Daniel Cates, Latisha McDaniel were removed from Leadership Council after launching new organization
Despite the recent departure of two prominent board members, as well as rumors that founder Blake Wilkinson plans to move out of the country, Queer LiberAction isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Wilkinson vowed this week.
Wilkinson, a Dallas native who’s also spent time in Europe and Chicago, wouldn’t confirm or deny widespread rumors that he plans to relocate to Germany. But he said it’s irrelevant because the 10-month-old direct action group would continue without him.
QL has brought increased visibility to the local LGBT equality movement over the last year with its in-your-face tactics, staging dozens of rallies, protests and demonstrations. But the organization has also been a lightning rod for controversy within the community, frequently raising the ire of more established groups and leaders.
"If you’re wanting to know if Queer Liberaction is going anywhere, the answer is no," Wilkinson said this week. "Queer LiberAction is going to continue, and if I leave or if I don’t leave doesn’t have anything to do with Queer LiberAction and the mission statement of it continuing, and other individuals stepping up to take more active leadership roles. There will be a Queer LiberAction whether I’m in or not."
Wilkinson’s comments came on the heels of the recent departure of Latisha McDaniel and Daniel Cates from QL’s seven-person Leadership Council. McDaniel and Cates, who co-chaired this year’s successful Million Gay March, said Wilkinson and other QL leaders removed them from the Leadership Council without their knowledge after they announced they were starting a new organization, Equality March Texas.
In addition to planning a yearly march in Dallas commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, Cates and McDaniel said Equality March Texas will focus on direct action and education, with an aim toward partnering with other groups.
"I think it’s because of the fact that we’re [Equality March Texas is] doing stuff besides the march," McDaniel said of the reasons for her removal from the QL board. "I think he [Wilkinson] feels threatened by the fact that we are trying to work with the other LGBT organizations in Dallas, which he is unable to do."
McDaniel, a bisexual African-American, indicated that her removal may also have had something to do with recent comments she made to the Dallas Observer questioning the location of a QL "Kiss-In," the Rosa Parks Plaza downtown, because she thought it was disrespectful to Parks’ legacy.
McDaniel added that although she’s no longer on the Leadership Council, she’s still a member of QL. "I still respect Blake and I still want to work with him," McDaniel said. "We’re not going to compete with each other. If Blake plans something, we’re going to support his cause, and hopefully he’ll do the same for us."
Cates said he’s been frustrated by QL’s seeming inability to collaborate with or win support from other LGBT organizations. He said he feels the "pissing match" between QL and other groups — including during a recent debate sponsored by Dallas Voice — is detracting from the common goal.
"It’s basically because ‘Tisha and I decided to go ahead and move forward with Equality March Texas, and Blake Wilkinson felt threatened by that," Cates said. He added that he doesn’t consider himself a member of QL because he no longer feels welcome at the group’s meetings.
"We still fully support QL," Cates added. "We will still attend the rallies and help promote them and work with them in any way that we can."
Wilkinson said he didn’t want to go into detail about internal squabbles, because he doesn’t believe it’s newsworthy. But he said it was "disappointing" that Cates and McDaniel chose to launch another direct action group.
"If they want to separate from the organization to try to make everybody in the community happy, I don’t think that’s a very effective approach," Wilkinson said. "Leadership isn’t about consensus gathering. It’s about consensus making."
Wilkinson said given how new LGBT direct action is to Dallas, it doesn’t seem logical to have two groups doing it. But he said ultimately the formation of Equality March Texas reflects increased participation and interest in the movement.
"In a final analysis, it’s a positive sign, but I still think it’s a splintering of efforts," he said.
Wilkinson said he’s tried to work with other LGBT organizations, but has been frustrated by what he calls unfair criticism of QL and personal attacks against him and other leaders.
"I honestly think that the other organizations have been less willing to work with me than the other way around," he said. "I just see Dallas going through growing pains in the movement."
Wilkinson also defended the decision to remove Cates and McDaniel from the Leadership Council without consulting with them or some other board members.
"The leadership that was consulted regarding Daniel and Tisha leaving the organization was the leadership that actually puts in a substantial amount of work, that actually contributes to the growth and development of the organization and the movement," Wilkinson said. "If you’re not doing any work for an organization for your leadership position, don’t expect to keep it."
Another member of the QL Leadership Council, Jason Williams, said this week that he’s still on the board but has been "minimally involved" since Cates and McDaniel were removed.
"We call ourselves leaders of the group, but then why are we not consulted when we’re going to dismiss other leaders?" Williams said.
Williams, one of about 15 people who attended the second biweekly meeting of Equality March Texas this week, said he’s "looking forward to a group that can actually work with other groups … and not be the black sheep of the community."
Williams said he’s proud of his involvement with QL and still supports the group’s mission. But he added: "I really don’t see Queer LiberAction going much further. Maybe it will, I don’t know."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 4, 2009.
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