Connect with us

Meet GetEQUAL’s New Field Director Felipe Matos — Exclusive Interview

Published

on

Felipe Matos on Monday became GetEQUAL‘s new Field Director. Matos, who says he is both queer and undocumented, is perhaps in a unique position to assess and act on the current needs of the LGBT community while being able to form important and powerful coalitions with other minority groups — something the LGBT community up until now has rarely been effective at doing.

GetEQUAL, now two years old, has a very specific mission: “to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way.” Clearly they have followed it to the letter, and with surprisingly effective results.

Perhaps best-known for the multiple times they have handcuffed themselves to the White House fence — drawing needed attention and momentum that resulted in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — GetEQUAL’s tactics of nonviolent civil actions have been praised, prosecuted, and impugned.

Matos “has a long record of pressuring both Democrats (see here) and Republicans (see here) for progress on Latino issues — and now he’s bringing that knowledge and history to the LGBT movement,” Heather Cronk, GetEQUAL’s Managing Director, tells The New Civil Rights Movement.

She excitedly adds that Matos will be “bringing his ridiculously successful organizing experience in the Latino community to the LGBT community. Felipe is a rockstar DREAMer who participated in the Trail of Dreams in 2010 to draw attention to the need for the DREAM Act, and has been organizing for the past few years with both Presente and United We DREAM.”

In an introduction, Matos himself notes:

I was brought to the USA by my older sister who was living here for 4 years then. My mother had developed a chronic back disease that prevented her from working. I had grown used to being oppressed by extreme poverty in my country of origin, Brazil, so the US was definitely a promising way to finally find freedom- I was wrong.

His bio also notes:

He has served in the Board of Directors of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a core leader from Students Working for Equal Rights, he is part of the National Coordinating Committee of the national organization United WE DREAM and an online advocate for the national group Presente.org.

We asked Felipe Matos several questions about his plans as GetEQUAL’s new Field Director, and the challenges he will face both within and outside of the LGBT community.

GetEQUAL has been very successful in the short time since its inception. What do you see as your role, will you be altering the group’s direction, or will you just “stay the course”?
Get Equal has played a critical role in our movement’s recent victory- the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. However, Get Equal has also been an unsung hero in many other fronts. I got involved in 2010 with Get Equal when politicians in Washington, D.C. tried to create a divide between the LGBT movement and immigrant rights when both the repeal of DADT and the DREAM Act came up for a vote at the same time. Heather Cronk, Get Equal’s managing director, approached me and a few other DREAM Act students and we strategized on ways to keep our communities together by highligting stories of queer undocumented youth and we organized some local joined actions. Later, Get Equal brought together its local organizers to Memphis, Tennessee for a training, all of the trainers were United We DREAM organizers. These initiatives have been critical in creating solidarity between both movements and struggles. Both DREAMers and Get Equal organizers have a shared experience that will never be forgotten. This is how we build meaningful bridges between the different issue areas in the Progressive Movement.

I’m hoping to expand Get Equal’s capacity to go beyond the LGBT community but also its field power. Most national organization get stuck in the “DC mentality,” an island that allows politics to easily take over and “access” sometimes become more important than “progress.” Get Equal is different because we are actually led by people on the ground that face homophobia and homophobic laws on their daily lives. This is why I decided to stay in Florida, a place where we have a constitutional ban on marriage, SB1070 copycats are a constant threat, and we still have to fight to get justice for the murder of African American youth because of gun laws that allow for people to literally get away with murder. In my opinion, politics is truly done locally and a strong field is an integral part of our current plan to gain full federal equality. I wouldn’t call my plans “altering” the current course but rather expanding and exploring new opportunities for growth.

