At a young age, I was developing a powerful sense of where I could be in the world, even though it seemed to conflict with the small, invisible places that others predetermined for me. As an individual, I wanted to make my vision larger and freer than the stereotypes and marginalization that others were comfortable with for me; my parents and community influenced me to not let anyone shrink my aspirations.

Learning firsthand the inequities, disparities, and overall reality of being Black in America, I came to recognize that to truly obtain that place of joy and fulfillment for myself, I had to be just as committed to rallying for others’ human dignity as much as my own. This recognition helped me to expand my thinking: I connected my singular striving for fairness and equity to a larger desire for a world in which everyone around me would have equal access to our rights. I began to make it my business to see myself as part of a larger, more diverse fight for human dignity and justice for all.

Today, I’m convinced that the world that I dreamed of is nearly within sight.

I’m more convinced because of President Obama’s statement on national television early this summer, in which he expressed his support for same-sex marriage and LGBTQ families. Those thoughtful, measured words from our leader created a thunderclap, as pundits and newscasters from the left and right weighed in on the implications of the first sitting President — and the first African-American, to boot — making such a significant public statement on sexuality and equal rights.

I’m more convinced as I witness the dismantling of assumptions and stereotypes about homophobia within my community, African American communities, and other communities of color. It’s clear that we are growing and building more and more support for LGBTQ folks in our communities, both demonstrated by numbers and broad-scale efforts to unite the work of racial justice and LGBTQ rights through community partnerships and emerging campaigns.

I’m more convinced because, right here at home in Oregon, we have community organizations like our grantees, Umatilla Morrow Alternatives, who are building a visible, inclusive movement that ties together LGBTQ rights and racial justice in rural, eastern Oregon. And I’m more convinced because of the Portland PFLAG Black Chapter, which is bringing us groundbreaking organizing and information to truly address the disparities experienced by LGBTQ African Americans in Oregon.

Many of us are steeped in a history of struggle for basic human and civil rights long denied, because of the color of our skin, place of origin, gender, disabilities, age, sexual orientation, religion. We know something about being oppressed, left out, and marginalized, and it isn’t something we should want to pass on, hold up, or place onto others.

I’m convinced that until every one of us is able to live and love free from fear because of our gender, religion, sexuality, race, or economic status — to have our human dignity upheld and protected — none of us are free.

I’m standing up with all the communities working together for equality, and for the inalienable right to live life joyously, fearlessly and with dignity and respect for all.

Can you hear me, now?

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