Since the 1700s, my family, both European and African, free and slave, has worked to build this great nation we treasure. As tradesmen and servants in the towns and fields of South Carolina and Georgia, as farmers and merchants in the hills of Alabama, and as laborers, teachers, nurses, and protectors of our safety in Florida, New York and across this country, they have left us a loving inheritance of opportunity and purpose. And like my great-grandfather, Ocie Baker, a century ago during World War I, they have served this nation in wars before and after. The great moment that we observe on your inauguration has been bought by their great faith and sacrifice even at times of despair by many of my ancestors for their own freedom.
Cornelius Baker / File photo
The experience of my family and that of LGBT people, is what gives me great hope of the progress that lies ahead for the United States. Despite what has been often a brutal history for racial and sexual minorities, the magnificent achievements of the 20th century to end legal segregation, enact voting rights for all people, and to advance the civil rights of Americans regardless of gender, race, creed or sexual orientation in courts, legislatures and society remind us that the winding arc of America bends toward justice.
As you are sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, hundreds of us will be in Dallas for the 2017 National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and other Health Disparities. The men and women gathered to organize our efforts to end the HIV epidemic and improve the health of black gay men, know too well the horrible deaths and sickness that has resulted from this epidemic during the past four decades — and the
indifference of our government in its beginning. They also know the accomplishments in defeating HIV that the creative leadership of our communities have willed into being around the globe. On Inauguration Day, like all others, people around the world are at work honoring the 35 million dead from AIDS and to make prevention, care and treatment available to anyone in need. In its response to HIV, the LGBT community has left a lasting legacy of courage, determination and generosity.
Through all our suffering and times of oppression, Black people and Gay people have given more than they have received and made America stronger in so doing. In standing against the tyranny of oppression, they have given this country its moral voice in the world — along with so much of its art and music and culture.
In this time when division threatens the very future of the country we have inherited, my prayer is that you will come to know well the grace, strength and resilience of our people and hear the words of Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes as America sings for justice, dignity and equality.
The opinions expressed in these letters are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations and this magazine, its staff and contributors.
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