The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was in town from July 26 to August 1. Over 7,000 people attended nationwide, with hundreds of local and national vendors. The 114th National Convention allowed Boston to reintroduce itself. And Boston showed up and showed out. The theme “Thriving Together” created a milieu to celebrate and acknowledge Black Boston’s community’s collective entrepreneur and political power.
The Convention was here 41 years ago, in 1982. During that year, the 73rd NAACP National Convention occurred when the news of the day was about an African American home firebombed because three Black families had moved into an all-white Dorchester enclave. That event, coupled with lingering residual animus derived from the Boston busing crisis of the 1970s, left a pox on Beantown, keeping not only the Convention away but also African Americans not wanting to visit, giving the city its earned reputation as one of the racist cities in the country. Today Boston presents itself ready to change – not to erase its past – but rather as a city now able to provide opportunities for people of color and uphold their civil and human rights without discrimination.
Also, the NAACP Convention came to Boston when the organization’s acceptance of its LGBTQ+ members was no longer an ongoing controversy. The NAACP was once as homophobic as the Black Church. However, the NAACP did a-180 degree turn on LGBTQ+ issues in 2018 when it invited me and other LGBTQ+ activists from across the country to its 109th Annual Convention in July at the Henry B Gonzales Convention Center, San Antonio, TX.
“I am pleased to extend this letter of invitation, requesting your participation as a panelist during the LGBTQ workshop titled “The State of LGBTQ People of Color in America.” The session will take place on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, from 2:30pm to 4:30 pm.
The panel will focus on the following discussion topics:
- Effective Strategies for LGBTQ Activism
- Evolution of Thinking: Acceptance & Inclusion
- Living Out Loud: LGBTQ Representation in the Workplace, Congress and Media
- Power of the Vote: Mobilization, Registration, Anti-discrimination Laws & How to Overcome Them
My colleagues and I sincerely hope that you will accept this invitation. In connection with convention-related LGBTQ events, we will cover travel and hotel accommodation expenses.”
At the NAACP Town Hall, Leon W. Russell, Chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors, apologized on behalf of the organization. “You cannot profess to be a civil rights fighter and then insert exceptions, Russell stated. “It’s none of your business who I love. You just have to let me have the right to do that.”
Still Today, The NAACP Town Hall meeting is one of its most-watched programs on C-Span.
NAACP LGBTQ Town Hall | C-SPAN.org
For many years there was an ongoing debate between civil rights v gay rights. In 2004, during a June 12 Capitol Hill ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-miscegenation laws – and sponsored by several straight and queer civil rights organizations across the country – The Legal Defense Fund – also referred to as the NAACP-LDF – was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP, but now operates as a completely separate entity- released a historical statement that best explains why the struggle for same-sex marriage is indeed a civil rights struggle: “It is undeniable that the experience of African Americans differs in many important ways from that of gay men and lesbians; among other things, the legacy of slavery and segregation is profound. But differences in historical experiences should not preclude the application of constitutional provisions to gay men and lesbians who are denied the right to marry the person of their choice.”
Today, the NAACP has an LGBTQIA Committee Chairperson, Demar Roberts from S. C., who works to protect and advance the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. At the Convention LGBTQIA Reception, former Cambridge mayor and now Councilwoman E. Denise Simmon (the first openly lesbian African-American mayor in the United States.) was awarded the first NAACP social justice award to an LGBTQ+ person.
Holding the National Convention of the NAACP in Boston was important. As the first chartered branch of the NAACP, Boston helped lay the foundation for the vitality and vibrancy of black social justice activism. The pox on Boston’s reputation as one of the racist cities in our nation has held us all back, all Bostonians- black and white- and the entire Commonwealth. And the NAACP once homophobic stance on LGBTQ+ civil rights held the black community back and the organization from thriving together.
The Reverend Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on NPR’s WGBH (89.7 FM). She is a weekly Friday commentator on New England Channel NEWS. Monroe is the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail, Guided Walking Tour of Beacon Hill: Boston’s Black Women Abolitionists. A Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist; her columns appear the Boston LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows, Cambridge Chronicle, and the Boston Globe.
Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American, queer and religious studies. As a religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.” Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College’s research library on the history of women in America. Click here to visit her website.