March 28, 2011

The Pink Sheet (from the LGBT Center's public forum)

As the Center issue was discussed among various queer activists, a shared concern emerged that the Center's "public forum" would be a melee in which nothing was accomplished, that it would amount to a turnout contest between "pros" and "antis," and the Center would be allowed to claim that "voices had been heard" and the matter closed.

A little effort to organize progressive queer activist thinking produced a Pink Sheet -- an open letter from queers to queers intended to help keep the discussion focused. Text and the list of signers are below. More detail on what did happen at the forum is posted next on this blog.

Letter to participants at the LGBT Community Center public forum –
March 13, 2011

Greetings to All,

We don't know how this meeting will go. We are (separately) members of Siegebusters, members of groups who wrote to the Center to object to the treatment of Siegebusters and queer political activists in general, organizers of the last week’s protest against the Center’s censorship, Palestinian and Jewish queers, and active participants in queer community. The Center hasn't included any of us as “stakeholders” in planning this meeting. However, we'd like to offset some of the chaos by offering a few starting ideas.

Some bottom-line issues:

1. The Center dealt badly with Siegebusters. An apology is due, and the Center should immediately restore Siegebusters' access to meeting space until it can provide a transparent process for deciding otherwise. The reasons given by Center staff for cancelling the March 5 event and Siegebusters ongoing meetings in scattered e-mails and announcements (that Siegebusters is somehow not queer enough, or that queer activism on Palestine makes queer space “unsafe”) have been broadly refuted in public comment from many corners of the queer community.

2. This controversy reveals a much bigger problem at the Center – lack of transparent decision-making. Center Executive Director Glennda Testone and the Center’s Board of Directors have made major decisions about our space and community with no real community engagement.
  • No one from Siegebusters was consulted before the cancellation.
  • No organizers of the ensuing protest against the Center were contacted before the Center decided to hire private goons to police our community center against us.
  • No public response has been made to the queers – particularly queers of color and Palestinian queers – who told the Center that this decision has marginalized them and made them unsafe.
  • The forum today has been organized without input from affected groups.
The Center must have a transparent process for making (and that allows for challenges of) decisions about who can use the Center. The Center also must open its board meetings to the public and take public comment. The board should be accountable, and it isn't. Its operations aren't public, its members don’t represent our communities, and it doesn't provide the Center's constituency with any lines of communication – although it's clearly making decisions about us.

What this meeting shouldn't be about:
  • The Center shouldn't be blessing or disapproving queer political work, nor should this meeting.
  • The Center shouldn't be making political calls about the Middle East, nor should this meeting.
  • It's not a “neutral position” to shut down queer organizing or anti-occupation work because it's “too controversial.” But having gotten itself into this mess, the Center now has the responsibility to transparently and neutrally bring folks back to the table. This meeting doesn't satisfy that responsibility.
Here’s hoping for a productive discussion,

Bill Dobbs, Brad Taylor, Emmaia Gelman, Naomi Brussel, Sammer Aboelela, Sarena Melchert

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About Queers for an Open LGBT Center