LGBT organizers in Charlotte talk about their plans to highlight queer and youth issues during the DNC. From left: Loan Tran, Gelisa Stitt, Matt Hickson and openly lesbian Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thousands of Democratic National Convention delegates and guests will celebrate the renomination of President Obama this week as thousands more show up to protest. Among them are conservative religious activists protesting abortion clinics and others declaring a "national spiritual emergency." But, LGBT activists are on the ground, too, highlighting equality and other issues especially important to young people.
Matt Hickson, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student and an organizer with Festival Liberación and the March on Wall St. South, said neither political party is "speaking to the needs of regular people."
"Every time you turn on the TV you get an ad for one of the major political parties and their candidates," said Hickson, who identifies as gay. "Almost all of those ads don't speak to the fact that North Carolina is a state where workers are highly oppressed, where public sector workers are not allowed to collectively bargain, that North Carolina just passed [the anti-LGBT state constitutional] Amendment One or that education has been cut by almost a half a billion dollars."
Hickson said he and his co-organizers want to use the DNC's presence in Charlotte to bring attention to those issues. The influence of corporate cash on politics is also among his biggest concerns.
"We see that the root of the problem with the two major political parties is the amount of money they take from big corporations and banks and the interests they are beholden to because of that," he said. Hickson calls Charlotte a "perfect storm" for Democrats, being the largest city in a swing state and "the one southern city with a huge concentration of financial capital." It's home to headquarters for Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy, to name a few.
Hickson's group held a special day of organizing with workshops and other activities on Saturday. On Sunday, they joined hundreds for the March on Wall St. South. He and his friends plan to stay the entire week of the convention and hope to set an example to Charlotte, which he said lacks a history of effective organization. Hickson and fellow organizers want what they've started to continue in Charlotte.
"The hope is that this will spark a lot more energizing in Charlotte and in North Carolina because we need it here — we need labor organizing and organizing for queer rights and for undocumented people," he said.