Why We Need the First National POC LBGT Convening

Just the other night I got an email that a 57-year-old black lesbian GRIOT member who was living in the New York shelter system had been gunned down outside the shelter.

Amber Hollibaugh, Executive Director of Queers for Economic Justice, said:

Yvonne's killing on Sunday underscores the reality that the police cannot be relied on to respond compassionately to low income LGBTQ people when it concerns issues of safety in our communities. At QEJ, we are asking again how many potentially dangerous situations every year have to end up in a police shooting? It cannot be accepted that calling the police can be deadly for low Income LGBTQ New Yorkers.

Most of us have vibrant memories of the battles that have gone before: civil rights, marriage equality in California and New York, and the continuing immigrants' rights struggle. We also do not forget the examples of fierce warriors like Audre Lorde, who said, "If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive."

Aging Americans have been affected on all fronts by the economic crisis, not only in housing but in cuts to health care, and the continued marginalization and lack of integration of people of color and, more so, LGBT elders of color into this dialogue. As "baby boomers" become the largest segment of our society, there is an increasing look at the rights and needs of the aging, now more than ever before, and yet there are those who stood up and fought on all these fronts that are continually being left out of the conversation.

People like Regina V. Shavers, Robert Spellman and Ira Jeffries, the founders of GRIOT, saw the need for us to have the space to speak for ourselves. They would be pleased with the amassed potential of this community of organizational leaders and elders coming together to cooperatively continue the battle we have been waging individually and in small, segmented groups. It's time to reassess how we can work differently to get our voices and vernaculars in this conversation.

The purpose of the first national POC LGBT convening is to create a community of POC/LGBT elders and organizational leaders who will intrinsically frame the policy on aging. Our work experience in dealing with the disparities in health care, housing, immigration and social security are needed in a truly collective effort that will make our elders complete. This network must build a united voice of POC organizational leaders and elders, and must reframe language so it inclusively meets the needs of the POC/LGBT communities. It would not be clichéd to say at this time, "¡Sí, se puede!"