H. Alexander Robinson, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, will be blogging his visit to Iowa.  I really look forward to hearing what he learns there and what he sees as the prospect for the future of black LGBT Iowans, and how black Iowans in general define and prioritize the ongoing civil rights struggles.  A sample of his kick-off post is below the fold.

As I head off to the Hawkeye state, I am reminded of the Iowa’s historic role as a bellwether for justice and equality. From the rights of women and African Americans to the recent decision by the state’s Supreme Court to extend marriage rights to lesbian and gay couples, Iowa leads.

I am eager to visit the people who launched the successful campaign of our nation’s first African American President. Though less that 3% of Iowa’s population is African American, the Black communities in Des Moines, Davenport and Waterloo continue to play an important and critical role in setting the tone for issues of justice and civil rights.

Yet on the issue of full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, too many African Americans depart from their core support of justice. Today’s issues are arguably the same as those featured in Cora Unashamed, written by Langston Hughes-a gay man-and set in Iowa. Issues of abortion, young love, materialism, racism, death, and destiny intermingle in one charged novel. So much has changed since that 1930s story, and yet certain prejudices pass through all perceptions of time. When I read of the emotional isolation and open, inflammatory bigotry felt by Cora in a town where her and mother are the only African Americans, I am reminded of the despair felt by too many African American young people because they are bullied and rejected by family and church.

But this is not 1930s.  There are clear signs of hope, and Iowa is at their center. While I am there I hope to listen and to learn.

A study by the Pew Research Center showed that the 2008 elections mark the first time that African Americans had the highest voter turnout rate of any racial or ethnic group among people ages 18 to 29. African Americans had their sharpest increase in voter participation in more than a decade, with 15.9 million casting ballots to make up 12.1 percent of the electorate. Black women had the highest rates of participation among all voters at 69 percent. Consequently, if we are to sustain the recent victories for LGBT equality, it is imperative that we increase support among African Americans everywhere-and Iowa in no exception.

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That is why I am so pleased that I will have the chance to share my tour though Iowa with you. Over the next week I will take you with me as I meet with allies, opponents, the media and elected leaders in the state. My hope is to build on the tremendous work done by the LGBT community in the state, to make new friends, and to convert some opponents. In the end, we must sustain our wins in this bellwether state and throughout the nation.

H. Alexander Robinson, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, will be blogging his visit to Iowa.  I really look forward to hearing what he learns there and what he sees as the prospect for the future of black LGBT Iowans, and how black Iowans in general define and prioritize the ongoing civil rights struggles.  A sample of his kick-off post is below the fold. (more…)

Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer

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