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"Building the Beloved Community:" New coalition is fighting hate and its related crimes in San Diego

To be a leader in the gayborhood is great, but it is not good enough to earn our equality.

We must give of ourselves and be seen as the valuable assets we are to all in our greater society.

Coalition building is important, and allows for diverse groups to work together on projects that affect us all – one such common area being mitigating hate and its related crimes.

The DOD FED GLOBE of which I serve as the executive director, along with the Empowering Spirits Foundation, have spent the past few months building a coalition titled “Building the Beloved Community.”

This new coalition of diverse groups across San Diego Country is unified in mitigating hate-based bias and educating the public about the ill effects of prejudice. So far we have in addition to our LGBT community also representatives from United African American Ministerial Action Council (UAAMAC), Human Relations Commission, Center for Social Advocacy (C4A), Nonviolent Peaceforce Respect Based Communication (RBC), and Plan of Action in a Changing Era.

"In a real sense all life is interrelated. The agony of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said.

His concept of the beloved community went beyond one group; it was a world perspective. He knew in order to obtain civil rights we must all work together. In order for LGBT people to obtain equality, we must work as valuable members for community organizing across all of society.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) hate map identifies 926 active hate groups in the United States, 84 of which are in California. Though reported hate crimes are on the decline, crimes of bias against the LGBT community are on the rise. By unifying as a diverse coalition, we make it known that we want to work together and mitigate hate.

A hate crime is defined as any criminal or attempted criminal act which is motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age or disability and accompanied by a verbal, written or physical action intended to create emotional suffering, physical harm or property damage.

Recently the UAAMAC, the C4A, and I from the LGBT community worked together on a pilot project. The intent was to take a heated situation from a bias-based incident and turn it around. We did so successfully and counseled as well as mentored a young man who had made a very racist statement. We were able to get all the communities and people (victim and perpetrator) involved to cooperate.

We rehabilitated the perpetrator with warmth, respect and guidance. This was a victory and we are intent on repeating this.

It did not cost money. We basically donated our time and efforts. We had the perpetrator do community service in the community that was offended. He was from the Middle East and was unaware of the African-American civil rights movement and related history. We educated him and he graduated once he explained in a public forum what he had done and learned.

Why is it white heterosexual males from middle class or better economic means commit these serious acts of bias-motivated violence and are not charged with hate crime? This is a question that we are struggling with.

A great example is in the case of our friend Rhythm Turner. After playing a gig in Pacific Beach, she gave her girl friend a quick kiss. The perpetrator insisted on a show. She refused and things got heated.

Now think out loud about this question: “Would the perpetrator have asked a straight couple who had a very brief kiss to put on a show? If not why not?” Would he have hit a male so hard that surgery would have been required to fix him?

We all know the answer, because he would have been afraid that the male would have kicked his can all over the place. Yet going after lesbians is OK.

In my mind, at minimum it is bias against women and most likely against lesbians. This particular case will not be part of the FBI’s statistics as a “hate crime.” We’ve all heard the reasons from the authorities and frankly we all know he would not have pulled the same thing on a straight couple in a quick kiss. Shortly after the perpetrator was sentenced, his mother yelled homophobic remarks, followed by no action.

The District Attorneys’ Office also failed to tell Rhythm that their plea deal with this dangerous perpetrator would result in him being released from jail in January. She was led to believe that he would be incarcerated for at least a year. Even though there is a restraining order, she views this lack of rehabilitation and time served as a serious void.

The recent events at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) are a combination of shock and awe felt throughout this nation. This is referred to as the “Compton Cookout.” I read the Koala newspaper associated with this and was very disturbed by the misogynistic and racist contents. Much research had to go into this newspaper to come up with terms I have neither seen nor heard in over 30 years.

We need to do everything we can to assist in the healing and rehabilitation process. Most importantly, we must insure that appropriate legislation is supported by us to prevent a repeat of this incident. This incident sadly is a sign of our time. These things are becoming apparent more with every passing day. Remember prejudice is both preventable and curable, but we need volunteers to make the difference.

How to volunteer

If you are interested in volunteering in “Building the Beloved Community,” please contact L.S. Kove of DOD FED GLOBE at eyescu_92116@yahoo.com or A. Latham Staples at the Empowering Spirits Foundation at lstaples@empoweringspirits.org.

L.S. Kove is executive director of DOD FED GLOBE, a nonprofit that advocates for and educates about LGBT employees of the Department of Defense. This commentary is based solely upon Ms. Kove’s opinion as the executive director of DOD FED GLOBE and it is not intended in any way, shape or form to represent the opine of her employer, the Department of Defense.