Waymon Hudson

Creating Change Round-Up: A Broad Approach to Achieve Broad Goals

Filed By Waymon Hudson | February 09, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Creating Change conference, grassroots, justice, legislation, LGBT civil rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, politics, radical

By the end of the nearly week-long Creating Change Conference held by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force in Dallas, many of us had joking begun calling it "queer bootcamp."

IMG_0428.JPGIt was a rigorous schedule of sessions, trainings, discussions, brainstorming, and outreach that both exhausted and energized the over 2000 activists in attendance. While there was talk of specific legislation (ENDA, DADT, DOMA) and other community goals we have all heard and read so much about, there was also extensive discussions on race, poverty, social justice, immigration, gender and trans issues, coalition building, youth activism, seniors issues, and every other issue that is important to the LGBTQI community and the country as a whole.

It was a delicious mix of solid tool training (like the session I lead with the amazing Jenna Lowenstein of the Stonewall Dems about using New Media in your Organizing Strategy) and larger discussions meant to draw lines and connections between various social issues.

In short, it was a good blueprint of how a movement should look. The quote that hit home with me, and seemed to sum up the attitude of the conference was:

We need an eye on creating the just world we want, not fitting ouselves into injustices that already exist.

One of the ideas that permeated Creating Change was that our goals as a movement should be larger than just passing legislation. The ever-present call for "equality" isn't achieved by simply passing laws that offer protections or legal recourse when discrimination occurs. These laws help in the march for change and help protect our community, but they aren't a silver bullet for justice. They are more tools to use in the push for equality.

A great example is to look at the movement and goals in the realm of women's rights or racial equality. The equity laws passed are tools and good starts, but they certainly haven't erased institutional discrimination and inequality. Those struggles continue today and most likely will never stop.

Like these movements, our goals should be broader and more all-encompassing. Yes, we must have a roadmap with markers of progress along the way. Things like repealing DADT and DOMA, working for stronger anti-bullying laws, or passing ENDA are signs of movement. Yet we can't look past larger issues that disproportionally effect our community, like poverty, healthcare, or education. These are areas where we must become true allies and partners with other movements to move the ball forward for all of us.

youth-group-plenary1.jpgNo one can deny that the big legislative pushes often get the most attention in the media (and thereby get the most attention from our organizations because they are higher profile, easier to measure, and help with fundraising and general issue awareness). We can't forget, however, that there are huge numbers of grassroots activists across the country fighting hand-in-hand with other communities for social change and justice. We all have to do a better job at expanding our conversations past the tunnel vision of legislative politics.

This isn't just some collection of hippie, liberal, pollyanna talking points. Looking at other successful movements, one thing we can learn is that it takes different tactics within a movement to achieve any success. We need the people with access to power (like those in office or lobbying in DC), but we also need the radical, take-it-to-the-street activists who pressure not only those same leaders, but our own movement to keep that forward momentum and not simply be happy with the access to power we have achieved.

We need the political, the radical, the messy, and the middle ground. Those are all tools in our toolbox.

Creating Change embraced that messiness and seeks to harness it. Definite tools were taught (to be taken back to the activists hometowns and communities), legislative plans were made, and traditional thought and values were challenged and expanded. There was no one way to do things, rather bonds between the different tactics, ideas, goals, and communities were forged so instead of getting in each other's way or fighting against one another, we can compliment the work we all do.

And that was some change I can believe in.

As next year's Creating Change Conference approaches (to be held in Minneapolis), I'll do my best to keep everyone up to date on scholarship opportunities and other ways to help more people go. It really is an event that has to be attended to be believed.


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Same as the year(s) before.

The change we need is not re-arranging the programs and seminars, it is figuring out WHEN and HOW we will WIN. Comparing tactics and then engaging in group hugs is probably helpful, but it doesn't necessarily lead to victory. That would require a strategy.

Maybe next year.

If broadening the community's focus and working to engage allies in ways that can lead to victory is considered a "group hug" to you, I'm not sure what your ideas are.

You seem, in every post on TBP, to be looking for someone else to write a concrete list of things that will magically solve issues that this and other communities have been struggling with for years. You never even really say what "victory" is for you- you just do the same soundbite and talking point about "when & how & victory."

I've tried to engage you, and hope perhaps you can explain what your idea of "victory" is or what suggestions you have to bring to the table. Right now it seems like anger at people that are trying to make a difference without really offering anything yourself.

I hope the anger you direct at those in your own community who are doing the work makes you feel better, but I doubt it is really very effective as a tactic for the vague "victory" you seek.

