Mary Hooks

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

I came into or­ga­niz­ing not know­ing what or­ga­niz­ing was, so a lot of what I was try­ing to do at that time inside of SONG was to de­velop a kin­ship net­work, to break iso­la­tion of LGBT peo­ple liv­ing in the South. Now we’re at a point that we can give peo­ple the tools and train­ing to or­ga­nize in their com­mu­nity around is­sues that are im­pact­ing our com­mu­ni­ties not just as LGBTQ peo­ple, but as black folks, as work­ing class peo­ple. We have to wake up peo­ple’s po­lit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion about how we take on fights. So be­yond the marches, which is still one of the big catch-all, rapid re­sponse things, we’re us­ing the guer­rilla theater in terms of our ap­proach to the work.

What does SONG feel are some of the emerg­ing is­sues fac­ing the LGBT com­mu­nity and marginal­ized peo­ple over­all?

We see crit­i­cal is­sues with peo­ple who live at the in­ter­sec­tion of race, class, sex­u­al­ity and gen­der. One is­sue is the crim­i­nal­iza­tion and de­tain­ing of trans­gen­der folks. They are put in cages and made to sit in soli­tary con­fine­ment be­cause they don’t con­form to the bi­na­ries of male pop­u­la­tion or fe­male pop­u­la­tion. Also home­less­ness. Peo­ple come to At­lanta from small towns look­ing for sanc­tu­ary and gay com­mu­nity and find them­selves sleep­ing down­town and not find­ing com­mu­nity or re­sources, and not hav­ing ac­cess to health­care. I just see this new ad­min­is­tra­tion strip­ping away Oba­macare and the Af­ford­able Care Act and worry our folks are go­ing to be im­pacted.

What do you think a Trump pres­i­dency will look like for LGBT peo­ple and peo­ple of color? How will SONG re­spond?

I think that this new ad­min­is­tra­tion will con­tinue to use wedge is­sues, pit­ting com­mu­ni­ties against each other. I think all the stuff we saw with the anti-trans bills that were com­ing out last year was an ex­am­ple of how this ad­min­is­tra­tion will func­tion, pass­ing laws like bath­room bills that de­mo­nize a set of our base and our peo­ple. We’ll con­tinue to see more of those poli­cies come into play. I be­lieve it’s ei­ther Min­nesota or Texas that’s in the state House right now try­ing to put forth leg­is­la­tion that says if stores aren’t go­ing to have gen­der neu­tral bath­rooms, they have to hire bath­room mon­i­tors to check birth cer­tifi­cates. We’re go­ing to see in­creased polic­ing of peo­ple’s bod­ies. I think for SONG, the fo­cus will be­come to build up the heart mus­cle of our peo­ple to fight back, to show ac­tive re­sis­tance to pro­tect our peo­ple to stand up for each other.

What is your re­sponse to those who feel that the re­sults of so­cial ag­i­ta­tion are just too slow to make get­ting in­volved worth­while?

It took black peo­ple 400 years to get slav­ery abol­ished. So when we talk about this legacy of re­sis­tance, it’s a part of a long term goal. We want to see changes hap­pen in­stantly in our com­mu­nity of course, but it is more about how we are set­ting the world up for our chil­dren and our chil­dren’s chil­dren. We have to see our­selves as part of some­thing larger – part of a legacy of re­sis­tance. Ev­ery day we have an op­por­tu­nity to make his­tory. We have to be ac­count­able for that and should want to feel like a con­trib­u­tor.

South­ern­ers on New Ground co-direc­tor Mary Hooks has been ac­tive in so­cial jus­tice since 2009. (Cour­tesy photo)

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