In June, I had the pleasure of addressing the staff of the Democratic National Convention during a Gay Pride luncheon. As all speaking gigs go, I spoke about the issues of the day and then took questions.

For me, there is always one question that stands out from such an event or, as I like to believe, there’s a question that brings a group into discussion.

At this particular event, a young African-American woman raised her hand and said something like, “I want to support Black Lives Matter and the LGBT community. How can I do that?”

The answer should be simple: You can do both and be proud that you’re working for social change on two fronts. But then the discussion I hoped for happened. The woman went on to talk about the difficulty of supporting both movements, since people in each group questioned the motives of the other.

Both are movements with the goal of changing ills in society. Both have problems within their own camp with things like racism, homophobia or anti-Semitism. But the good news is that people in these movements are there because they want to help bring about change. The bad news is they want it now, immediately.

Hey, we live in the Internet age which — with its ability to provide immediate info and satisfaction — has caused many to expect immediate social change, criminal-justice reform and equality.

Sorry, change does not happen immediately; you have to work for it. This means that, before you cast off a fragment of the community with an “-ism,” you might want to try and communicate. Ask for meetings with the boards of organizations. And the leaders of those organizations should be willing to listen and work to increase diversity if it’s short on their turf.

There’s a basic point here: communication. If what you are looking for is real change, then don’t start the conversation out with a negative, such as a demonstration, petition drive, picket, walk in/sit in … Hey, I’ve done all of them and they sometimes work, but you take those actions only after you try to communicate your issues and attempt to create a dialogue that leads to change.

Most organizations will resist change at first, but good organizations will, with a good-faith effort, continue dialogue that will result in change. What’s more important: real change or a public-relations moment?

Supporters of Black Lives Matter and the movement for equality both want change. In many ways, we complement each other very well.

I’ll leave you with this one note. This question of how to support both movements is not new: Check your LGBT- or black-history books and read about the meeting between members of Gay Liberation Front and The Black Panthers … in 1970.


Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at PhilaGayNews. His memoir AND THEN I DANCED is available online and at your favorite bookstore.



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