Chad Griffin , of USA Largest LGBT Rights Organization and Dustin Lance Black , Director of MILK, photographed with the Gay Flag of SA as a Symbol of grass roots activism
SA Editorial, June 11, 2012.
Sunday in the Castro was buzzing when Chad Griffin, the new President of the Human Rights Campaign, made a quick two stop San Francisco visit preceding his first day on the job, to the welcome of LGBTI activists and community leaders.
Human rights and equality advocate, Melanie Nathan, a South African ex-pat was on hand to welcome and gift Griffin with the Gay Flag of South Africa, signed by the designer Huge Bockman, as a gesture symbolizing the importance of the grassroots LGBT community in the struggle for equality.
Joe Solmonese the outgoing President of HRC is leaving the group to join the Obama administration. Many activists have criticized Solmonese for an elitist and non-inclusive tenure at HRC, which is considered the largest and preeminent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization in the USA, having direct contact with the White House.
Incoming president, Chad Griffin, known as a brilliant political strategist, led the group AFER through its wining sponsorship in the historic Proposition 8 case, affirming marriage equality for California, which will now be finally decided in the Supreme Court of the United States.
The meet and greet took place at the historic Harvey Milk Castro Camera store, now run by HRC as a fundraising store and as premises housing the call center for suicide prevention organization The Trevor project.
In Mach 2011 Nathan attended Cape Town Pride as keynote speaker at the Pink Ball and also as a spokesperson accompanying Ndumie Funda of Luleki Sizwe to the Department of Justice meeting held at the South African Parliament, where 200,000 change.org signatures protesting c”corrective rape” of lesbians, were delivered to the Minister of Justice, Jeff Radebe, resulting in the formation of a hate crimes task team.
Prior to leaving the USA, Human Rights Campaign representatives donated a rainbow flag to Nathan. Prior to the Castro meeting with Griffin, Nathan sent this letter to Griffin, here in part:
The day before I left for South Africa to speak at Cape Town Pride, I enjoyed an impromptu lunch in the Castro with a group of activists to celebrate Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s sponsorship of the DOMA repeal legislation. On a whim I took the HRC rainbow flag to our lunch meeting and Dan Choi, Molly McKay and all many others there signed it. The next week I auctioned off the flag in Cape Town at the Gala where I spoke and it fetched 10,000 – and the proceeds were donated to a youth shelter and a corrective rape NGO.Tomorrow I am bringing a flag back to the HRC store. This time it is the Gay Flag of South Africa, and it has been signed by the designer of the flag, Huge Brockman, a South African grass roots activist who is currently protesting the Traditional leader’s attempts to revoke Sexual orientation from the awesome all inclusive South African Constitution.
I hope to give this beautiful flag to Chad as a gift and as a symbol for what grass roots and unfunded activists can and are able to accomplish, here in the USA and around the world.We are all equally important in this landscape as we fight the same fight. Activists often struggle to make ends meet, we do not form organizations and nor do we receive salaries – and our lack of funding and inability to contribute to National NGO’s on a financial level should not make us less important to them. We are passionate about what we do and we help effect the change.I certainly hope that in the future HRC will hear us and consider giving us a seat at their very important policy making table. While I understand the autonomy of organizations and the power wielded by Boards, I hope that this will herald a new era where we all are heard on issues that matter to our communities.
Nathan was able to accomplish her mission. The day presented many historic moments as at the very location of Harvey Milk’s struggle in the Castro, the academy award winning screenwriter of “Milk,” the Harvey Milk story, Dustin Lance Black celebrated his birthday with the group.
Activists at the second meeting spoke candidly about their new hopes for HRC under the leadership of Chad Griffin, who assured the group of inclusiveness, acknowledging his appreciation for the imperative part played by grass roots activist in the LGBT movement.
Contact: Melanie Nathan, firstname.lastname@example.org