Convention in New York City July 15. The new agency is a collaboration between NAACP and the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT people-of-color organization.
Seven NAACP members will comprise the committee, which will be co-chaired by NAACP national chair Julian Bond and California NAACP chair Alice Huffman.
“The LGBT Task Force represents a historic movement for African-American LGBTs,” said Dr. Sylvia Rhue, interim executive director of NBJC. “I believe it will establish the foundation for the NAACP as a forward-looking body and finally moving it as it recognizes LGBT rights within the NAACP governing body.”
Jasper Hendricks, director of field operations and policy director for NBJC, said his organization has been working with the NAACP for several years to draw increased attention to LGBT issues.
He said the Task Force actually formed in February during the agency’s national board meeting, but only had four members at that time; the committee expanded its membership and officially approved its mission during this month’s convention.
The Task Force is charged with “figuring out ways to implement LGBT and civil-rights items in the NAACP’s agenda,” Hendricks said.
The NBJC is working with the Task Force in an advisory capacity, researching a variety of LGBT issues on which the committee could take action.
Hendricks said the NBJC is eager for the Task Force to propose resolutions at next year’s convention, supporting such issues as the inclusion of LGBT individuals in hate-crimes and safe-schools laws and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would then go to the general governing body for approval. Hendricks noted that pro-LGBT resolutions such as these have never reached the floor of the NAACP governing body for a vote.
Before next year’s convention, the Task Force and NBJC will be working with local NAACP chapters across the country to help develop their involvement in their respective LGBT communities.
“We’re going to be working with local units that have expressed interest in this area, like Mississippi and Utah, which are two that stick out in my mind because these are areas that you wouldn’t necessarily think would be so supportive but have been some of our most vocal people who’ve stood behind this initiative,” Hendricks said.
The night before the unveiling of the committee, NBJC deputy director Jason Bartlett addressed the NAACP board of governors, urging the organization to make LGBT rights a top priority.
“Too often our community — the black community — thinks of LGBT concerns as white,” Bartlett, also a state representative in Connecticut, said during his address. “The National Black Justice Coalition represents black LGBT people, like myself, that need you.”
Bartlett said in a statement this week that in addition to the pro-LGBT issues Hendricks mentioned, the NBJC is also optimistic that the NAACP will eventually come out in support of same-sex marriage.
“The real test for the NAACP will be to take a stand saying marriage equality is a civil right,” he said. “If the NAACP takes this step, true marriage equality for all Americans will be hard to stop — the NAACP’s imprimatur is that powerful.”
Michael Hinson, interim executive director of The COLOURS Organization Inc. and the former treasurer of the local chapter of NAACP, said the formation of the Task Force is a step in the right direction, but that both the committeemembers and NAACP leadership need to be committed to following through with action.
“This framework is a new framework, so I think it really means that we have to have all sides pay attention to what this means to the culture of our communities and the culture of our organizations,” Hinson said. “We have to make sure that the authenticity of this new extension of our relationship is real. It’s not something we can sort of embrace as a fad or as the new thing to do, but we need to be committed to authentically engaging each other in ways that are helpful to building unity.”