OR maybe he'll actually attend and help come up with that magic bullet instead of constantly sitting around on blogs leaving comments complaining that everyone else hasn't done that for him.

But I doubt it.

I didn't offer any anger Waymon and your suggesting that, is exactly what I am talking about. The LGBT Movement (if it can even be called that) does not have a clearly defined strategy or plan. That will NOT happen until we demand to know HOW and WHEN.

Sure, it's okay for a group of very sincere people to get together and compare notes and to encourage each other, but to what end?

This struggle has been going on for too long. At some point the effort to obtain something actually becomes the something. That's where we are today. It isn't about winning, it is primarily about surviving and fighting on. Well, that isn't good enough.

I have expressed several ideas and I have offered $100 million for anyone or any organization that has a strategy to win. I believe we can win, but we haven't figured out HOW yet. That doesn't mean we can't. But, doing the same things we've done for 50 years - with limited success - is not acceptable. We should not allow that to be our reality.

Creating Change would have been helpful if it had been about changing our focus and having those meaningful conversations about winning. You and others repeatedly suggest that their isn't "one way" to win or we must hope that eventually all the incremental efforts add up to a victory. Hope is not a plan. It's also no longer a good reason to choose a President.

I want a real strategy and a real plan, complete with a timeline and math to determine progress. In my world, that isn't asking too much. I live in a world of brutal accountability. I live in a world where people get paid to create value, not survive. In that world we value ideas more than efforts.

The LGBT Movement has an army of good efforts and dedicated people, but we lack ideas. The few ideas we do have are not analyzed for their effectiveness. Just because we've done something for decades doesn't mean it is effective.

I haven't expressed any anger whatsoever. Like most people I have expressed frustration that we continue to refuse to let go of our favorite tactics and we refuse to honestly and objectively (with math) seek to create a path to victory.

Victory for LGBT people is simple - it's when we're no longer considered "wrong" by the majority of our fellow citizens. It's not about winning court cases or passing faux laws to protect us or punish bad behavior. It's not about permanently defining ourselves as a minority or victims. At some point it shouldn't matter if anyone is LGBT because we would all be equal. I am focused on the majority of Americans standing with us.

There is a way for us to win. There is a HOW and a WHEN. My offer stands.

OMG! I'm sorry, but AndrewW - you've offered up *$100 million* for a plan?? This requires a response.

a) Methinks you might want to check the going rate. You could probably get it for much less.

b) Dude, you don't even use your real name and rely on hiding behind various, unlimited nom de webs, SOMETIMES ON THE SAME BLOG POST, thinking no one will notice - who in their right mind really reads and believes your posts? I've yet to hear of a multi-millionaire offering money for a plan.

This website, and every other website like it, is filled with people who are figments of their own imagination: People who think they're lefty radicals, but can only quote from Marx for Dummies - and post the EXACT same responses on multiple sites, thinking no one will see; people who pretend they're professors and think no one will notice that they get all the jargon wrong; and oh, now, people who boast of being millionaires, sorry, multi-*billionaires* who have convened vewy, vewy important meetings with vewy, vewy important people.

c) Sheesh. Take your kajillion, bajillion dollars in monopoly money and do something with it. Like, I don't know, buy a ginormous burger or something in Texas, where the meat, at least, is abundant and cheap. Or buy me a cheap meal in Chicago (I can show you the best falafel joint: fantastic and nutritious meals for about $5).

Here's a clue, AndrewW, and this might help you in future attempts to edify us: Real, in-the-flesh, rich people don't go around talking about their money on the comment threads of gay websites.

You've been on a lot of the trans posts, trying to throw a spanner in the works. And now you can't even let people have a discussion about CC? By the way, how many times have you been? And mind you, I'm hardly the biggest fan of NGLTF, but you don't see me showing up on CC threads with pointless exhortations to do better.

d) Gimme 10 million, just 10 million, and I'll come up with an excellent plan. Seriously. I've been studying the movement for years now, and I know all its weak spots - which means I'm one of the few who can come up with a sound alternative. Oh, okay, twist my arm - I'll do it for $10,000.

e) I've been meaning to tell people: *I* AM Princess Anastasia. Rather well-preserved, and lacking my pearly Russian hue after years of hiding in the tropics, but still, my DNA should be a perfect match with the evidence from the castle. And I am the legal heir to 100 kajillion in jewels. I'll give 1 kajillion to anyone who can come up any kind of plan. How about fixing the CTA so that it runs on time, more frequently, AND doesn't lay off more workers?

h) You remind me of Dr. Evil in Austin Powers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKKHSAE1gIs

Do you see the resemblance?

