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Building bridges in D4

Posted: March 22nd, 2013 | Columns, Featured, Political Spectrum | No Comments

Allan Acevedo | Political Spectrum

It’s no secret that I get excited about things and invest myself it something very much.

Most recently I have been working to help Dwayne Crenshaw win election to the open Fourth District City Council seat.

Allan Acevedo

Allan Acevedo

Despite the fact that he is the executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride, many LGBT people don’t know that we have the opportunity to elect not only another LGBT person to the city council, but an African-American man as well.

Crenshaw winning would be a historical election for our community, which has worked hard over the years to build bridges with and within the African-American and LGBT communities. District Four has a vibrant and active African-American community, and I am excited to have had the opportunity to work there and learn about their issues. This is a community in Southeast San Diego that voted 66 percent in favor of Proposition 8, even though it is heavily Democratic.

Electing someone like Crenshaw could really begin to change the narrative that exists about the way the African-American and LGBT communities relate and work together. We need more elected officials who are also people of color. It is an important voice that has very rarely been given a place at the table.

When I started thinking of LGBT African-American elected officials, I could only think of two. I know Mitch Ward is the former mayor of Manhattan Beach, Calif. who ran for state assembly in 2010. I also know Jason Bartlett, a state representative from Connecticut whose coming out in 2008 was featured in an exclusive interview on NBC.

I realize I can’t know an exhaustive list of all of the elected officials around the country, and there are probably many more LGBT African-American elected officials I have never heard. But the fact that we can sit here and count people on our hands doesn’t recognize the fact that there are still few representations.

It’s time we change that. The more I have worked on this campaign, the more I see striking parallels to the fight Harvey Milk had to take in order to be elected to the board of supervisors in San Francisco. He faced opposition from both the established Democratic Party and from within the LGBT community. Milk fought to have a voice at the table and could not just campaign as a candidate wanting to improve the neighborhood, he had to deal with a whole slew of other issues pressed upon him because of his sexual orientation.

Already in this campaign, Crenshaw has purportedly been called a “drag queen,” and then it was corrected that the person who made this comment actually called him a “drama queen.” Either way, such comments are clearly targeted at baiting the issue of sexual orientation.

Even worse, this offhanded comment is what was said twice to volunteers walking for Crenshaw’s campaign. A few weeks ago, someone who was out knocking on doors was approached by a truck full of men who began asking our supporter personal questions about the nature of his relationship to Crenshaw as well as the supporter’s “lifestyle.” Our supporter came back concerned and worried about his safety because of the nature of this inquiry.

Just last week, another supporter – who himself is gay – was knocking on doors when another car full of men began to ask him questions about his and Crenshaw’s “lifestyle,” alluding to their sexual orientation.

These in particular had a car full of yard signs for another candidate in the race, and my attempt to call this campaign office and discuss the issue resulted in my being told that we needed to “control our people.” As if being openly gay and knocking on doors about a man who has worked in their community his whole life was somehow wrong.

I refuse to believe that in 2013, LGBT people can’t go walking around any part of the city supporting another gay person without fear of harassment or bullying. But it looks like this is a reality, and one that we must change. That is why even as there are other qualified candidates in this race, I am resolute in my belief that Crenshaw is not only extremely qualified, but that his election will serve our community much more than the election of any other person to that post.

We need visible and vocal African-American leaders from our community building bridges needed to one day run a campaign where one’s sexual orientation is not even discussed as an issue. Until that day, we need to continue to work to elect not just allies of the LGBT community, but our own to ensure that we have a voice at the table and in communities outside of Hillcrest.

—Allan Acevedo is co-founder and president emeritus of Stonewall Young Democrats of San Diego. He has worked on multiple political campaigns and served on numerous boards including the San Diego Democratic Club, California Young Democrats, Gay-Straight Alliant Network and Equality California PAC. Follow @allanacevedo on Twitter.

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