Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reactions from the Town Hall Meeting

I'll try and be as proactive and optimistic as possible but that might prove to be difficult in responding to last night's Marriage Equality GLBT Center Town Hall Meeting.

I was only able to be there for about 20minutes before having to leave for a previous commitment so I am admitting that I am not the best source to review this meeting. I did, however, do my homework and contact people who attended to get a good scope on what went down.

When I got there I was taken aback by the amount of people who showed up. There were damn near 300 people, if not more, crammed into a hot and stuffy room of the LGBT center. Having been to meetings like this in the past, with such large populations, I knew from the start that there would be a lot of talking and little doing. It's just impossible to organize with that amount of people with no clear cut plan for execution.

I arrived just before Tom Duane delivered a speech on how we have to commit ourselves to a lot of organizational -based ground work and how we can learn from the Prop 8 campaign in California. Afterward, the moderator opened the floor to questions and answers. I grumbled when this happened, not because I felt the Q&A was coming too soon but because The Center always insists on having people get up at a microphone and ask their questions. I hate this! The center seems convinced that people are incapable of standing up where they are and asking their question aloud. Instead, the whole meeting has to wait for people to get to the mic to ask their questions and it's just annoying. My whole 20minute experience there was a true test of patience and I found myself sighing again and again through the Center's relentless bureaucratic system of things. This always happens and I always can't stand it. Then again, I'm not the most patient of people. Just stand and speak up, people! Do we really need to waste all the time getting to "the mic?"

There did seem to be some structure. There was talk of placing your email address on to 1 of 3 lists: Those who want to be part of actions/demonstrations, people who want to do outreach/ground work and those who want to tackle politicians and political-based work. (I think.)

In the end the reactions I received from the meetings ranged from being a complete, frustrating waste of time to empowering to be there but wishing things were more organized. Here is a review from someone who attend longer than I did:

My friend, Chauncey Dandridge of The Cerebral Jester had this to say:
...It seemed a little like it was a bunch of people who have obviously done a tremendous amount of work for the cause just looking for an audience to shout at. it almost became the kind of forum that occurs at a protest with megaphones and cheers instead of a well organized political discussion. Don't get me wrong...there were a lot of amazing and important facts discussed but unorganized order in which everything was discussed definitely was a turn off and seemed ill prepared. I definitely am more motivated than I was before I got there but I really hope that they work on the sophistication of the itinerary for the next one they have. Another thing that resonated is the negative reaction to the fact that the room was filled with mostly gay white males instead of minorities and almost made us feel insignificant and that was definitely rough to hear. I understood what they meant about it being important for all races and religions to be represented and using gay Latinos to talk to Latino politicians and gay blacks to talk to black parishes etc. but it was definitely a very divisive argument and borderline racist. I think the time spent thanking everyone for coming was overshadowed by the idea that we (gay white males) need to get our Latino and black and Asian gay brothers and sisters involved. It's just not the type of thing you tell a room filled with gay white males who have rushed out of work or whatever else to be at a meeting that they certainly didn't have to be at and went to for some guidance.

The answer and question session went on forever and when that started I left because some of the questions were too personal and probably could have been answered if that person did their own research on the internet instead of wasting everyone's time at the meeting.
It's always the same, no matter what the meeting. Whether it's ACT UP, or Marriage Equality or The Queer Justice League it always comes down to 1) needing more outreach toward minority communities (always despite the fact that those who speak most about it never bring in the minority numbers they so often shout about.) 2) More organization and the "What's Next" question and 3) some aimless Q&A platform where nothing gets done.

It seems as though those running the next upcoming meetings need to have a plan and structure and have the balls to stick with it. A simple outline, maybe a hand out so the audience can follow along:
A) This is where we're at.
B) This is what needs to get done.
C) This is how we plan to execute what needs to get done - open to suggestions.

Oye, but ya know, I still love it.


Anonymous said...

Hopefully, more people will come online and detail a bit more what was or wasn't said.

All I know is that the online community had better get it's act together; There's a few who have some credibility issues, having given in to fear and intimidation and it's those people who need to fix what they broke and fast.

The enemy already knows what to do; it's how we react that's at issue.

David said...

Couldn't agree more. Speaking as one of the willing sheep, I need to know what to do. Give me a "to do" list and I will do it. Make me come up with my own plan of action and I will freeze into inaction.

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

There will rise up among you a hero, and he will lead you effortlessly. Until then, there will be tiresome agendae and microphones.

Jimbo3DC said...

Yes, beware of overly inclusive gays seeking total consensus through the thoughtful expression of feelings.

I agree with your three-pronged approach. Sometimes just getting down and doing it is more effective than processing everything.

As I understand it, total consensus-building and processing the process was a major downfall of the 2000 March on Washington.

Just form an evil cabal of people who get the job done and do it! Kick out all processors.

Douglas said...

For starters, I wasn't there, and I must admit that I generally find these kinds of meetings frustrating too. However, I'd caution against focusing solely on efficiency and dismissing the importance of process - especially when an event has been billed as a Town Hall Forum.

A couple of other comments:

Not everyone is comfortable shouting out questions, and some men and women with hearing difficulties probably appreciate the use of microphones. Maybe it's more a matter of using the technology more effectively.

Dandridge's comments are interesting, and I can understand what he's getting at in terms of not feeling appreciated as an involved, gay, white male. Yet it strikes me that the organizers were in fact telling people what needs to happen, it just wasn't what some in attendance wanted to hear. And the use of the verb 'use' when referring to Latino and black brothers and sisters is probably a bad idea!

Apologies if this comes across as overly critical; my intent is just to add to the discussion. Keep up the good fight.


Cyrus said...

I attended a similar meeting here in Miami, hosted by SAVE DADE. Lots of nice speeches, and lots of comments from a frustrated and angry audience. That's probably step one in the post-Impact movement.

Step two, in my opinion, is for those in the audience to step up and take the lead on a sub-project - whether it be education oriented, or planning and implementing a radical action.

Michael Crawford said...

I am organizing a similar meeting in DC that will be on Dec. 11 at the HRC building.

There is always a tension between giving members of the community an opportunity share their views and getting stuff done.

I am structuring the forum I am organizing to lay out the unique political situation we have in DC in which Congress has the final say over our laws, give attendees the chance to share their opinions and to recruit people for "next step" action to form a winning campaign.

It is great to get feedback from other forums on what people liked and didn't like.