Tuesday, April 24, 2012


The city is San Francisco.

The year is 2012.

The musical group is called the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band, performing in concert at Her Church.

Sixty-three musicians plus conductor.


None of them African-American.

Going by surnames in the program,  five Asians, including the conductor.

Otherwise, all white.

I sent an email to the band's president pointing this out and asking how the band was dealing with this imbalance.

1) Has the band (which is run by a Board of Directors) ever discussed this issue?

2) Have there been any outreach efforts to address this imbalance?

3) Are there plans for future outreach?

I was expecting a brief, sort of boilerplate reply, such as:

The Board is aware of this lack of diversity and we take it very seriously.  We have reached out in various ways to non-white communities and will continue to do so.

My inquiry met a stone wall. As if I was asking for a discussion, not answers, Julie replied

I am more than willing to make the time available to discuss the concerns you raise, and to learn from your experiences in bridging cultural and power differences in our community. As an organization we continually strive to evolve, and we welcome fresh perspectives and constructive ideas for how we can better achieve our mission.

So, I take this response to mean:

NO, the Band/Board has never really considered the issue of racial diversity.

NO, the Band/Board hasn't reached out to non-white communities.

NO, the Band/Board has no particular plans for future outreach.

This is surprising, coming from a well established, highly organized group.

SFLGFB led the last Veterans Day Parade, in honor the recent repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

SFLGFB has been named the official band of the City and County of San Francisco.

SFLGFB receives public money from the SF Hotel Tax fund.

You'd think that some PR-minded band member would have noticed.

Or possibly the lack of racial diversity at this particular performance was a complete anomaly.

It would be nice to get the simple questions answered before beginning a complex discussion.

Us old folks remember "token integration." Much derided, tokenism was at least better than total segregation. One black face in a sea of white might presage another and another.

How far have we regressed?

----- o -----


sfmike said...

About the only gay groups that I've encountered in San Francisco that aren't overwhelmingly white are a few of the athletic organizations like the Gay Softball League and the Gay Tennis Federation. Is it a shameful state of affairs? Yes, indeedy.

sfwillie said...

Dear sfmike, I'm guessing that demo clubs such as Alice and Milk must have some AA participation.

sfmike said...

Dear Willie: You're correct about Alice and Milk, but the political clubs are pretty gruesome places to hang out for all kinds of reasons, so they completely vanished from my mind.