Western Michigan political science student and community advocate, Marshall Kilgore, spoke at the MLK Day Teach-In event Monday at WMU’s Bernhard Center where he examined the need for coalition building among the African American, LGBT and other marginalized communities.
Kilgore, who identified himself as a bisexual black male, defined the theme of his presentation early on: “Coalition building is when two groups, who could also be categorized as marginalized, band together and build power together.”
Kilgore explained that education, empowerment, and feedback are crucial for the success of building power and unity between these communities. “As allies and advocates, we’re not going to be perfect with what we know,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore first demonstrated his advocacy for education by breaking down the different identifiers people have with regards to gender and sexual orientation. The acronym “LGBT+ he explained, stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer/ questioning, intersex, asexual, and ally.
Kilgore expressed a particular fondness for the last identification. “Folks who don’t necessarily call themselves a member of the LGBT community can be the A,” he said, “which is an ally in making sure they can lock arms and build coalition.”
Kilgore also named a few prominent members within African American and LGBT communities, including RuPaul Andre Charles, Frank Ocean, Angela Davis, and Josephine Baker. “There’s such power of taking two identifiers, that most people would consider as taking from their power, their passion, their skill, and making something amazing,” he said.
The true necessity for different communities working with each other, Kilgore said, lies with the inequality and discrimination that people who identify within the African American and LGBT communities face, especially those who identify in both.
“Folks who live in that intersection of both communities are struggling way harder,” he said. Kilgore described the economic insecurity, physical danger, health inequality, religious intolerance, and criminal injustice that people who are part of both the LGBT and African American communities struggle with on a daily basis. “The LGBT+ community is not just rainbow flags, not just parades. We’re facing similar things that the overall black community is facing.”
As a disclaimer, Kilgore told the audience, “I would never compare the strife of slavery and the African American story to the LGBT community, but I will not look away from the struggle that we still face.”
To help, Kilgore explains that allies and advocates can help by recognizes that the black LGBT community is diverse and deserves more than one voice to represent it. He also said that they should consult with black LGBT leaders and organizations directly for their perspectives and to consider the daily lives of black LGBT people to humanize them. He explained that while these identifiers are important for people in these communities, they are firstly human.
First-year WMU student Emily Kostbade enjoyed the presentation. “The presenter did a good job explaining why these issues matter to him but also why they should matter to the audience,” she said.
Kilgore concluded his presentation by pushing the audience to think about inequality by asking two words: “Who’s next?”
This quote resonated with Kostbade. “Inequality for one affects us all because we’re all connected,” she said.
Intersectional coalition building matters to Kilgore because inequality blends between different identities. “Hatred has no borders and has to be snuffed out.”