PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT equality advocacy organization, announced in August that D. Rashaan Gilmore would be its new senior field organizer for the Kansas City region. Gilmore is a native of Kansas City with for-profit, nonprofit and political work experience. His recent and current endeavors include small business ventures and direct grant administration.
Gilmore brings considerable energy and ability to the job. He wants to grow PROMO’s Greater Kansas City presence while reaching out to underserved portions of the LGBT community, especially transgender people and people of color. Continued isolation and alienation of these groups can produce horrifying results. The killings in Kansas City of Tamara Dominguez, a transgender Latina, in August and Dionte Greene, a gay black man, in October might have been crimes motivated by hatred.
After Greene’s murder, Gilmore spoke to KCUR-FM (89.3) about the intersection of race and sexual orientation in Kansas City. He brought up the larger issues of race relations and racial injustice and invoked what he calls “Kansas City Nice” as a barrier to dealing with racial issues. “We don’t like to talk about things that are uncomfortable,” he said.
Gilmore says this adherence to “Kansas City Nice” behavior can actually hinder progress in the work toward equality.
Aug. 9 marked the first anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. While some LGBT persons and groups have remained silent on the topic of #BlackLivesMatter, PROMO executive director A.J. Bockelman addressed it: “PROMOting equality for ALL Missourians can’t be just a tagline, but [must be> a core value forming the basis of a stronger community where #BlackLivesMatter.”
The dearth of LGBT allies in Kansas City to this cause might be explained by the distance from Ferguson. There is also distance and apathy between Kansas City’s East Side and the rest of the city. When asked about engagement of allies with #BlackLivesMatter in Kansas City, Gilmore mentions One Struggle KC (facebook.com/1strugglekc), or Una Lucha KC, as a resource. He also suggests that we get out of our comfort zone and participate in empathy-building exercises. He cites Jane Elliot’s brown eye-blue eye racial simulation experiment (www.janeelliott.com) as an example. “A luta continua,” says Gilmore. “The struggle continues.”
Thanks in part to PROMO, marriage equality is now the law across the nation, but there is still much work to do.
Another underserved population within the LGBT community is its elders. PROMO Fund, PROMO’s 501(c)(3) outreach and education entity, recently merged with SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) Metro St. Louis. PROMO also has been working on LGBT health-care issues for some time.
These two causes, along with the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), anti-transgender bathroom legislation, so-called religious freedom bills, and an enumerated statewide anti-bullying policy for students, are just some of the things Gilmore will be tackling in Jefferson City during the regular legislative session.
Before taking the job with PROMO, Gilmore was a staff member at Kansas City CARE Clinic, one of the area’s AIDS service organizations. While there, he oversaw a multi-year outreach program called Project I Am, an initiative “committed to engaging, encouraging and empowering lives of young black/Latino men who have sex with men” The project is funded by a $1.6 million direct grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Part of this project was a 2014 photo-voice exhibition called Visual AIDS: Positive Images of Positive Men, an HIV/AIDS educational awareness and stigma-reduction campaign.
An entrepreneur since childhood, Gilmore co-founded an eco-friendly, custom men’s underwear company with his partner, Quentin Savwoir, called Nuts &