GetEQUAL’s success has not come without a price. There are those in the LGBT community who feel GetEQUAL’s “tactics” are more dramatic and disruptive that they are comfortable with. Some feel they don’t want groups like GetEQUAL or for that matter, HRC, to represent them. What would you tell them?
Not everyone agrees with our tactics or strategies, that’s OK. There is enough space in the spectrum of important roles everyone can play for progress in our community. We have chosen to create an unapologize way of organizing which it may not be popular but it’s definitely effective and it brings results to the community. We are more concerned with bringing equality to a young person in Iowa or a 80 year-old that waited his or her entire life for change than pleasing everyone. I also feel that everyone’s role is important and that’s why I would encourage anyone to reach out to us as we keep building a movement for full federal equality in this country.

Your background seems to be more focused on the DREAM Act and immigration. Do you feel you are changing direction personally, or are you at a point where you want to expand your responsibilities? Does your new GetEQUAL role mean you’re abandoning your DREAM Act activism?
I wouldn’t be able to ever leave the DREAM movement, as a matter of fact, I would feel like a traitor to an important part of who I am if I ever did so. My new role in Get Equal will allow me to embrace everything I am. I am an immigrant, undocumented, queer and a man of color. Get Equal’s philosophy allows for anyone involved to never have to choose which identity hat to wear, which part of their identity to highlight and which part to hide away. Instead, we are encouraged to embrace our full selves. I am grateful for Get Equal’s willingness to accept everything I am and allowing me to bring everything to the table. I am hoping that this new phase in my life as an organizer will expand the LGBT movement’s reach and keep a door open for Latinos and other communities of color to come in and also sit at decision making tables.

The LGBT community, especially recently, has benefited from other minority groups, like the NAACP, for example, showing support for our issues, yet LGBT groups have not been as active in speaking out for other causes, like immigration and the DREAM Act, or any of a number of other important social justice issues. Nor have we been especially successful at, or, apparently, interested in, building coalitions that support other causes. Do you feel you are in a unique position to change this? If so, will this be a focus for you?
I agree that several sectors of the LGBT movement has been “shy” to meaningfully engage on other social justice causes. Unfortunately, this has been a recurring problem in our movement. What we need to understand as a community is that there is LGBT people in every disenfranchised community. These individuals have to deal with homophobia and other structural oppressive system such as xenophobia, racism, transphobia, misogyny, to name a few. So immigrant rights, reproductive justice, health care reform, labor issues are LGBT issues because several individuals in our community are directly affected by these policies or issues. This is why I’m a firm believer that it is in the best interest of the LGBT movement to build coalition with groups working on other issues that have not been traditionally seen as our community’s issue.

In 2010, I had the honor of walking in the Trail of DREAMs, a walk from Miami to Washington, DC. to highlight the plight of undocumented students, with my partner Juan and our peers Carlos and Gaby. During our journey we met hundreds of people who live under several oppressive systems and whom were actively fighting against them. They have been an inspiration for my work in intersectionality and this will definitely be a focus for me in Get Equal.

Jorge Gutierrez, a personal mentor and a great friend, wisely told me, “Felipe we are natural bridges.” People who have multiple identities are clear ambassadors to multiple communities. I hope to bring other people from diverse communities to leadership position so we can expand Get Equal’s contribution in changing the current dynamic between the LGBT movement and other organizations fighting for other issues.

You have worked with faith-based groups in the past, especially on immigration. Do you plan to try to reach out to them, and do you think your past association with them will make that easier?
My personal interactions with faith groups have been very challenging and yet very rewarding. Faith groups have a strong base of people who many times care about equality and social justice causes. It’s important for us to create a strong coalition for equality and reaching out to them should be part of our strategy for change. Faith groups should be an integral part in increasing our political power as a movement and that’s why I will reach out to them.

What can the average person who supports LGBT rights and equality do that they may not be doing now to help us all “get equal”?
Martin Luther King, Jr once said, “In the end we will remember not the word of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” So they should join us, organize with us, vote for people who care about our issues but most importantly never stand silent even when it’s hard to do the right thing. If they want to get involved with Get Equal they can go to http://getequal.org/join-us.

