Political economists have long noted the growing importance of the Pacific Rim. In 2011, for instance, the Brookings Institute noted that "the Asia-Pacific accounts for about 50 percent of trade and 60 percent of global GDP and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that by 2030, the GDP of Asia will exceed that of the G7." But while the international eye may be more on the explosive Middle East, one group in Los Angeles has been focused on China for several years now - the LA Gay & Lesbian Center.
Since 2008, The Center's Emerging Leaders Program has been working with and training current and future LGBT leaders from China. This year, more than 20 young leaders went to the recent National Gay & Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change Conference where they learned from activists there and explained their roles as activists and leaders in a country that still disdains homosexuality. When they returned from Atlanta to LA, they continued their intensive 4-week advanced leadership training program by meeting with such LGBT leaders as the extraordinary Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education (from 2009-11) and current Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation.
The Emerging Leaders are heading home on Wednesday, Feb. 6, where they will apply what they've learned to help build the growing grassroots LGBT movement in one of the world's most important countries.