It's day one of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force's Annual Creating Change Conference, which is the largest annual gathering of LGBTQI activists from around the country. It's my second year attending and again I'm blown away by just the atmosphere here.
The first thing you notice as you walk through the conference hotel here in Dallas, Texas is that this isn't like anything you've ever been to before. This is no homogenous, cookie-cutter group of professional gays for pay- these are the on the ground, grassroots, everyday activists that make a difference all over our country.
I especially love that scholarships, community housing, and grants broaden the range of attendees. This isn't a snooty, invite-only event. Every age (from high school to seniors), gender, race, gender identity & expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic group, and region of the country is represented as you wander the halls. It's everything you could imagine as part of our diverse community on proud display.
In a word, it is overwhelming. And maybe a little slice of queer heaven.
The first day is a series of Day Long Institutes, the topics of which begin to show you that this conference will reach into the places that our community need to strengthen and take a hard look at to really make the changes we need for our rights.
Today's institutes focus on intersectionality in our movement, specifically Anti-Racism, Racial Justice and People of Color Organizing. The day-long Institutes offer opportunities to improve skills to address institutional racism, fully integrate racial justice into LGBT organizational action plans, and learn with and from colleagues of color about deepening LGBT organizing in communities of color.
My favorite two quotes from the opening plenary describe it best:
The most dangerous saying in the LGBT movement: 'that's not a gay issue.'
We need an eye on creating the just world we want, not fitting ouselves into injustices that already exist.
This is a huge gap in many organizing strategies and community efforts, so to see it take center stage at the Creating Change Conference really sets the tone for the entire week. Here are some of the topics, which really challenge and make the activists attending ask tough questions are are geared towards every experience level:
Challenging and Transforming White Supremacy in Our Work: Our Vision, Our Roles
This Institute focuses on white folks working in building liberation movements. What are the systems and analysis we need to do this work? How are we reflecting individually and collectively on our work with other white folks and with folks of color? How are we creating and sharing tools to build anti-racist and anti-imperialist work as white LGBTQ activists across lines of ability, race, class, culture, gender, sexuality, and all other identities?
Finding Our Kin Folk: People of Color Organizing Institute for New Activists
Specifically for people of color who would like to explore their life experiences as LGBT people of color. This Institute is for people of color who want to name, share and strategize about the issues of identity and community that impact our lives. This is a multi- racial people of color space and so issues facing people of color within and between communities will be discussed.
Building Bridges Across Our Communities: People of Color Organizing Institute for Intermediate Activists
This Day Long Institute is intended for people of color who have considerable experience organizing in and with communities of color and want to deepen their work in our own community and/or build stronger bridges across communities of color. This Institute will focus heavily on both identity-based (e.g. Brown/ Black; light skinned/dark skinned) and issue-based (e.g. war; re- productive justice; colonialism) organizing strategies. We will also be addressing issues of privilege and how all forms of oppression connect.
Access(ing) Our Liberated Bodies
This is an advanced session for seasoned anti-oppression organizers and trainers. This is a multi-racial, multi-gendered, cross-class, cross-issue and disability justice session. This session will focus on the question of how we organize for the liberation of our collective and individual bodies in a culture where colonialism, classism, ableism, sexism and racism are daily lived realities.
LGBTQ Youth of Color Organizing Summit
The summit will build the grassroots organizing skills of LGBTQ youth of color who increasingly face homelessness, lack of safe public spaces, and violence. Since LGBTQ youth are more than just recipients of services, we hope to share approaches for how organizations can build the political power of LGBTQ youth of color through membership-led grassroots organizing campaigns and leadership development.
As you can see, these aren't easy topics. They challenge preconceived notions and really push into the intersection of social justice, equality, race, and other issues. Last year I attended the Challenging White Supremacy Institute, which was eye-opening and invaluable.
The fact that there is atmosphere created here that allows for the type of frank discussion that goes on in these institutes is amazing and why I couldn't wait to come back this year.
More dispatches from the conference to come as the week progresses!
(To get real time updates and glimpses of the conference, you can follow me on Twitter or follow the Creating Change hashtag #cc10!)