Leaving Silos, Centering Margins

The mission of the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance is to cultivate safe and affirming communities, promote humanist values, and achieve full equality and social liberation of LGBTQ persons. As an adjunct of the American Humanist Association (AHA), we pursue our mission by working together at the national level to build a thriving network of LGBTQ humanists and partners devoted to compassionate activism. We work to raise awareness, advance social progress of queer communities, and build relationships with other corresponding and allied communities. This Saturday, we will be putting our mission to work by hosting the inaugural Centering the Margins summit in Washington, DC.

Our one-day summit will explicitly and unapologetically center those in our humanist and atheist communities who are too often pushed to the margins: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming and queer Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

Centering the Margins reflects the AHA’s commitment, internally and externally, to advance much needed anti-racism efforts in our country. Many progressive movements, including, at times, our humanist movement, demand that we work in silos, that we choose either the room where racial justice work happens, or the room where LGBTQ equality work happens, or the room where secularist work happens. We can’t be in two (or three) places at once. But even more damaging, when we decide to enter one of those rooms, we are too often made to choose one part of ourselves to embody, leaving the rest at the door. This approach isn’t just ineffective, it’s erasure that sustains white supremacy.

The process of moving out of these silos can be slow and painstaking, but the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance and the American Humanist Association are dedicated to building authentic relationships that foster leadership development, as opposed to tokenism. The first Centering the Margins summit will expand the room by making an intentional space and offering a program that reflects our real and varied identities. Our speaker line-up reflects that as well, and includes:

• Debbie Goddard, vice president of programs for American Atheists, and Black Lives Matter Houston co-founder and lead organizer, Ashton P. Woods, who will bookend the day with plenary sessions that navigate how to engage in effective secular activism.

• Sean A. Watkins, owner of Watkins Agency of Joy; Rachel Plotkin, court-certified mediator and community builder among Latinx, QTBIPOC, and Jewish people; and Verdell Wright, a digital organizer at Community Change. They will engage attendees on how personal stories can sustain joy, activism, and growth.

• Adriana Buenaventura-Martinez, director of Hispanic American Freethinkers; Lucky Garcia, an organizing member of One Struggle KC, Brown Voices/Brown Pulse, and Showing Up for Racial Justice Kansas City; and Luciano Joshua Gonzalez-Vega, co-chair of the Latinx Humanist Alliance discussing Queer Latinidad in familiar and unfamiliar spaces.

• DC-based self-proclaimed nerds Mario Gray and Professor Gerrard Davis, who plan to “press start” on embracing queer nerds of Color in our movement.

• Sonjiah V. Davis, LICSW, LCSQ-C, bringing her expertise in mental health and public policy to challenge the stigma of being Black, queer, and angry in a Christian fundamentalist-led political climate.

In addition, LGBTQ Humanist Alliance member Tris Mamone and social justice activist Danna Pope will facilitate a “White Folk against Racism” caucus for White-identifying attendees, while Lucky Garcia and I facilitate a caucus for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Centering the Margins starts at 9:00 AM at the Washington Ethical Society and closes with a reception from 5:00 to 6:30 PM.  Tickets are still available, as are a limited number of scholarships.