Are you thinking of skipping the Sat., Mar. 20, election for U.S. Congress? I hope not! I hope you’re carefully considering the candidates vying to represent us in the U.S. House as our representative. More so, I hope that you’ll consider voting for our friend Troy Carter.
To explain why, let me take you way, way back to a lost age known as the 1990s. I want to introduce you to our Gay Community in New Orleans, some thirty years ago. Our community was being assaulted by AIDS and what we can finally call Police insensitivity. It is thanks to this community that, in 1990, I ran as the first openly Gay candidate for City Council representing District C. After my loss, I joined the NO/AIDS Task Force as Community Affairs Director. I acted under Director Jeff Campbell in the arena of reaching out to political powers in our City and State.
In Baton Rouge, I worked with Russell Henderson to lobby the legislature against many hideous bills being proposed. Can you imagine a law that demands that HIV positive people be branded with a tattoo announcing their status? Can you imagine getting away with murder if you killed someone you believed was HIV positive? There were bills that would declare that if you felt threatened by someone with HIV, you could act in self defense and kill them in the name of justifiable homicide!
All those years ago, however, I met a young man named Troy Carter who was just starting out as a State Representative. For me, caught in the tangled morass of Louisiana government, Troy was my guiding light. He was 100% supportive of our community and provided us with a strategy for victory. We would never be successful unless we had a statewide network of activists who would pressure legislators in their home districts. All politics is local, so I took his advice and traveled across the state working with local volunteers, teaching them how to educate their local power brokers on the need for HIV and AIDS Prevention.
By 1994, State Representative Troy Carter had become our City Council Member for District C. At the time, even on our own home turf in the Quarter, we were still being attacked. The streets of the Quarter weren’t safe and many us were jumped on the street, including bartenders and waiters, while walking home after a late shift, for their cash tips and wages in their pockets. Historically, our City Council representative was usually selected by the West Bank and in turn, our priorities held less sway. Yet, in the midst of this mess, marched in Councilman Troy Carter! On behalf of our community, he reached out to the Police Department’s new Chief, Richard Pennington. On their invitation, we set up sensitivity training at the Police Academy where Gays and Lesbians were made available for conversations with recruits and patrol officers. It was there they began to see us as human beings.
Together with dignity, health was our other great priority. As HIV and AIDS continued, we had to keep taking our message into the streets. Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence attracted thousands and thousands of guests from around the world, and we excelled at keeping them fed and entertained. This was the perfect venue to keep spreading the message of Safe Sex. We had plans to hang banners that read “CONDOMS! LET THE GOOD TIMES UN ROLL”, and close streets for the NO/AIDS walk & street cleaning afterwards. All of this needed the proper permits from the City and Police. Once again, Councilman Troy Carter was there to guide and support us. He not only helped us cut through the red tape, he encouraged the 8th District Police Precinct to keep us safe, particularly from the so-called Christians who came to target us with their hate. Our celebrations grew thanks to our Councilman.
In the next few weeks, you will decide who your next Congressional Representative will be. I can think of no one better, more equipped, and with greater moral clarity to fight for us than Troy Carter. Behind him are decades of courageous support for our community, even when it wasn’t the easy choice. We live his legacy every day as our LGBTQ community thrives, survives past HIV/AIDS, elevates our Trans & Lesbians comrades, and continues to advance liberty for our Black, Brown and Asian brothers and sisters. I hope you will join me in voting for Troy Carter!