Gathering support on the sidewalks

Photo Illustration by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

Members of the Human Rights Campaign dot Georgia State’s sidewalks day in and day out to spread awareness of their organization.

“Do you have a moment to support LGBTQ rights?” they may ask as you shuffle by them to class.

The HRC sports 3 million members and supporters nationwide, boasting itself as the largest national LGBTQ civil rights campaign.

HRC remains one of the more prominent LGBTQ advocacy groups in the South. Leading up to the recent Nov. 6 election, HRC president Chad Griffin endorsed gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in a press release:

“Leader Abrams has been a tireless ally for LGBTQ Georgians in the state legislature, and she will be a vital voice for the LGBTQ community and all Georgians in the Governor’s Mansion. After a legislative session that featured threats of anti-LGBTQ legislation, it is more important than ever to have a pro-equality governor who will stand up to legislative extremists and protect all Georgians equally.”

In addition to HRC’s involvement in Georgia’s recent election, they just hosted their 13th annual black LGBTQ leadership summit on Nov. 8 in Atlanta, which was the first time participants assembled away from their usual summit at the HRC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

Nearly 50 LGBTQ students from historically black colleges and universities participated in a four-day program preparing students for leadership roles. The event hosted workshops and leadership development opportunities, in addition to networking opportunities with other LGBTQ figures.

“[The summit is] an incredible weekend where HBCU students are empowered to become thought leaders and create change on their campuses and in their communities,” HRC tweeted.

HRC states these summits provide year-round support and lead proficiently at intersections of race religion, gender identity, class and sexual orientation.

“Leadership is not just about one position, one election or one campaign,” said Leslie Hall, associate director of HRC’s HBCU Program. “There are a variety of ways and opportunities for our students to become leaders. Our work is to prepare them not just to make change on their campuses, but also in their communities and after college.”

Hall said they planned the summit in Atlanta to expand their reach and connection to the broader context of the civil rights movement. The Coca-Cola Foundation hosted the summit at HRC’s Atlanta headquarters.

After the 13th summit, the HBCU program now plans to initiate an LGBTQ HBCU alumni network.

“Having a network of alumni in place will help us to provide tools, facilitate connections with other LGBTQ HBCU alums and address issues more quickly when they arise,” Hall said. “We want to empower our young people to fight for equality — not just when they’re in college, but long after, building a footprint of HBCU students in the nonprofit sector.”

On Nov. 8, HRC and HBCU Buzz, the primary news site covering historically black colleges and universities, announced a partnership to bridge the LGBTQ HBCU Alumni Network.

“We’re excited to launch this groundbreaking partnership with HBCU Buzz, giving us the unique opportunity to connect LGBTQ HBCU alums across the country,” Hall said. “At a time when marginalized communities are under constant attack by anti-equality politicians, it has never been more important to build welcoming spaces that give LGBTQ people of color the opportunity to share their experiences and support one another.”

The HRC and HBCU Buzz partnership will provide a biweekly HBCU HRC column, containing HRC opportunities for both students and alumni.

“In 1837 the first HBCU was founded. It has taken 181 years to pivot towards the inclusionary visions of community that HBCU founders envisioned and we are honored to blaze this trail with HRC,” said Brittany Ireland, HBCU Buzz President.

Earlier this year, HRC hosted their 31st Atlanta Gala Dinner and Auction, which has grown into the largest fundraiser in the country for HRC.

Nearly 1,300 people joined inside the Hyatt Regency Atlanta to address the current administration and the LGBQT presence in Atlanta.

Numerous elected officials and candidates such as U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. John Lewis attended. Stacey Abrams, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and City Councilmembers Amir Forkhi and Matt Westmoreland also occupied seats.

“Atlanta has a strong record of inclusiveness. It is one of the prized attributes of our city, and it is a trait that we will continue to build upon each and every day,” Bottoms said to the crowd.

Bottoms also acknowledged her appointment of the city’s first full-time LGBTQ liaison, HRC Board of Governors member Malik Brown, in addition to the creation of a 32-member LGBTQ Advisory Board.

“I am proud to welcome Malik Brown as the City’s LGBTQ Affairs Liaison, and I am equally proud to welcome this distinguished group of community advocates and leaders, who have volunteered to serve on the City’s inaugural Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board,” Bottoms said in a news release.

HRC also scored Atlanta a 100 on their Municipal Equality Index, which examines the inclusiveness of municipal laws, policies and services for LGBTQ people who live and work in Atlanta.

Despite the HRC’s stated struggle, they’ve enacted legislative change in 2018 through their tireless campaign and the 3 million who support it.

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