Civil Rights activist and former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, CNN anchor Don Lemon, and comedienne Wanda Sykes were three of the panelists who spoke before members.
In the town hall styled forum, Bond said that gay rights are civil rights, and that “sexual disposition parallels race.”
“We know sexual orientation is not a choice. We know homosexuality is not a mental illness. We know you can’t pray the gay away,” he said.
Lemon and Sykes, who are both openly gay and lesbian, spoke about the difficulty in embracing their sexuality in face of societal opposition.
“You just suppress everything and become this other person,” Sykes said. “You start living that life that you think that you’re supposed to do.”
Lemon, who divulged his sexuality after the release of his autobiographical book Transparent, said that there is much work to be done in the Black community.
The forum is one of many tactics the NAACP has executed to diversify its political and social agenda. On the heels of criticisms that the organization has lost its luster over the years, it has made conscious efforts to include agendas beyond race issues, incorporating the agendas of all minority groups —something some feel is more representative of the NAACP first convened in 1909.