By Nehemiah D. Frank, Founder & Editor-in Chief
TULSA, Okla — Oklahomans for Equality, an advocacy organization that focuses on LGBTQ issues, was recently thrust to the forefront of a county-wide controversy when one of its board members, Sharon Bishop-Baldwin, to all appearances defended the position of a county employee’s right to klan affiliations.
Her public Facebook post sparked outrage among People of Color in the LGBTQ community. Those opposed to Bishop-Baldwin’s statements didn’t waste time in responding to what they deemed racially insensitive, accusing her of defending systemic racism and protecting White Supremacy.
She issued an apology three evenings later.
Many took Bishop-Baldwin’s apology as superficial and condescending, spotlighting the sentence: “One lesson I have learned from this experience is that you can be right and still be absolutely wrong.”
Members of the community were also upset when community members noticed that Bishop-Baldwin began purging People of Color and critics of her stance from her Facebook friends list, making her apology seemingly appear less sincere.
After Bishop-Baldwin’s failed-apology attempt sparked further outrage and hurt among LGBTQ People of Color, she made the moral decision to resign from Oklahomans for Equality’s Board of Directors.
Members of the community also highlighted that her apology post was set to private as opposed to her initial Facebook post, which she set to public.
While Bishop-Baldwin’s initial statement sparked outrage among People of Color — and may have unintentionally caused further racial division within the LGBTQ community — people of all colors genuinely believe that she made the right choice by stepping down.
Furthermore, there’s no doubt that Bishop-Baldwin made an uncalculated mistake last week. However, her fallacies don’t undercut the monumental work she has done to make marriage equality for all across the Sooner State a reality, which includes marriage equality for People of Color.
The Equality Center’s board issued a statement immediately after their Saturday meeting adjourned, stating that they are committed to ensuring that LGBTQ People of Color no longer feel alienated from their organziation — after the former director’s unappealing posts and other incidents that may have made People of Color feel unwelcomed to the Center in the past.
“We the board of Oklahomans for Equality have been meeting regarding recent issues in the organization. We acknowledge Oklahomans for Equality perpetuates systemic racism. Therefore, we commit to combatting it as an organizational priority.
Our first step will be to provide an opportunity to listen to the members of our community as we were rightly called to do. A town hall is being planned. We will release information regarding that as soon as possible. We thank those who have shared their time, emotion, and pain to help us see the need to make this a priority. We are sorry it has taken us this long to get to this point. We as a board are committed to taking an active role in dismantling racism. We look forward to your input at the town hall, particularly voices of LGBTQ+ people of color who have historically been silenced.
Earlier this afternoon Sharon Bishop-Baldwin shared with the board her decision to resign as a director of OKEQ for the good of the organization. The board has accepted her resignation and celebrates her years of service. She is a hero and a champion of marriage equality in the LGBTQ+ community across the state and country. We appreciate her foresight to put the best interests of the organization first.
We acknowledge it has taken an extended period of time to issue this statement. We wanted to be thoughtful and intentional in addressing these issues. We are deeply committed to having full board involvement in a discussion of this magnitude. We invite you to join us on this journey to better understanding.”
The Equality Center’s statement was well received by members of the LGBTQ community and People of Color who identify with both communities.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America for the school choice movement. He’s a blogger for EdPost and a CAB Editorial Member at the Tulsa World. He’s been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a school administrator and teacher at Sankofa School of Creative and Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in spring of 2018.