After more than 15 years of leading the fight for eqaulity for black gay and lesbian people, Keith Boykin announced last week that he is retiring from the work that has impacted the lives of thousands of people.
I was given the news during a telephone conversation with Keith a few weeks ago and my first reaction was that of disbelief. I immediately began to think of many selfish reasons why I didn't want Keith to disappear from the front lines. Who would we look to for leadership? What about the young people who may be struggling to walk in truth who haven't yet been exposed to Keith and his work? I wanted him to continue until he was burnt out, and then I wanted him to work some more.
The truth is, now is the time for Keith to move into the next phase of his life, to add even more great accomplishments to his already impressive resume .
I jokingly admit to my friends that I want to be Keith Boykin when I grow up and there's always some truth behind every joke.
Keith exemplifies what it means to be a fearless leader. There are those who fight online, and in line, but there's not too many people who have the courage to fight on the front line. Keith has been that person for many years, from his work in The White House, to The National Black Justice Coalition and the more recent LifeBeat Campaign, he has unintentionally been the voice for a community of people that has been opressed into silence.
So will Keith disappear? What's next? Keith had the following to say about his future,
"I remain fully committed to the values and principles that first drove me to this work a decade and a half ago. But at 41 years old, I believe there are more effective ways for me to make a difference at this point in my life. I still plan to speak on the lecture circuit, to write, to be politically active, and to work with the media. I'm still doing the show on BET, I'm developing another new TV show, and I'm currently working on two new books, one of which will be my first novel."
The question remains, who will pick up the mantle? Their are hundreds of people out in the field doing important work in order to make life better for black gays and lesbians in this country, just take a look at the nominees for the Clik Awards. Still, you have to wonder who will this person be?
There's no doubt that he or she will have some big shoes to fill.
Keith allow me to say publicly that if you never write another book, lead a campaign, or speak at another event, you have touched my life and the lives of so many people who may have been lost or on a never ending journey to self acceptance. You may not have chosen to be an activist, but it's in your blood, you had no choice in the matter, you were just born to do it.
Rest up. So now the baton has been passed...