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Hubert TateThis year, HRC is spotlighting the voices of African-American LGBT leaders and allies as part of HRC’s Black History Month blog seriesThe post comes from Hubert Tate, former HRC Press Secretary, Project One America. 

February marks an important opportunity to thank the men and women who bravely sacrificed their lives to advance opportunities for African-Americans like myself.  Their blood, sweat and tears will not be forgotten or dismissed, and their passionate pursuit of justice inspires me to do the same.

As a product of Mississippi, educated in Jackson Public Schools, my teachers frequently reminded me that the opportunities that I enjoy today did not come easy. One vivid memory that comes to mind took place when I was in second grade.

It was movie time, and I was so excited. I sat down on the carpet, legs folded, and thought we were going to watch the latest Disney movie. But my teacher said, “Today’s showing is a lesson on Black History.” On the screen, in black and white film, I saw, for the first time, images of black Americans being brutally beaten by police officers. And why?  Because of their skin color.

At the historically black Jackson State University, I saw the reflections of the civil rights movement at every turn. The face of Emmitt Till at the time of his death is forever etched in my brain. The mission of civil rights pioneer Medgar Evers remains within my spirit. And the image of James Meredith walking onto the campus Ole Miss surrounded by a barrage of federal troops is a memory I will never forget. I stand on the shoulders of people who fought for greatness, and the moment has come for me to continue their battle so that future generations can live more freely.

As press secretary for HRC’s Project One America, my main mission is to seek justice and fairness for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Civil Rights Movement and our current fight for LGBT rights may be dissimilar but they share a common goal: to advance equality for all people.

I love Mississippi with all my heart and soul. Football, faith, food and family guide our lives. It is the place where I learned the Golden Rule, sitting in Sunday school every week at 9:30 a.m. in Classroom B. But it’s painful to know that the state I care so much about doesn’t treat everyone fairly, particularly members of the LGBT community.

LGBT people are part of the fabric of all of our communities—they are our friends and neighbors, our armed forces, our pastors and lay people, our fellow Americans. Equality and justice know no race nor sexual orientation.

As a black man, I thank the people who fought so hard for me before I was even born. As an LGBT advocate, I look forward to continuing the fight for equality for future generations.

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