Continue Reading
Click to comment
 
 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

News

‘I Feel a Little Bit Dumber for What You Say’: The Nine Worst Moments of the GOP Presidential Debate

Published

on

The second Republican presidential debate was mired in in-fighting and personal attacks by the candidates,  a vow to wage physical war against Mexico, hate against LGBTQ people, an insistence the U.S. Constitution doesn’t actually mean what the words on the page say, and a fight over curtains.

Here are nine of the worst moments from Wednesday night’s debate.

The debate itself got off to a rough start right from the beginning.

Multiple times candidate cross-talk made it impossible for anyone to make a point, like this moment when nearly half the candidates talked over each other during a nearly two minute segment as the moderators struggled to take control.

READ MORE: ‘I Don’t Think So’: As GOP Debate Kicks Off Trump Teases Out the Chances of Any Candidate Becoming His Running Mate

Vivek Ramasway got into a heated argument with Nikki Haley, leading the former Trump UN Ambassador to tell him, “Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”


Ramaswamy launched an attack on transgender children.

Moments after Ramaswamy attacked transgender children, so did Mike Pence, calling supporting transgender children’s rights “crazy.”

He promised “a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgical surgery anywhere in the country,” and said: “We’ve got to protect our kids from this radical gender ideology agenda.”

Former New Jersey Governor Cris Christie described the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, who has dedicated her life to teaching, as the person President Biden is “sleeping with.”

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, as CNN’s Manu Raju noted were “one-time allies,” after “Haley appointed Scott to his Senate seat,” until they started “going at it at [the] debate.”

“Talk about someone who has never seen a federal dollar she doesn’t like,” Scott charged. “Bring it, Tim,” Haley replied before they got into a fight about curtains.

Senator Scott declared, “Black families survived slavery, we survived poll taxes and literacy tests, we survived discrimination being woven into the laws of our country. What was hard to survive was [President] Johnson’s Great Society, where they decided to take the Black father out of the household to get a check in the mail.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, currently leading over everyone on stage, said practically nothing for the first 15 minutes. He may have said the least of all the candidates on stage Wednesday night. But he denounced Donald Trump for being “missing in action.”

Watch all the videos above or at this link.

 

 

 

Continue Reading

News

‘I Don’t Think So’: As GOP Debate Kicks Off Trump Teases Out the Chances of Any Candidate Becoming His Running Mate

Published

on

Donald Trump, again refusing to participate in a GOP debate, teased out the fate of every candidate on stage Wednesday night: he will choose none of them as his vice presidential running mate.

The ex-president who is facing 91 felony charges in four criminal cases across three jurisdictions and is now also facing the dissolution of his business empire, brought up the running mate question around the same time the debate on Fox News was kicking off.

“It’s all over television, this speech,” Trump falsely claimed, referring to his live remarks at a non-union shop one day after President Joe Biden stood on the picket line with UAW workers.

READ MORE: ‘Apparently You’ll Never Believe Us’: House Republican Melts Down After Reporter Questions His ‘Evidence’ Against Biden

“You know, we’re competing with the job candidates,” Trump said, mocking his fellow Republican presidential candidates after he scheduled an event opposite the debate he refused to attend.

“They’re all running for a job,” he continued, as the audience began to boo.

“They want to be in the, they’ll do anything,” he continued. “Secretary of something.”

“They even say VP, I don’t know,” Trump said. “Does anybody see any VP in the group? I don’t think so.”

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Careening’ Toward ‘Risk of Political Violence’: Experts Sound Alarm After Trump Floats Executing His Former General

 

Continue Reading

News

‘Apparently You’ll Never Believe Us’: House Republican Melts Down After Reporter Questions His ‘Evidence’ Against Biden

Published

on

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) became defensive and accusatory after repeatedly being unable to answer a reporter’s questions in a press conference Wednesday, held to announce what House Republicans claim is “evidence” against President Joe Biden.

