By Shareena Clark, Programs Coordinator, Our Family Coalition
As of late, it seems like the phrase “family values” has been hijacked and co-opted to represent a very narrow and exclusive interpretation of the idea. Fortunately, we are aware that the definition of “family” and “values” is defined by much more than the ideas and actions of a splinter cell of religiosity. Although the extremist definition of family values can at times feel like a black hole pulling progress and positivity toward a horizon of foolishness, it is comforting to remember that all of that malarkey is just a tiny speck on the continuum of love, power, and possibility that expands forever into the past and future.
Yes, we (the LGBTQ community) frequently use the word family in a fast and loose manner that includes biological, chosen, and intentional formations and a host of possibilities that grow with our community; the values of that family are as wide ranging as the colors on the flags that represent us. This handsome assortment of folk – comprised of a melange of identities, ethnicities, practices, races, family structures and on – has a common desire, however. As a community, we wish to be seen, heard, and understood on our own terms. So, in that sense, we are all activists. The force of activism is strong as we persistently work for the good of our various tribes. Sometimes our activism takes the direct form of throwing a high heeled shoe at a police officer in defense of our sisters, while at other times it is in the form of pushing legislation for protections in our places of work and learning, but at all times our communities are active.
Activism is not only a way for us to be visible and heard, it also a means of survival. it is imperative that we do everything humanly possible to ensure the survival of our community and our family politically, socially and otherwise. Like Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Meaning: we, as a family community, need to work for and with ourselves; and for and with other communities who are also marginalized within the current systems of domination. Our collective goal, then, is to free ourselves from oppression, or at least get our subsequent generations a little closer to Dr. King’s famed mountain top. Not now, but RIGHT now. We are long past ready for equity.
But how? What does activism look like anyhow? Protesting? Voting with our dollars? Letter writing? Going off the grid? Boycotting? Wearing a pin? Tweeting? Walking in an “_______a-thon”? Why is it that massive movements seem to flare up and fizzle out so quickly, leaving us wanting? How can I make change all by myself? How can I speak up without endangering myself, my partner(s), or my family?
These are all questions that come up time and again within activist circles, and unfortunately, there seems to be no way to get to a consensus here. What I do know is that activism of any sort is a journey that begins with a desire to see social change. And that journey does not need to be approached alone: We are many families, remember? There is a popular African saying that goes,”if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Through cooperation and collaboration we can explore some of these tough questions together.
It is believed that cooperation is the biggest factor in the survival of a species, (sorry Darwin, your theory has gone the way of the barbed wire tattoo). Cooperation is also the key to the survival of an action or movement, and just within your household or circle of friends and family you have a troop of cooperatives. What better activity to bring a family closer, than to work for a common cause? And what better way to build community and camaraderie with others than collaborating with another family in the spirit of social change?
Activism has always been and continues to be an LGBTQ family value, and as the dead prez say, “we won’t stop until we have our full freedom”. Won’t you join us? Bring the kids!
Registration: Click here!
When: Sunday, February 22, 3 – 5pm
Where: California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission St., San Francisco