The following open letter has been issued by National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director, Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks:
In 1955, only a few days after Rosa Parks took action and refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in the pulpit at the Holt Street Baptist Church. That evening, thousands had gathered in preparation to take action and launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which is widely recognized as the first, successful non-violent mass mobilization of people of color in the United States.
When Dr. King spoke, he delivered a soul-stirring call to action stating, “If you will protest courageously … when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say, ‘There lived a great people - a Black people - who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.’ This is our challenge and our overwhelming responsibility.”
In the spirit of Dr. King and the National Day of Service, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is proud to be partnering with The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund and the National Coalition for LGBT Health to call members, friends and allies to “protest courageously” and defend our right to affordable, quality health care.
Congress has scheduled a vote on January 19 to repeal the “Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act” passed by President Obama. This law is providing millions of Americans with essential health care coverage, and any ill-conceived attempt to undo or to roll it back is a direct threat to Black LGBT families.
As you reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, his life and the incredible courage he demonstrated through action, think about what he would have done if faced with this threat to our jobs and the health and well-being of our families. The importance of health care coverage is clear. What is less clear is that out-of-control health care costs are also destroying jobs. Unemployment rates in African American communities are double and even triple of those in the majority population. Because we already face employment discrimination based on race, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, fewer jobs will only further harm Black LGBT people and our families.
Without access to quality, affordable health care, African-American children being raised in homes headed by Black, same-sex couples will be unnecessarily exposed to potentially life-threatening health risks (52% of households headed by Black female same-sex couples and 32% of households headed by Black male same-sex couples report having children under the age of 18).
Dr. King fought for equal treatment and recognition of basic human rights for all people. He believed that inequality and injustice in health care was “shocking” and “inhumane.” Access to quality, affordable health care is a basic human right, and Dr. King would have taken action to stop any attempt to undo heath care protections that were put in place by President Obama.
NBJC is dedicated to leading Black families in strengthening the bonds and bridging the gaps between straight and LGBT people and communities. As the leading national Black LGBT civil rights organization focused on federal policy and strengthening Black families, NBJC is calling on you to take action to protect our families from this legislative assault. Call your member of Congress and tell them to oppose every effort to destroy or incrementally dismantle the “Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.” As Dr. King said, “This is our challenge and our overwhelming responsibility.”
Onward and upward!
Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks
National Black Justice Coalition