[rolls away, sides heaving in laughter]

If you have any valuable ideas and an actual Strategy to win - yes, i'll pay. All you've offered is an attack on me and your very predictable bitching. That's not helpful and I don't even think it's even amusing, but that's you.

Again, if you have something of value, please let me now. I am only interested in winning and I am willing to reward good ideas.

*My* predictable bitching?? AndrewW, you, or at least your greatness and immense wealth, only exist in your own mind; you show up on every post with the same nasty rant -- and *I'm* bitching? And who's attacking you? Hey, *you're* the one who opened the $100 million dollar can of worms. Taking apart your fiction is not an attack. I mean, seriously, dude, like, who ARE you?

Oh, thanks for the laughs.

And, seriously, if you would even use your real name, you would have slightly more credibility with me. As it is, "people" like you are a dime a dozen on teh internetz.

Have a good one, Mr. $100 Million Dollar Man. No doubt, you will someday have the last laugh on me when we see your face splashed on every newstand. When that happens, I'll let you take me to dinner at Chicago's finest restaurant - whichever one remains standing in an economy that can only sustain fictions of power and money -- like the tall tales you write.

Now, back to the original program.

Because of people like YOU, people like ME don't use their real name. You tear things up. I'm looking for - and i'm willing to pay for - solutions.

If YOU don't have anything of value to offer - please, just ignore me. You're much better off that way.

"You're much better off that way."

I'm shivering with fear.

"You're much better off that way."

I'm shivering in fear.

Creating Change was a wonderful experience. By far the most impressive aspect was the enormous number of lgbtq youth, a large fraction from flyover country, who came to learn and left with a broader understanding of sexuality, sexual freedom, sexual politics, gender identity, gender freedom, and gender politics to name a few broad and important areas. It is important for youth to have access to ideas that help them model their own behavioral and social development, free from the twin evils of heteronormativity and cisnormativity, which we are committed to abolish from society forever. In this, I feel the conference was a great success. It was also a powerful stemwinder for the entire community.

As usual, the Task Force continued to "drop the ball" in a few areas; however, with a few exceptions, most of these deficiencies were correctable if the organizing committee acts responsibly to work on these rather simple problems, many of which are reported to have come up in previous years.

Although I know people with all sorts of different views of Creating Change, to me the major problem was the absence of a coherent theme either for the conference or for the TF's broad agenda. This is a problem that can be worked out with the future selection of an excellent program committee and some leadership either from senior management and/or breakout activists unwilling to put up with 20+ year status quo.

I do not think this situation will long persist and intend to make my own views known in the appropriate places. In the meantime, understand that, even though there is room for improvement, Creating Change is a truly remarkable confluence of interested parties from most major lgbtq sectors.

Students and young people should note that the CC registration fees were reduced for those requesting different levels of support and EVERY person who asked for scholarship received it. Don't be ashamed to ask if you can't afford it next year. Also, there is a lot of local housing support for those who cannot afford the conference hotel. Some severe mismatches in gender agreement were reported, so it's always good to find out in advance who you're rooming with if you get a grab bag assignment.

Finally, if you are thinking that next year in Minneapolis might be too cold, remember that most of the downtown buildings are linked by tunnels and skywalks so you can go all over downtown without getting cold and wet. At least up to a point.

A damn fine week full of new and renewed contacts across the activist community. I hope to see you all in Minneapolis next year...brrrrr...

I found the Conference quite engaging and extremely beneficial to my work in advocacy for the Transgender Community. I was so pleased to see so many of us there at the Conference, and found the coursework options so numerous. One thing I would like to put our Community to task with, and thus saving valuable space program in the program guide, would be to remove the 'Transgender Etiquette Guide.'

As a transgender individual (and an advocate for not only the Transgender Community, but the LGBTIQ Community inclusively), I find myself with a bit a of ire that this 'guide' is required. Oh, for certain, it is needed, but my ire is that we are yet not 'One Community' and there remains a need for this guide. If we are such a learned community of activists going to such an esteemed gathering of activists and advocates, one would certainly think that they are far past needing to be reminded to act civilized to those who might be transgender, gender queer, whatever.

It is quite obvious with such a need, that we as what I call 'Community' are in fact not. Perhaps a note to the Task Force would be in order, to have them place a "Gay and Lesbian Etiquette Guide" in the next Creating Change Program Guide. We that are transgender activists, certainly don't wish to make a faux pas as well.

