In the Senate race, being Black, Gay and from Philly is an advantage

Malcolm Kenyatta. (Photo by Amanda Swiger).

Religious people believe in miracles, others believe if you work hard enough you’ll achieve, and then there are the people who simply give up before even trying or, worse, pour water on others’ dreams.

On the phone with a friend the other day, we started discussing the race for U.S. Senate. My friend describes all the candidates, then comes to Malcolm Kenyatta and says something to the effect of “Black, Gay and from Philly… it will never play.” 

This is a member of the LGBT community who is saying this to me, someone who talks a lot about intersectionality. So I say the obvious: someone who is Black, Gay and from Philly has to be the first.

If you realize this is personal to me, you bet it is. You see, like Malcolm, I was almost always told my campaigns wouldn’t work so I shouldn’t even try. They said that when we launched the campaign to end LGBT invisibility on TV, when we worked toward the first-ever governmental commission to look into the issues of the LGBT community, when we started planning an affordable LGBT senior living facility, and even when we founded this newspaper 46 years ago. 

While my friend might not believe that Malcolm has a chance, there certainly are others who do, and it’s a long list.

On January 19, Malcolm made a home run announcement: the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) with 80,000 members in Pennsylvania would endorse his candidacy. Why is that a home run? He has built an incredibly diverse coalition. From the press release here’s a list of only a few of the organizations endorsing Malcolm’s campaign:

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFT Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), AFSCME 1199C, AFSCME DC 33, Teamsters Local 623, Teamsters BMWED, One Pennsylvania, the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Democracy for America, (DFA), the Working Families Party (WFP), Brand New Congress, and numerous local officials throughout Pennsylvania.

Now, to be sure, I don’t know if it’s a winning formula, but at least he’s not afraid of getting out there and doing the work that creates coalitions. And one more thing, he does it by being proud of who he is and by welcoming all to the table.  He does that because he realizes that being Black, Gay, and from Philly is not a handicap, but a proud advantage.  From that same press release, here’s the last line:

“If elected, he would be one of the body’s youngest members and the first openly LGBTQ+ person of color to ever serve in the U.S. Senate.”

Dreams sometimes come true.  

All the dreams mentioned above are now reality.  We are visible on TV, we have LGBT liaisons or commissions in most city halls and state capitals, we have LGBT affordable senior housing. The dream of marriage is even a reality, and in Pennsylvania, the state that Malcolm is running in, we got it a year before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled. We got it because of a Black judge’s ruling and a Republican governor’s decision not to fight it.  If those dreams were met, why not Malcolm’s? Change has to start somewhere and with someone. I’m lucky to have been at the starting point for much of our community’s change, and I’m sure Malcolm will be able to say the same.

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