June July 2016
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Black LGBT Faith Leaders on Why Black Lives Matter

Black LGBT Faith Leaders on Why Black Lives Matter

It's vital to underscore the intersectionality of discrimination, say black Christian LGBT leaders discussing their participation in Black Lives Matter Sunday actions last weekend.

With violence — particularly police violence — against African-Americans in the spotlight, many religious groups took part in Sunday's demonstration of solidarity. A coalition of LGBT-inclusive religious bodies joined in and encouraged others to do so.

“This truly was a coalition that was created in response to one more straw that breaks all our backs,” says Rev. Darlene Garner, director of the Metropolitan Community Churches' Office of Emerging Ministries. “I am a black lesbian. It is impossible for me to separate myself as a black woman from myself as a lesbian woman, and so whenever there is an issue, an impact on the black community, it impacts me as a lesbian.”

In calling for participation, MCC and other sponsoring organizations issued a press release reading in part, “Black America faces an unspoken agenda of terror and racism. In response, tens of thousands of historically Black congregations/denominations and allies across the country will be wearing black on December 14, 2014, to protest the criminalization, disproportionate incarceration, and killing of black and brown people by law enforcement. As Black lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) religious leaders, we are all too familiar with oppressive systems that discriminate and kill.”

“In response to grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, and in other parts of the country where Black lives are ended senselessly over minor offenses or for no offense at all, our hearts are broken by the lack of justice for the victims of violence at the hands of law enforcement,” the release continued. “We grieve with the families in St. Louis, Cleveland, and New York City who have lost their loved ones. We are also dismayed by militaristic police tactics that try to silence the voices of peaceful protesters reacting to the lack of justice from our legal system.”

Garner says the leaders who issued the statement “wanted to do something that was timed to coincide with actions that were taking place across the country so the voice of black LGBT faith leaders would not be lost.”

“Frequently, it is perceived by some that when the gay community is spoken of that it’s talking about the white gay community and the particular intersection in the lives of those of us who are also black are frequently underplayed, ignored or completely discounted,” she notes. “To me it is vital, whenever there is an opportunity, to remind others of the intersectionality of the issues we live with on a daily basis; that is something we need to do. Oppression takes many forms … there are multiple levels. We live with our intersectionality. …

“I am grateful to know the number of people across the country who really do understand and agree that black lives do matter. Queer lives, straight lives — all life matters. The level of solidarity that has been expressed in many quarters is something that gives me hope that the day might really come when black people in general and black gay and lesbian people in particular will be … protected by the laws of the country … and all segments of society, including LGBT society.”

Bishop Yvette Flunder, founder and lead pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco, says it is “critically important” for black LGBT people of faith to speak out about violence against young men and transgender people as well as what she sees as a more general backlash against gains made by the LGBT movement.

“It is creating a hatred that is played out against black gay men that suggests that they are dangerous to our children,” Flunder says, referencing “horrible misinformation” that causes some to falsely link gay men with pedophilia. “It’s important to say black LGBT bodies matter. … We are not apart from the black community; we are a part of the black community.”

Like Flunder, the press release suggested that the country has seen “an escalating conservative backlash.”

“Over the last six years, fair minded Americans have moved the country to elect our first Black president, opened the doors of marriage to same gender loving people in over 35 states and Washington D.C., began a national conversation on the inclusion of transgender brothers and sisters, and confronted the need to finally address immigration reform,” it said. “This decided shift toward progressive social values has been met with an escalating conservative backlash most abhorrently embodied in the aggressive policing of Black and Brown bodies. The conservative climate has also led to rampant unresolved murders of transgender people.”

In addition to the MCC, sponsors included the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, of which Flunder is president; United Church of Christ; Unity Fellowship; Fellowship Global; Global Justice Institute; Many Voices; Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies; and Bishop Tonyia Rawls.

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