That's an interesting point, Robyn. I heard both points of view at the conference- some folks loved the guide, others found it weird and patronizing. One thing I would point out is that this isn't a "who's who" of activists. A lot of attendees were young or new folks there on scholarships, so perhaps it was good for them.

I completely agree, though- it's frustrating that we're not one community yet. And you're "gay and lesbian etiquette guide" idea made me smile. :)

Yes, on the youth, so wonderful to see so many...after all, they are our Leaders. I did think along the lines of your reply but figured that my basic thought would be captured (and it was). Yes, I will be back next year (annoying people and stepping on toes - isn't that what we are supposed to be doing, to quote another blog from yesterday? ;)

I found the Conference quite engaging and extremely beneficial to my work in advocacy for the Transgender Community. I was so pleased to see so many of us there at the Conference, and found the coursework options so numerous. One thing I would like to put our Community to task with, and thus saving valuable space program in the program guide, would be to remove the 'Transgender Etiquette Guide.'

As a transgender individual (and an advocate for not only the Transgender Community, but the LGBTIQ Community inclusively), I find myself with a bit a of ire that this 'guide' is required. Oh, for certain, it is needed, but my ire is that we are yet not 'One Community' and there remains a need for this guide. If we are such a learned community of activists going to such an esteemed gathering of activists and advocates, one would certainly think that they are far past needing to be reminded to act civilized to those who might be transgender, gender queer, whatever.

It is quite obvious with such a need, that we as what I call 'Community' are in fact not. Perhaps a note to the Task Force would be in order, to have them place a "Gay and Lesbian Etiquette Guide" in the next Creating Change Program Guide. We that are transgender activists, certainly don't wish to make a faux pas as well.

I thought all this training and boot-camp stuff occurred at the National March last October. But maybe this gathering reached people in the South and Southwest who weren't able to make it to Washington. Maybe I missed it but if there was any sort of communique that came out of his conference --- like the Dallas Principles of a year or 2 ago?? -- I'd be interested in reading it. Specifically, I'd like to know if this group addressed the issue of supporting Blue Dog Democrats in the House for re-election (only because they are progressive at least once in a while) or supporting primary challengers against the Blue Dogs.

There were trainings at the March in October, but Creating Change is an annual event (and you're point about it reaching folks that didn't attend the March is valid since the March was someone controversial in some circles). Plus, I'm not sure you can ever have enough trainings to reach different folks at different times I say the more activists, the better.

I'm not sure a set of principles or a communique came out of the conference (besides from specific groups that came together or formed coalitions). There wasn't a "Creating Change Manifesto", but If I come across some of the ideas from specific groups, orgs or attendees, I'll pass them along.

I know the Blue Dog/gAyTM discussion was had quite a bit. Each group has to decide their strategy on who to support, although some folks I talked to from Blue Dog states were very clear that the lack of LGBT and/or progressive support from certain politicians made the Blue Dogs highly targeted from those in the community.

Along the same lines, I talked to many LGBT folks who seemed prepared to run themselves and challenge the system at all levels of government. Keep an eye out for a new slew of LGBTQ politicians!

"I'm not sure a set of principles or a communique came out of the conference (besides from specific groups that came together or formed coalitions). There wasn't a "Creating Change Manifesto", but If I come across some of the ideas from specific groups, orgs or attendees, I'll pass them along."

Beyond the networking and training, believe it or not, some of us are looking for results. The Creating Change Conference consumed a few million dollars - what do we have to show for it?

As someone who's researching the history and functioning of LGBT organisations, I'd be interested, genuinely interested, to know where I can find proof of that figure ("a few million dollars.")

Also, I take it you were there this year? It sounds like it, given how you've gone on about how pointless it is and how much you claim to know about it. If so, could you provide some concrete examples of workshops/panels/etc. that you attended and which you thought should have been organised differently to achieve your version of equality? Perhaps even examples from previous CCs that you have attended?

I mean, this is a blog about CC - so I imagine folks here would be more than interested in good, constructive feedback. I have to assume that anyone with this much critique of CC has actually been to a few.

Details, please, AndrewW. What do you have to show?

Because of people like YOU, people like ME don't use their real name. You tear things up. I'm looking for - and i'm willing to pay for - solutions.

If YOU don't have anything of value to offer - please, just ignore me. YOU are much better off that way.

"YOU" are much better off that way." Oh, yeah, I'm scared. So scared.

And you haven't responded to any of my/our queries: Where do you get these figures from? Have you ever been to CC? Come on, "AndrewW," at least have a conversation instead of throwing in these cheesy sinister lines which sound like they're lifted straight out of the latest Batman flick.