A shortened version of the video posted by the news organization Heartland Signal went viral, garnering nearly one million views in under three hours on the social media platform X.

“Mr. Chairman, question about the timing of all of this,” began an NBC News reporter identified by Mediaite as Ryan Nobles. “You’re talking about a two-tiered system of justice. If I’m not mistaken, on August 7, 2020 Bill Barr was the attorney general and Donald Trump was the president, so explain to me where the two-tiered system of justice comes into play. And then the WhatsApp message you have, I believe, is dated June 6, 2017. Joe Biden is not vice president or even a candidate for president at that time. So where is the direct connection to some sort of criminal malfeasance within these two pieces of evidence?”

RELATED: ‘Everybody Has Seen That’: Fox News Host Smacks Down Republican Pushing Biden ‘Burismo’ Video People ‘Not Talking About’

Chairman Smith could not only not answer any part of those questions, he appeared to forget a portion of them.

“Well, I think the facts speak for themselves,” Smith replied. “There’s over 700 pages of examples of, where people should be very concerned, when you’re talking about um, ah, – what was your first question?”

Smith went on to say, “It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House,” after being reminded them President at that time was Donald Trump. “We need to make sure that the Department of Justice works for all people and doesn’t treat those who are politically connected or wealthy much differently. And unfortunately, we have several examples that came forward by the two IRS whistleblowers, that proves that people are treated differently because they’re politically connected.”

“Are you suggesting that Joe Biden being the president now, is unfairly treating Donald Trump in his indictment?” Nobles asked.

Again, Smith did not answer the question.

“What I’m talking about is the 700 pages that we have before us, which is all the information that came from the IRS whistleblowers, and that’s what we’re releasing right now,” Smith replied, again not answering Nobles’ question. “And I’ll tell you, I would encourage everyone in this room to look at those 700 pages. If you think it’s okay, with what’s in it, then we live on two different planets.”

RELATED: ‘You F**ked Me – I Know It Was You’: Top House Republican ‘Exploded’ at McCarthy After Losing Chairmanship

“Can you explain the timing of the August 6 WhatsApp message? Why is that evidence of some wrongdoing?” Nobles continued..

“I’m not an expert on the timeline,” Smith admitted, before pivoting to say, “I would love to have President Biden and his family to tell us about all the timelines, because it’s really, really unfortunate that we see so many meetings and so many phone calls that involved around official activity that the Vice President has been participating in, and then big sums of money follows later –”

“But he’s not the president or the vice president at that time. Where, where’s the wrongdoing? He wasn’t even a candidate for president,” Nobles pointed out.

“He was a candidate – ” Smith claimed.

“On August 6 –” Nobles began before Smith interrupted him.

“So apparently apparent – what source are you with?” Chairman Smith asked Noble.

“I’m with NBC,” the reporter replied.

“So apparently, you’ll never believe us,” Smith charged.

“I’m asking you a very direct question,” Nobles explained. “You presented a piece of evidence that you say came on August 6, 2017, that demonstrates that Joe Biden was using political influence to help his son. He wasn’t a political figure at that time. The first WhatsApp message you put up, where yo talk about the brand,” Nobles explained. “I’m completely open minded about this. I’m asking you specifically, how does that demonstrate that there was some sort of political influence being put over him, if at that time, he is not a political – he’s not an elected official?”

“I’m definitely not going to pinpoint one item,” Chairman Smith said defensively.

READ MORE: ‘Jaw Dropping’: Democratic Senator Slams Tuberville’s ‘Open’ Talk About ‘White Supremacy’

“You presented it!” Nobles acclaimed. “It was the first thing that you brought up.”

“So apparently, you don’t agree with that. So report that you disagree with it. I’ll take the next question. Yes?” Smith said, refusing to answer any of Nobles’ questions.

Watch below or at this link.

 

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.