- May 13, 2014
Post submitted Ray Mays, HRC Mississippi organizer and former HRC intern
Stay tuned to HRC Blog throughout the month as we continue to highlight some of the heroes of HRC’s Project One America.
"I love Mississippi; it is the home of my birth. I love Mississippi, and one day not only will it be a better place in which to live, but it will be the best place in America to live." - Medgar Evers, civil rights activist
I have a strange love for my home in Mississippi. In my fondest memories, I went fishing with my grandmother on the banks of a pond or listened to my grandmother’s stories of her childhood. Sitting at her feet to hear stories about enduring insurmountable hardships to her prideful triumphs, it has given me unspeakable joy. Those were some of the memories I will cherish a lifetime.
Yet, the home I love has given me some unpleasant memories, too. As a same-gender loving, cisgender, black male, who is also spiritual, I know the first-hand experience of racism, classism, homophobia, and discrimination. I grew up in a small Mississippi Delta town where there is extreme poverty, food deserts, and limited access to satisfactory healthcare and education. Many times in my life I have felt voiceless and that the people who look like me, or identified as queer voices were not validated, either.
In fact, in Mississippi, nearly 65 percent of LGBT people reported suffering verbal abuse. A quarter reported experiencing discrimination in employment or public accommodation, and fifteen percent report experiencing physical violence because of their identity.
I have committed my life to fight for and empower the voiceless. I am encouraged to leave Mississippi a much better state than I found it.
I am extremely thankful for work of the Human Rights Campaign and its unparalleled support to bring equality to the South. With a full time local staff and dedicate office space, HRC will focus on making progress on three fronts—changing hearts and minds, advancing enduring legal protections, and building more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace.
This is a very momentous task that lies ahead. With unyielding faith, fortitude, and grit, we will be able to rewrite the history of places like Mississippi to be inclusive and welcoming, not to some or a few people but to all people and all identities. I yearn for the opportunity to say that all identities are not only welcomed but also celebrated.
To join the driving force for equality, add your voice in support for HRC Mississippi.
For more on HRC’s comprehensive, multi-year campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South, visit http://www.projectoneamerica.org.