by Kiyan Williams, ’13
Four years ago you would have found me a precocious and eager sixteen-year old on the corner of Broad and Market Streets stopping every passerby scurrying through Newark’s busiest intersection. I would canvass the streets of Newark registering people to vote equipped with a pen, a clipboard, a charming smile, my favorite pair of Jordans, and a stubbornness inherited from my grandmother. During the summer of 2007 hundreds of new voters were registered by my teammates and I for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the organization that conservatives demonized as fraudulent during the 2008 presidential election in a futile attempt to defame President Obama.
Fast-forward a year and you would have found me outside of a grocery store in Maplewood, New Jersey armed with the same clipboard, pen, charming smile, and stubbornness. The only differences were that I was now garnering signatures in support of New Jersey’s marriage equality bill, was wearing black patent-leather oxfords, and the people I solicited were mostly white instead of black or Latina/o.
Between those two summers I had fiercely declared to the world that I was queer, and had added an LGBT equality button along side my “black and brown power”, “safe sex is the best sex”, and “feminism rocks” buttons pinned to my messenger bag. I was now invested in same-sex quality as I was for racial, gender, and economic equality. At the time same sex marriage was the only “gay rights issue” I knew of—it was the topic of every news headline and political debate—and so I volunteered for an organization that advocates for same-sex marriage in New Jersey.