"Advocacy in Action"
Today a group of concerned community leaders met with Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr. President of Alabama A&M University regarding the upcoming visit of Louis Farrakhan to the University on April 10, 2012. Participants included representatives of the local Jewish Federation, the Inter-faith Mission Service, Rabbi Elizabeth Babar of Temple B'nai Sholom, and myself as a representative of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.
Mr. Farrakhan is coming to Huntsville next week as a guest of two organizations at the university, a student Democrat group and a poetry group. Attendees at today's meeting expressed several concerns regarding Mr. Farrakhan's visit and the potentially negative message his presence could give our community. These concerns are based upon the divisive and anti-Semitic rhetoric which Mr. Farrakhan uses on a regular basis. Mr. Farrakhan also uses anti-gay rhetoric thinly veiled with religious terminology which is often used by fundamentalist anti-gay religious leaders. Dr. Hugine explained that the student groups had followed procedures so Mr. Farrakhan's visit will be allowed according to University policy. However, he was very clear that the University does not condone divisive hate speech and that Mr. Farrakhan is not a guest of the University.
I pointed out that being a white Southern male, a person with white privilege however unfair, I found it truly ironic that I was sitting at a 'Historically Black University' having this particular discussion about hatred and prejudice. I also expressed my sympathy for our Jewish community. I explained that my work involves building community by building bridges between groups. I pointed out that the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community truly transcends all racial boundaries. I opened a door in the discussion for the University to step-up and take a proactive role by holding a community discussion, a panel discussion, or some type educational program regarding the implications of hatred and intolerance.
Dr. Hugine agreed that a community forum of some type was a good idea but stopped short of saying that the University would take the lead in planning such a meeting. However, he did say he would attend a meeting on campus that we plan with the support of a student organization or faculty member.
My position is simple. I do not believe that hate speech and messages which contribute to prejudice and intolerance are ever acceptable regardless of the source. Many people have shared with me that Mr. Farrakhan has done a great deal of work sharing a message of empowerment to Black youth. I cannot overlook the divisive and hurtful nature of his messages simply because he includes a message of empowerment. I work diligently to empower youth of all races and help them overcome obstacles and I accomplish this with a message of love, acceptance, and hope.
Later this evening the Coalition to End Bullying met. We are planning a community symposium in September. We had a very productive meeting. I have been part of this coalition since its beginning last Fall.