Where there’s a rally, a protest, or signature drive for marriage equality, there’s an organizer.
Two years ago, the D.C.-based New Organizing Institute (NOI) noticed that there wasn’t any specific award to recognize those unsung organizers, so it launched the ”Most Valuable Awards.”
”We started the awards in order to give people a way to both nominate other people, and then, at the [Roots Camp] conference, to really elevate some of the people who have done excellent work over the years,” says Judith Freeman, co-founder and executive director of NOI.
This year, two members of the local LGBT community are in the lead to make the top three slots with the highest numbers of votes for the ”Most Valuable Organizer” award.
As of Wednesday, Dec. 1, Mark Anthony Dingbaum, formerly of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund had the second highest number of votes with 344; Jay Carmona, formerly of GetEqual, was in the third slot with 232.
”We’re going to narrow it down to three, and then people at the conference will vote for the winner,” Freeman says of the Roots Camp conference, scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12 at George Washington University’s Marvin Center, 800 21st St. NW.
Other nominees familiar to the local LGBT community include Shannon Cuttle of the Safe Schools Action Network, and Michael Crawford, founder of DC for Marriage who now works out of New York with Freedom to Marry.
Though Crawford’s number of votes have not placed him in the top three slots, he’s gotten the support of The Center, the area’s LGBT community center, which has endorsed him. DC for Marriage is a project of The Center.
”Under Michael’s leadership we collected thousands of names and addresses of supporters of marriage equality in D.C.,” says David Mariner, The Center’s executive director. ”I give him a lot of credit for bringing some visibility to that issue. He’s a really great example of how to utilize online resources, like Facebook, and that’s part of what the NOI is teaching.”
Voting continues online until Dec. 8. Freeman says NOI has not determined what this year’s prize will include. Last year, the Most Valuable Organizer received books, magazine subscriptions and NOI training.
Carmona, who studied community organizing in college, says being nominated is ”validation” for the work that she has done in Washington over the past year.
”I’ve helped develop existing leadership by teaching skills like facilitation and then action planning because I believe that’s what real organizers do: teach skills and empower leaders to take on projects and start doing their own activism.”