THREAD: Y'all, @NABJ has a LGBTQIA problem.

I wasn't going to speak on this given the current politics, but it's hard to ignore at this point.

Over the past week, several LGBTQIA members of NABJ have reached out to me about experiences they've faced with the organization.
To be clear, I'm not using this space to campaign, but to share experiences & concerns. Several that I've already made clear to the organization in the past and recent issues that continue to persist.

For starters, NABJ hasn't done a sufficient job cracking down on homophobia.
Earlier this week, a current NABJ executive board member made a post on his various social media accounts attacking my campaign.

This individual has a reported history of making homophobic remarks. GLAAD, National Black Justice Coalition, and others have previously condemned.
Sadly, one of this individual's followers responded to the NABJ executive board member's attacking tweet, referring to me as a "weirdo" and asking for NABJ not to let "weirdos infiltrate the organization."

"Weirdo" is a dog whistle for members of the LGBTQIA community.
The same way we as Black people know what such dog whistles as "angry," "aggressive," "urban," "sketchy," and "threatening" means when we describe Black youth, men, and/or women -- "weirdo," "flamboyant," and "alternative lifestyle" carries that same trope and targeting.
Some NABJ members spoke out immediately, calling out the homophobia and said there is no place for that.

But that executive board member refused to acknowledge it at all and even suggested that I be reprimanded for calling out his history of homophobia.

My opponent retweeted.
Rather than say "Hey, let's focus on the issues. This isn't it." They turned the other eye on it and just retweeted the thread of their NABJ board member's support of attacking me instead.

Wish I could say this was the first time I've witnessed homophobia at NABJ, but it isn't.
When I served as the NABJ LGBTQ Task Force co-chair, I saw how our group was treated like "weirdos" by the membership at large. Our workshops and panels were hardly promoted, we were scheduled at odd hours in the day, and once scheduled in rooms far from the main conference.
My NABJ Task Force co-chair, who is non-binary (they/them), would get stares and microaggressions serving in this role -- some by current NABJ Board members.

And while we had some allies, the hate was so glaring to ignore.
When was the last time you saw NABJ say anything about the Black LGBTQ community? When have they spoken on the deaths of Black transgender women? When have they celebrated Pride month? When have they done anything to strengthen alliances with other LGBTQ media groups outright?
When I won NABJ Emerging Journalist of the Year in 2017 for my coverage on racism in the LGBTQ community, some said I only got it because I was gay. I shared the award as a co-winner that year and said the speech at a closed luncheon rather than the main gala as previous winners.
It was in that same year that I became the new co-chair of the NABJ LGBTQ Task Force and saw how there were structural issues that marginalized us as whole.

People have to understand the role of implicit bias and how impact trumps intention. NABJ is complicit in homophobia.
I ran for the NABJ Board of Directors two previous times before this to address this issue. I tired playing "nice" with others, including the current NABJ executive board member with the homophobic history.

I thought representation was enough. I thought this could bring change.
I was met with subtle attacks on my character that was rooted in my age and sexual orientation.

One NABJ board member told me that I was too "loud and flamboyant," another told me that they had "reservations about my lifestyle outside of the position."
It's hard to not find these things as nothing more than blatant homophobia. I was told by many in the organization "not to take it personal because they are old school."

The average age of an NABJ board member is 50.

Being "old school" shouldn't correlate to bigotry.
Last year, my opponent carried pink church fans and told NABJ members to "remain calm" and vote for them.

I will never forget the glares, shade, and nasty looks I got from older NABJ members with those church fans in their hands when they saw me campaigning.
I say all of this to say that, win or lose, @NABJ needs to change.

I've volunteered my ass off for this organization. I show up and show out, and so many of my fellow LGBTQIA members do. I'm a premium dues paying member.

But this ain't it. This can't continue like this.
To the current NABJ board members making calls and trashing my campaign -- remember that I am still a member of this organization and represent a contingency that still matters.

To the NABJ Elections Committee who continues to give these concerns a slap on wrist, shame on you.
To every NABJ member who is LGBTQIA who is out or can't be because they fear being fired -- I am here for you.

To our allies, say something. Stop telling us privately that you know what's going on. Speak up. This is bigger than politics, but about what NABJ should represent.
I want to remind everyone that Thomas Morgan III was the first openly gay NABJ President.

That was in 1989.

He had lived with HIV, which developed into AIDS, for 20 years. He died after a heart attack in 2007.

He's why we have the NABJ LGBTQ Task Force. It was his dying wish.
Before being president, Thomas Morgan III was NABJ Treasurer. He was not out when Treasurer, but was once he was elected President.

His legacy and many others who've fought homophobia and anti-LGBTQ sentiment within NABJ is why I continue to do the work I do today.
I won't be discouraged, but I also won't be silent.

We've lost several civil rights leaders recently and I'm still thinking of what John Lewis wrote in the Times: "When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something."

That's what I'll do.
You can follow @MrErnestOwens.
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