Greg Anna and I went to see Milk on Sunday (appropriately at the classic princess theater). I thought the movie was totally brilliant. The use of archival footage of the Castro in the 70's was the perfect touch. I was expecting to cry more but I managed to tough it out. Go see this movie and take 2 straight friends or family members.
In many ways I think this is the perfect time for a film like this to come out. There has been much discussion about how stonewall 2.0 (or is it 4.o?) and join the impact is fizzling out. I think Milk is a great primer on how to be a gay activist. Start small, build your networks get support choose your battles and then fight fight fight fight. In many ways Join the impact started in reverse. It is little wonder that the follow up events that they have been planning are not living up to the pedigree of the initial action.
Networking infrastructure like Facebook, Myspace (is anyone even on there anymore?) and texting while great for flash mobs and rapid mobilization of large groups of like minded individuals are not designed for long term organized productive action. They are tools that could be used by some tech savvy organization in order to drum up support for the fight fight fight portion of the game. At this rate Join the Impact will become a glorified website calendar that does little more than inform people of potential events (that is not activism in my opinion).
Now don't get me wrong, i don't think that current gay lobby groups like the human rights campaign are capable of using these tools due to organizational inertia and systematic problems with the way they go about choosing their battles and fighting them.
There needs to be someplace in the middle of Join the Impact's grassroots mobilization and the Human Rights Campaign's bureaucracy. This organization would be built right from the start using net based networking tools plug-ins to connect individuals locally and globally.
I think it was Andrew Sullivan or Rex Wockner who talked about the differences between how Obama and Clinton were elected. Clinton was very top down while Obama was very bottom up. He talked about how the human rights campaign and Join the impact were similar in that sense.
This new organization should look at how Obama managed to not only organize but achieve his goals using grassroots support.
1. He used localized and insanely detailed databases on democratic voters and leveraged that data to provide goals for local organizers.
2. He got people to get friends, like minded associates and family to become involved and had people work in groups.
3. He set big goals and kept people motivated to achieving them.
These things allowed the younger people without much experience learn from pros as they went about achieving what they needed to. It allowed for new ideas and ways of doing things to rapidly be implemented across groups.
We know the gay community has been somewhat generationally fractured for a long time now.
We know that because of California there are millions of young gays and supporters out there that are hungry to do something about the injustice that the events of the election have crystallized. They have gotten a taste of what activism can be like and want more but don't necessarily know how to go about it and don't have the local connections to be able to get anything real done.
We know that every day something happens a teen is bashed in Texas, gays are hanged in Iran but many of us don't know about it as the events stay on the local level.
So here ismy proposal.
1. Use create an organization that uses social networking sites integrated with new web applications (like google maps, rss ect). This organization would require a team of web programmers and a small management team to help coordinate activities and to help mobilize local and connect groups. General goals would be set but the organization is more like a set of tools that could be shared than anything else.
2. Use the tools created in 1 to allow like minded people of all generations and experience levelers to be able to meet and share ideas and decide locally what goals they can focus on and then use the tools provided to help mobilize the grassroots to achieve them. This is where the bottom up top down meet and I think where most of the work would be done
3. Create geotagged news feeds of all the bullshit and the hate and the injustices that we face and of the initiatives groups are participating in. Imagine looking at a map of the world and clicking one button to see where all the gay bashings have occurred. Or another to see where gay marriages occur. Another to see where you can connect with activists. All database driven user managed. A gay world wiki. What could be more motivating that seeing how your brothers and sisters are going about eliminating the injustices of the world. Give them hope but don't let them forget.