Following on an annual outing begun last year, the National Black Justice Coalition will be returning to Capitol Hill next year for ''Out on the Hill,'' six days of meeting with legislators, discussing the issues, and otherwise advancing the mission of the ''leading national Black LGBT civil rights organization focused on federal public policy.''
Designed to coincide with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference, Out on the Hill runs Sept. 20 to 25.
''It is very important for LGBT activists to be known inside of the black leadership,'' says NBJC Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks, under whose leadership Out on the Hill began. Oct. 1 marks her two-year anniversary leading NBJC. ''We can't engage in a positive way if we're only talking to the choir. This is the intersection of racial justice and LGBT equality. It's important that the black community see black leadership as a stakeholder in the LGBT agenda.''
Lettman-Hicks's mention of the racial justice-LGBT equality intersection is actually a crucial part of the 2011 Out on the Hill events. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, NBJC is partnering with Mayor Vincent Gray's Office of GLBT Affairs to present the Black LGBT National Town Hall Meeting. The theme? ''The African American Community & The LGBT Community at the Intersection.''
''We want to profile advances in the District of Columbia, which predominantly black, on LGBT issues,'' says Lettman-Hicks. ''We are very blessed to have a great partnership growing with the LGBT office of the mayor. Talking about the passage of marriage in this predominantly black city, and the crime against people of color in the transgender community, those are going to be the two hot topics at our town-hall meeting.''
Over the course of the six-day event, other topics will obviously enter the discussion. Stacey Long, federal legislative director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the organization's principal lobbyist, also chairs Out on the Hill's public policy committee. Accordingly, she'll be instrumental in fostering conversations on a range of issues during the event, which will bring a cross section from across the country to the nation's capital.
''It's not every day you have black LGBT people talking with members of Congress, and many members of Congress want to hear from people firsthand, not from lobbyists,'' she says. ''This is the time of year the organization is dedicated to making its presence known and lifting up those voice that may not have been engaged before.''
For the full ''Out on the Hill'' schedule, to learn more, or to register, call NBJC at 202-319-1552 or visit nbjc.org.