KNOXVILLE – Her dedication to the issues of peace and justice have earned Mandy Carter, a leading lesbian activist, a place on the roster of the 1,000 Women for Peace nomination by the 1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 Project.
As a leader for Southerners on New Ground (SONG), born from the Durham Creating Change Conference in 1993, Carter has been on the move in our area recently on a number of fronts. In addition to taking part in the Marriage Equality, Justice, and LGBT Liberation Forum at the Metropolitan Community Church of Knoxville on June 25, she was also recently in Nashville co-presenting a workshop on fostering understanding between the transgender and feminist communities.
While it may seem as if she is indeed Superwoman, Carter is one of the most down-to-earth and easily approachable women of her caliber. She has many accolades under her belt including winning the prestigious Stonewall Award, an award acknowledging achievements in the areas of education, social services, the arts, charitable work and scientific research benefiting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Mandy serves as the only paid staff member for SONG, now in its twelfth year of operation. The six original members also included Suzanne Pharr, a Knoxville resident.
“We see ourselves as part of a whole and work with a commitment to multiple issues in a multiracial context,” says Carter.
As an example, she tells of a situation a few years ago when SONG was asked to support the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in an effort to better working conditions for migrant farm workers in North Carolina cucumber fields. Mt. Olive Pickle Co., the South’s largest pickle producer, had refused to negotiate a union contract with the immigrant workers. SONG lent their support and joined them in marching in protest in the state capital in Raleigh.
Carter hails originally from Albany, N.Y., where she was born in 1948. She hitchhiked to San Francisco in 1967 and joined the War Resisters League (WRL,) an organization originally founded by three women in 1923. Originally WRL organizers were galvanized against World War I, but Mandy joined in action against the Vietnam War. She worked in the anti-war effort as she earned her bread-and-butter as a bartender at Maude’s, a woman-owned bar that attracted a lesbian clientele and was featured in the documentary "Last Call at Maude’s."
Fast-forward to the year 2000, and you find Mandy working on the Millennium March on Washington for Equality. Her reflections on that bring positive and negative mental images, but her dedication to the process never wavered.
Looking forward to the year 2006, Carter notes that North Carolina has not been negatively impacted by anti-equality legislation, and she sees SONG throwing support to neighboring states such as Tennessee and South Carolina who will be dealing with ballot initiatives against marriage equality.
Pointing out the demographic fact of life that by the year 2040, people of color will be the majority of the population in the United States, she urges the GLBT community to think ahead and prepare for that day as well.
“SONG is committed to active organizing in the LGBT community of color,” says Carter. “We will be growing in numbers and our voices will be stronger as the population changes occur.”
One thing is certain. We will see more of Mandy Carter as we struggle toward equality. She is a welcome sight indeed.