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Last night, I had the honor of speaking on a panel comprised of “young, emerging leaders” in our community at Aaron Heier’s monthly “Two Cents” program held at The Center.
It was a lot of fun joining my peers, Jason Wimberly, Carlos Marquez and Matthew Michael Brown, as we shared our stories with the crowd. We even got the chance to answer questions like, “what turns you on?,” and, “what is your favorite bad word?” (Sorry, if you weren’t there, you missed out on our responses!)
The four of us are all members of The Center’s fairly-new Young Professionals Council, but also have an array of other involvements and activist backgrounds. We were asked to represent the “next generation” of leaders in our community and I believe we did it fairly well.
But what struck me most about this was the fact that we are not the “next” generation of leaders, nor is the “world of tomorrow” ours. We ARE the leaders of our community – right now. Young, old, and everything in between, we are all part of the community and our time is now.
Working together with older generations, we all need to have a place at the table right now and work together to create the needed change. I appreciate Aaron’s recognition of this and for giving us the opportunity to speak out about our work and introduce ourselves to community members who may not already know us.
Looking back at our community’s history, it was people of all ages who stood up against oppression and fought for a place at the table. Our struggle needs to continue to be a collaboration between the generations. Our movement should not be dictated by a generation older than mine who says we are not prepared to lead … nor should it be dictated by my generation, who often does not give enough credit to those who have come before us. It is time to work together.
This collaborative dream of mine is difficult, however. We have some in our community’s leadership structure, both young and old, who seem to dictate much of the direction we take, and it is not always what the community wants (and I’m not pointing out any particular person – some may think I am talking about them, but that is just plain paranoia).
New ideas are often shot-down, and people going in different, positive directions are often shunned. It boggles my mind when I ask myself why some people in our community - who proclaim themselves as leaders - bring such negative energy to the table.
What do they fear? A loss of some made-up title or power? The revocation of their gay card? What is it?
Whatever the reason, some people in our community’s leadership need to be open to new ideas, new leaders, and new collaborations. We are all in this together and it only makes us have to work harder when our struggles become internal.
Some may say, “but if we all get along, how will we ever get new ideas and perspectives?” I agree. We need to have multiple voices bringing different perspectives to the table. This is of the utmost importance.
However, we need to remind ourselves to embrace these differences and not make it personal. We need to stop seeing different ideas as threats. We need to talk over our ideas and come to compromises that do the best good for our community.
I look forward to having continued discussions amongst our generations, along with those who may have felt pushed out of the community decision-making process, so that we can all move forward.
And speaking of moving forward, another exceptional Pride has now passed. After a weekend of activism, partying, and catching up with friends, I am refreshed and ready to continue working for the betterment of our community (although it took me two days to recover from Pride – hence this column running on a Wednesday instead of Monday).
Every year, numerous friends contact me post-Pride expressing their desire to become more involved in the community. Pride is something that is bigger than all of us, and I believe seeing others being a part of the celebration is inspiring. If you feel inspired too, do not hesitate to get involved. As I have said time and time again, it is so easy. There are events and activities all the time and no matter what your age, background, or interest, you are welcome and wanted.
If simply celebrating Pride is your thing – that’s ok too. Just being out there proud of who you are is good enough (just remember to celebrate responsibly – last week I stated that I didn’t want to find any of you passed out in a gutter over Pride weekend … well, I found THREE of you – two in gutters, one against a dumpster).
Together, we all have the opportunity to make a difference. If you do not like the direction our community is taking, say something, get involved, start your own organization, anything. Just don’t sit by complaining.
We are all in this together, and the world of today belongs to all of us.
Ben Cartwright is SDGLN's Higher Education & Nonprofit Liaison and has been a campus and community activist in San Diego for over 10-years. His community involvement began as a student at SDSU and from there he launched into a number of other community activities. He has written for a number of local publications including Update, Hillquest, and GLT. Cartwright won the Lambda Archive's 2007 "Community Hero Award"; 2008 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Community Activist"; and a 2009 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Writer/Columnist".