Friday, February 10, 2012

Black History, LGBT History, Women's History is OUR History

Today's guest blogger is PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell. We are so honored to have him share his thoughts with us in honor of Black/African-American History Month:

My wife Grace and I have seen the movie "Red Tails" which depicts the story of the African American Tuskegee Airmen, who were denied the opportunity to demonstrate their skill as pilots because of their race. Although they were segregated, the movie is about their success once given the opportunity to demonstrate their ability. As I watched the movie I thought of a relative who had been a Tuskegee Airman. It was the history that was depicted in the film that brought forth my emotions, more so than did the film itself. My life has been shaped by the tribulations of triumphs I have known, because of my race, thus it brought forth very personal tears of sorrow and joy.

Watching and experiencing this movie is what brought to mind the subject for this essay. Blacks, LGBTs, Women...all have known discrimination, denial, and exclusion. Blacks because of race, Women because of gender, and LGBT people because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

If in our acknowledgement and celebration of the particular histories of persons, we do not make of that history, a history that belongs to all of us, it does not become important to our daily lives. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is the name of the song/hymn that has become a second national anthem to the African American community. It has these words; "We have come over a way that with tears has been watered. We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered". I believe more than ever that that "We" embraces not just those of us who are black, but also those of who are not black.

It is this understanding of our human commonality that has guided me in my journey as a straight ally/advocate of LGBT rights, and as a proud member of the National Board of PFLAG. I remember, repeat, and write almost every week those words of Martin Luther King in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black History Month for me this year will be a time of seeking to convey the belief that although Black History is a history that remembers the particulars of the African American journey, past and present, a journey of trials and triumphs, it is a human journey that cannot be disconnected from the journeys of trial and triumph of persons who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. Nor can those journeys be disconnected from the journeys of Black persons.

If I chose a popular song that might serve as the theme song for this year's Black History Observance, it would be the song sung so well by Sister Sledge, "We Are Family." If we truly believed that despite our differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other differences, we are family, none of us would be denied full family rights by other members of the family.

Family Reunion Celebrations are an important activity of many black families all over the nation. This Black History Month, I invite you to my celebration because my history is your history. Will you invite me to your celebration because you believe your history is mine?

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