If there is one thing that has been consistently obvious since the Presidential election, it’s that people, of all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexual orientations, don’t want to be heard, they demand to be heard.
If there was ever a time to stand up for what you believe in, and at the same time help educate others on what your cause is, it’s right here, right now, at this moment. It’s indeed time to rise up and for what you believe in.
This month, a group of prominent African-American women, many with LGBT ties, will do that very thing.
West Palm Beach will host the Black Women Rise (BWR) Conference on March 17–18 at the Embassy Suites, 1601 Belvedere Road. The gathering of women will address issues of importance and interest to not only LGBT women or black women, but anyone that finds the topics of healthcare, legal, economic, education and other community-oriented discussions of interest.
Speakers, entertainers, and presenters will take part in events throughout the weekend gathering with the goal of empowering black women, including those who identify with the LGBT community, at a politically-charged time where our country is increasingly divided, and organization and knowledge of how to act on certain subjects are needed most.
“There is a resurgence of white dominance which is white centered, anti-black and anti-LGBTQ. Everything we have ever fought for is under attack.” Black Women Rise event organizer Denise Walker tells SFGN of the climate this year’s BWR gathering takes place. “Civil rights is taking a back seat to white supremacy. The biggest hurdle is just being heard. We are living in a time where it does not matter that we are the LGBTQ community. This administration will see that we are back in the dark and discriminated against without laws or courts that will back us up. If we don't mobilize and fight back -- be it at the ballot box or public outcry -- we will not be heard. This conference is going to draw every kind of women the supporters as well as the angry, ones who don't want us to mobilize, the racist will also show their ugly faces.”
Before November’s Presidential election, Donald Trump promised to “stand by” the LGBT community, but that quickly promised proved to be empty. Just weeks into his first term Trump’s administration reversed an executive order under President Obama that directed schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choosing, according to the gender they identify with. The move has alarmed many in the LGBT community as to what may be next.
“As an African-American lesbian, I am very much worried about the direction that President Trump and this Republican-led Congress is taking this country,” said Paulette Armstead, an out-lesbian and Moderator and Panelist on the BWR Political Panel told SFGN. “Trump talks about making America Great Again and America First. For me, this is political talk for him to set the agenda and take actions to overturn, erase, and dilute the gains and rights which have been made in the areas of healthcare, education, employment, civil rights on behalf of women, African-Americans, LGBTQ, disabled, and others.”
Armstead continued, “I am concerned that Trump has done nothing to denounce and speak out against the white nationalists and their hateful rhetoric. This country will become more divided along lines of race, gender, class and sexual identity. One of the biggest hurdles for us in this current political climate is to continue to push back against Trump and his policies. This includes action by the people via holding more rallies, protests and putting pressure on our elected officials to do the right thing for all citizens.”
BWR gathering coordinators told SFGN the weekend will be full of LGBT-relevant information. As of now, 14 of the 18 workshops planned have presenters who themselves are members of the LGBT community, including two of which are transgender.
Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida and Aryah Lester, Chair of the State of Florida Health Department’s Transgender Work Group, will be leading a Panel discussion titled: “LGBTQ issues in the Black Community.” They will speak to how LGBT black people find their footing when hostility and rejection come from within our own families and faith communities.
Paulette Armstead will also moderate a “Black Women in Mainstream Electoral Politics” discussion that hopes to drive home the importance of members of the LGBT community participation in politics as candidates, community organizers, voters, and campaign workers so that they can help enact policies, programs, and laws to ensure equality for all citizens in all areas of life.
Outside of making their own community more informed and better equipped to handle all the obstacles life will inevitably throw at them in the near future, the BWR gathering hopes to get a better grip on how to identify who is with them, rather than who is against them. Finding African-American men and women willing to support one another will be a major goal moving forward.
“Perhaps the biggest challenge is identifying credible allies who are willing to observe and educate themselves on ways to support their Black sisters,” said Delores Walters, a Cultural Anthropologist who will be a presenter at BWR tells SFGN. “Black women and men have paved the way to minimize marginalization in our society for women, LGBTQ people and now various others targeted by the current administration.”
Walters added, “Now, especially, we must continue to support the next generation of activists, and allies.”