The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted its 102nd convention in Los Angeles on July 23 - 28. The convention included the organization’s first ever LGBT town hall to address issues that affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"Black members of the LGBT community share a common history and continued struggle to address issues of bigotry, yet their identities, talents, and leadership are oftentimes diminished because of homophobia and fear of physical violence," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP president and CEO (pictured right). "It is important that we address these issues head on."
The panel was moderated by CNN anchor Don Lemon. Other participants included comedian Wanda Sykes, civil rights icon Julian Bond, Spelman College Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall, actor Daryl Stephens, and writer, scholar, and activist Kenyon Farrow.
Many LGBT advocates spoke out about the absence of bisexual and transgender panelists.
Adrienne Williams, founder of the Bi Social Network and GLAAD National People of Color Media Institute participant, explained, “As an African American woman who happens to be bi, I know all too well how important representing all facets of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities is. I get emails from the bi community all over the nation on how much they feel invisible in media and entertainment. We need organizations like the NAACP to bring leaders in the bisexual and transgender communities to the forefront.”
“None of us are free until all of us are free. Exclusion of transgender and bisexual people from the table is counterproductive to the freedom of all people,” added Dee Dee Chamblee, founder of La Gender, Inc. and GLAAD National People of Color Media Institute participant.
In response to the outcry from the LGBT community and allies, Julian Bond, civil rights activist and former NAACP chairman, promised, “We've heard a lot from [the] transgender community about not having a transgender panelist and we take it seriously. There will be one next year.”
The LGBT panel is one of the many steps the civil rights group has taken to be inclusive of the LGBT community. The NAACP created the LGBT Equality Task Force in partnership with the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and came out publicly in support of repealing Prop 8. Last year, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous visited New York City’s LGBT Community Center. Earlier this year, the organization appointed an openly gay chapter president in Worchester, Mass.