This guest post was written by Sean Sullivan, an active Oakland resident who lives in the Clawson/Dogtown neighborhood where he is co-chair of his NCPC and represents the 3rd district on the Community Action Partnership and Community Development Block Grant board. Sean was a director at Covenant House for over a decade and now works as an environmental health advocate.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” 16 Apr. 1963
As we celebrate the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, we do so this year in full awareness that we have still yet to achieve true freedom and equality for all. Right now we have both across the Bay and here in Oakland hearings and confirmations whose originations lie within the civil rights struggle.
Across the Bay in Federal Court, history is unfolding as Perry v. Schwarzenegger convenes discussing how Proposition 8 came to be passed and by it how gay and lesbian couples came to be shut out from equal protection promised in our state and federal constitution.
On this side of the Bay, the ramifications of the passage of Prop 8 are also still playing out in our beloved Paramount Theatre and may play itself out, not in the courthouse but in the city council chambers. Before the council this Tuesday night, comes the nomination of Michael Lighty to the Port of Oakland Commission and Lorenzo Hoopes to the Paramount Board of Directors.
Mr. Lighty, a former Planning Commissioner sat with me and other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Oaklanders following the passage of the discriminatory Proposition 8 that removed the right to marry from gay and lesbian couples. Our discussion was centered on how we could further demonstrate our leadership and visibility in the city of Oakland. See, when more people know more Out Gay people, they are less likely to vote against lgbt rights and frankly, think there is anything wrong with lgbt individuals and families. Indeed, we are the only minority group that needs to identify ourselves to be understood as a member of a minority group.
We believed strongly that members of the lgbt community who have so much to offer would be better served if members of our community held significant leadership positions in Oakland. We also found it horrific that already appointed leaders of the community had played a leadership role in passing the discriminatory proposition. The most prominent leader was Lorenzo Hoopes, a long-term servant of our city and the Paramount board, who was Oakland’s largest donor to Yes on 8 and fundraiser for the effort.
What these donations yielded and wrought are now being discussed in a San Francisco Federal Courtroom. They include ads pitting gays against average families, old stereotypes of gays as pedophiles reinforced. These ads were funded by Mr. Hoopes’ contributions to Yes on 8.
Tomorrow, these issues converge in the appointments voted on by the city council. As a response, fair-minded Oaklanders have created a movement to support the nomination of Mr. Lighty and ask for the rejection of Mr. Hoopes nomination.
This is not some kind of quota test. Mr. Hoopes engaged in a campaign that is no less heinous than championing Jim Crow laws. Had we now discovered he played a role in Japanese internment 60 years ago it wouldn’t take the Japanese American community to turn out and demand he not be appointed. It simply would have never gotten to council.
However, discrimination against gays is still seen as an acceptable prejudice in California. These current nominations are a test of whether it is still seen as an acceptable prejudice in Oakland.
To voice your opposition to the appointment of Lorenzo Hoopes, please join the Facebook group, “The Paramount-No Place for Homophobia” and/or come to the City Council meeting tomorrow evening at 7pm in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.