You really haven’t lived until you’ve met someone like J.P. Reef. No, really. You haven’t. He will change you.
And like David Badash changed me when he proposed what became the Great Nationwide Kiss-In, and I stepped on board, with no indication of the potentially life-changing end results, J.P. Reef started changing my life by simply opting out of the free frozen yogurt in Dupont Circle on a mild October afternoon.
While J.P. grew up just 25 miles from my hometown, and had been remarkably active there, I had never met him before, not until an exhausted moment on the afternoon of the National Equality March. I sat down next to him on a curbstone while our friends decided to take advantage of artificially sweetened freebies, and we found ourselves chatting for several minutes. Of course, I was intrigued by this stranger in a similar red t-shirt, this guy who exhibited the same passion that I did. After a fun dinner with friends in a nearby establishment, I walked back to the Metro station alone, not sure that I’d see him again.
But after nearly 53% of Maine residents voted “Yes” on Question 1, killing the possibility of marriage equality in the Pine Tree State, an unexpected e-mail popped up on my screen. J.P. was angry, upset, and hurt. He was inspired by the efforts of friends and acquaintances, as well as those of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He wanted to plan a new civil rights march, one that paid homage to the extraordinary leaders of the 1960s, not unlike the marches from Selma to Montgomery while also making the strongest, most personal statement that the LGBT community could ever make. We would sweat and bleed along a 60-mile route between Portland and Augusta, Maine. We would chant and sing and cry. We would make our voices heard like never before. We would be heard, and we would never be forgotten.
And a raw emotion welled up in my own soul as I wrote back to him and said, “Count me in.”
Weeks later, I am a co-chair of the LGBT Civil Rights March alongside J.P. and an extraordinary Presque Isle (Maine) woman, a straight ally named Samantha White. Together, the three of us plan to make history. We will start in the heart of the peninsula that makes up downtown Portland, and we will make our way to the State Capitol building in Augusta over five long days. This is the journey of a lifetime, a journey of which I’m so proud to be an integral part.
As we spend weekends with our own cash in hand, figuring out where people will camp out in between long days on the road, finding our allies and friends in churches and businesses and private homes along Route 1 or Route 24 in Maine, I’ve come to realize something about myself, my own passion. It doesn’t die. It becomes discouraged and little bits break off here and there, but it will never die. It grows weary, but its flame never goes out. This is the life I never expected to live, yet it is the world in which I have always belonged. J.P. helps this fire burn even stronger. Together, with Sam, and so many of our friends and acquaintances, we keep fighting like never before.
This blog will make a comeback in the next five months and beyond, as this March grows to its full height, its full strength. I want to tell you about what J.P. and Samantha and I are doing. I want to share our website, when our webmaster, Adam DePrince, gathers all the necessary materials from us to make it happen. I want to tell you about the ideas of our official photographer, Tanya Dodd-Hise, and our official fitness consultant, Jason Flanagan, who are going to step up to the plate and prepare all of you and us for that week in May. I want to share our triumphs, our victories, and even our defeats. This will happen. We will make it happen for all of us.
January 16, 2010 is J.P. Reef’s 25th birthday, and also our first official fundraiser for the March. This time around, we’re splitting every dime of profit from this event with the folks from the First Parish Church of Billerica, to give them a much-needed boost. While we fully intend to exhaust every resource, every person we know, every LGBT-friendly business and corporate entity to find the funds to make this happen in the coming weeks and months, we’re also starting at the ground level with all of you – our friends, our allies, our lovers, our co-workers and our fellow congregants and everyone in between. We want you to attend. We ask you to contribute. Just a $10 ticket from each of you helps us to get started. It will help to make glorious and unexpected magic happen.
But even if you can’t be in Billerica, Massachusetts on that Saturday evening, we hope you’ll still buy a ticket. It’s really quite simple. Go to the Donations page here in my blog, and click the Paypal link to buy a ticket. If you’ll actually be there, leave a note that you’re joining us and we’ll hold a ticket for you at the door. If you live thousands of miles away, leave us a different note with your good wishes and support. Buy one ticket for yourself, or buy five tickets for the March and for First Parish. Spend any amount of money you wish and know that you’re not only helping us get this special LGBT civil rights event off the ground, but you’re also helping a struggling church in the suburbs of Boston continue to spread the good word and support the LGBT population.
Remember that any amount you choose supports all of us. It helps all of us find our voices and our freedom.
And whatever you can do to support us, to make a difference, we thank you.
p/s – And we’ll talk about the other ways in which YOU can be part of this, because when the mild spring air of late May hits the coast of Maine, we’ll want you to march alongside us – whether it’s the last day of that week or all five of them. I promise we’ll talk about that soon.