So my boyfriend and I took a walk down to check out the National Equality March this afternoon and take a walk in it for awhile. Lots of cheer, good spirit, diversity of age, which is great. Lots of people I know wouldn't be caught dead doing any kind of "activism" who were holding handmade sides. Very encouraging.
The event itself was poorly managed- probably the result of throwing this together essentially at the last-minute, and on a shoestring budget (more about the history of the March here). Poor speaker equipment, lack of videoscreens, etc. Plus, it intermingled with a large breast cancer walk, so any numbers you'll see (I've heard Capitol Police are estimating 150,000, while March organizers are claiming 200K, so it's probably something in the middle) are likely to be a bit inflated with crowds mixing. Congrats to organizers on an event that looked pretty good, considering they way it was put together.
But I want to stop short of "a success" and think about that for a minute.
I was fascinated by how many friends of mine who work in the LGBT movement and have opposed the March for months as a poor use of resources that was poorly put together, were on Twitter, e-mail listservs, etc. today gushing about how brilliant, awe-inspiring and successful it was. Some are doing it out of complement to organizers, some caught up completely in the moment.
I think being complementary is warranted to some extent, but there is a difference between success as an event and success as a venture. What is the definition of success here? I put together over 60 events on a national book tour for The Progressive Revolution, nearly all of which were called "successes" by attendees and in my own opinion. But I would be the first to tell you the book was not a smashing success in the sense that it was on the NYTimes bestseller list or anything. That is not to say it wasn't a success in terms of a venture, and wasn't worth doing, as a tiny percentage of all books get on the NYTimes list, but that it wasn't equal to the gushing enthusiasm I saw at our events.
The same gushing enthusiasm is being outpoured to the March by some of its harshest critics, who are quick to call it a success. I will call it a success as an event, sure. I will wait to call it a success, and worth doing again, in terms of what it actually does. It's fun to come to DC and party at clubs, shout at tall white buildings the next day, then go home. Success for our movement is a lot different. And it's difficult to quantify what makes this a success, the way historians attribute civil rights legislation in part to Dr. King's 1963 march. We'll have to wait a good while to see whether this made a huge difference in terms of getting our movement equal rights.
Until then, let's call the event a job fairly well done, remember not to use the way in which it was done as a model for the future, and exercise wisdom and patience in thinking about whether it's worth doing it in the future based on what it gets us.