Immigrant struggles = human struggles; LGBT struggles = Human struggles; Immigrant struggles = LGBT struggles

April 09, 2012
Maher Alhaj Uniting America AmeriCorps Fellow

While the premise of the work I am doing is to connect the LGBT native born Illinoisans with their immigrant neighbors to develop a partnership that otherwise is not explicit, the question of how to accomplish that remains somewhat ambiguous.  In addition, approaching some LGBT organizations about the work I am doing and trying to recruit volunteers from the LGBT community to work with their immigrant neighbors has not been easy. There are a few factors that come into play when thinking about the reason why such partnership is difficult to accomplish, which includes a lack of education in both communities about each other’s issues and the reality that each other’s issues are not the priority for neither. But realizing that the struggle in the LGBT world and that of the immigrant’s is technically the same, and that no one community can affect change all on its own, and that change can only happen by building such fragile bridges and by making such invisible connections, that we are able to move forward in our mission to Uniting America. 

Regardless of such struggles and the discouragements all along the way, I am certain that our Uniting America program is on the right track. It is going to be slow, baby steps if you will, but integrating the issues of the LGBT community and those of the Immigrant communities, and the power of making them work concurrently is something that is bound to happen. Along this positive outlook on such partnership, I would like to highlight one of the LGBT leaders, Bernard Cherkasov, who I have had the pleasure of knowing for a while.  Bernard Cherkasov is the Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois who happened to be an immigrant himself. I recently met with him to specifically discuss the role of the LGBT community in our Uniting America Program. Mr. Cherkasov understands well that the struggles of immigrants are very similar to the struggles the LGBT community, and that the partnership between the two communities is critical to the empowerment of both. 

There is so much I could discuss about Bernard and his exceptional leadership both as an immigrant and as an LGBT member, but one thing I would like to leave you with, which Bernard has emphasized very much, is the fact that the LGBT community is not only concerned with LGBT issues, but with all issues that pertain to our human rights. Immigrant struggles are human struggles; LGBT struggles are Human struggles; Immigrant struggles are LGBT struggles.