I made it clear: I genuinely want to know if those are the numbers for CC (a few million?). And if you're basing your critique of CC on past experiences? And what are your suggestions for improvement? At least give us some details without revealing your secret identity - from all accounts, the place was packed with a couple of thousand activists. I'm sure nothing you say will give away your identity and even your fearsome and grand and doubtless moneyed presence.

Otherwise, "AndrewW," who hops around this blog constantly *tearing* into everyone's ideas and enthusiasm and conversations about organising, and who has yet to provide proof that he's done anything to contribute to any kind of change: You've got nothing.

Hey Tom Brown-

I liked your question even if the answers you got devolved a bit. I attended cc10, was an author of the Dallas Principles, and was one of a handful of TDP inspired folks who presented a session at Creating Change about the Principles and new tools for promoting equality at a site called ActOnPrinciples.org . So, here's my perspective as a participant in Creating Change and 1/2,000th of the "creation":

I'd say that Creating Change is less a conference that seeks common solutions to our equality than a conference that creates the energy and empowerment to create change. It was tremendously exciting to see hundreds of new, young, first time activists join the movement. It was also tremendously exciting to see older organizations (OK - and the older people in those organizations, I'm just sayin...and i can say that as one of the "elders") rethinking old ideas in the light of actual experience. The bottom line of creating change for me - and the bottom line of the Dallas Principles as well - is that each of us has a role to play in bringing the day of equality sooner. And Creating Change is brilliant, in my opinion, in actually embodying the change that we seek in greater society --- that is to say, it's a fully empowered, inclusive, fun, passionate space with fewer barriers to entry for those who don't look like us, think like us, or behave like us.

Responding to two points...to the the 'millions spent without results' argument....MANY millions are spent on each and every Atlantis cruise, RSVP cruise, pride event, boy band concert, etc etc...'without result'. Over the time that Creating Change was happening, LGBT people spent more money buying cigarettes than they spend in an entire YEAR working on their own equality. But if it's not your money being spent, why do you care? Who are you to judge how other people spend their money? Besides, I can testify that a hefty portion of folks who come back from Creating Change have created change in their own lives. They will no longer be silent, they will no longer accept the status quo. They are demanding and working for full civil rights without delay and without excuses. Without THAT result, we will never achieve equality.

On the other point about a manifesto resulting from Creating Change, again I don't think that creating a manifesto is the purpose of Creating Change, though of course it could be. Do you think it should be?? And a small factual note, the Dallas Principles weren't drafted a year or 2 back, they were created in May 2009, and they had nothing to do with Creating Change or any other conference. There are folks who want to promote them, and provide tools to achieve equality, and they can be found at actonprinciples.org . I hope you'll join us there!

I always appreciate your comments and your perspective John.

Some of us want to know HOW and WHEN we will achieve our equality. When that question is asked it becomes very clear it hasn't been figured out yet. I believe it can be, but first we need to (at the very least) acknowledge that fact.

Only one-in-ten LGBT persons is contributing in any way to our effort. I understand and appreciate the 10% that contribute and are at the front lines. I'm after the 90% that does not participate. In order for that to happen we will need to figure out a strategy to actually WIN. That will inspire the kind of participation required to achieve our full equality.

We need to re-inspire our community and rekindle a real, sustainable movement. Tom's question was a good one. He asked for ideas about "direction." Anyone that's being truly honest about our movement knows it lacks a cohesive/unified direction. Suggesting that's impossible doesn't help.

The Dallas Principles was about setting goals - goals I'm certain most of us were already aware of. Adding a website (ActOnPrinciples) is nice, but neither are a strategy - a strategy to win.

There is a tremendous amount of frustration that should be acknowledged, not ignored. 50 years of struggle should give us all pause. It should also demand that we become very honest and objective about tactics, while acknowledging that we need a strategy.

We both know that.

I know you're the Bilerico pit-bull, but it's not going to work with me. Re-read my comments. I was very clear.

No, you weren't clear; you were just ranting at and bullying people. And as for being the pit-bull, really? Moi? And: It feels really nasty to be constantly set upon, doesn't it? At least I have actual questions - for you, in fact, which you leave perpetually unanswered - and I don't meaninglessly float around pestering people with the exact same rants every time.

I think we've all proven our points, "AndrewW," regarding your lack of the same. Here's what we can surmise: You've never been to CC, you have no real information, no plan for change, and no plan to ever contribute to any real discussions. And your millions are as real as my Russian past. 'Night.