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NAACP Pres. to Speak at LGBT Center

NAACP Pres. to Speak at LGBT Center


NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous will make a historic appearance at the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center this Wednesday in preparation for One Nation Working Together, a progressive rally to take place next month in Washington, D.C.

The visit, believed to be the first by a sitting NAACP president to an LGBT center, comes in advance of the rally backed by major civil rights organizations and unions, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the Lincoln Memorial on October 2 under the theme of "jobs, justice, and education." Participating groups such as the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the AFL-CIO, and the Service Employees International Union will issue their most explicit call to date for LGBT equality during the march.

"I believe it is unprecedented for the sitting NAACP president to speak at the New York LGBT center, or any LGBT center, for that matter," said Jeffrey Campagna, head of the LGBT desk for One Nation Working Together in New York. "It is an indication of the true coalition that One Nation Working Together represents and the true opportunity this is for the LGBT movement to join with labor groups and other civil rights groups to advance our agenda."

A statement of "core policy principles" from One Nation Working Together includes broad commitment to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, respect for all families, and educating children in safe school environments.

"Everyone in America deserves a just and fair chance to achieve the American Dream," says the policy document. "Our national identity is rooted in the ideal that all people -- regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or ability -- should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential and contribute to an economy that works for everyone."

Jealous, who became the youngest person ever to head the NAACP at age 35 in 2008, will speak at the center in the West Village in Manhattan at 7 p.m. this Wednesday.

"We speak of forming coalitions all the time, and then when we have our own marches, there is often criticism that we haven't reached out enough," said Campagna. "Here is an instance where groups are the genesis of the event and they've made a very intentional effort to include us. With Ben Jealous coming to the center I think that should say this is a very sincere effort to include us."

According to Campagna, a national table for the march has been convened by the National Stonewall Democrats, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Black Justice Coalition, and Pride at Work. All national LGBT organizations are invited to take part.

"The overriding principle of One Nation Working Together is 'jobs, justice, and education,'" he said. "Obviously, there are things about the LGBT agenda that speak to each of these things, but we're not making legislative prescriptions. There's space for every LGBT organization to express itself through these principles and the policy document."

Campagna declined to estimate how many LGBT people are expected to participate in One Nation Working Together, but he said that AIDS Walk Washington, also scheduled for October 2, had agreed to fold into the march, hoping to bring people from that together with those arriving from out of town.

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