Alphonso David made history when he became president of the Human Rights Campaign in 2019. He’s the first person of color and first civil rights lawyer to head the HRC, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ equality organization, in its 40-year history.
David is also the son of Liberian immigrants — he was born in the United States before moving back to Liberia as a child, where he was raised — and with all these factors in his background, he displays a keen awareness of the importance of intersectionality.
LGBTQ+ rights organizations, he says, need to “think about racial justice not as ancillary to our mission, but really core and central to our respective mission.” HRC’s mission is politics and advocacy, and for it to make racial justice “core and central” means looking at this work through “an intentional, inclusive, intersectional lens,” David says.
Toward that end, the group has established a transgender justice initiative, with the awareness that discrimination and violence against trans people disproportionately affect women of color. It also is addressing the HIV crisis among Black men — it’s estimated that half of African-American men who have sex with men will contract the virus during their lifetime, at a time when many people think HIV is old news. And some Black men may not have the same access to health care and preventive drugs that white men have.
One of HRC’s top priorities, David adds, is making sure people vote. “As a Black man, as a gay man, as an immigrant, I have to make sure that we all know how important it is to fight for this democracy that we claim to care for,” he says.
This is a key election year, with the opportunity to vote out a truly terrible president and replace him with an ally; to flip the U.S. Senate to Democratic control and maintain the Democratic House majority so the Equality Act will have a chance of passing; and to elect equality-supporting candidates at every level of government.
“Donald Trump has sullied our Constitution,” David says, “and he is seeking to destroy our democracy. … We cannot accept what he is trying to do. We have to fight back.” HRC has endorsed Joe Biden for president and has endorsed numerous candidates in down-ballot races, and it’s putting in a great deal of effort to get LGBTQ+ and allied voters to the polls.
Some people may say they don’t care about politics, but that’s not an acceptable attitude in 2020, David says. “Please care for the next few months,” he says. “Please engage for the next few months. Because our lives are on the line.”