Time to celebrate

ActivismThis year the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force celebrates its 40th anniversary and its Creating Change Conference marks its silver anniversary this month in Atlanta. In the 2012 election, three states passed marriage equality laws, voters defeated an anti-gay amendment in another state and there are more openly gay members in Congress.

This is a good time to be part of the LGBT movement.

“We have a lot to celebrate this year and that’s not always been the case. Many years we’ve been licking our wounds,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the Task Force.

Carey will give a “State of the Movement” speech on Friday, Jan. 25, at Creating Change, which runs Jan. 23-27 at the Hilton Atlanta.

There have several pivotal moments in the LGBT movement, she explained: Stonewall, which launched the modern LGBT rights movement; HIV/AIDS and how people came together to fight as a generation of young gay men died; and today.

“We really are at a pivotal moment making significant progress in particular on marriage, but in doing so there a slight peril to it. So many who are drawn to our movement care about our ability to marry the person we love, but have not had the full range of experience of our lives,” Carey said.

For Carey, the LGBT movement also includes ending poverty, fighting for employment non-discrimination, transgender rights, immigration reform and fair housing, to name a few.

“As we celebrate we have to be cautious as we look forward that we do not leave anyone behind,” Carey said. “We are not only a marriage movement.”

Return to Atlanta

Creating Change moves around the country each year. The last Creating Change Conference in Atlanta was in 2000; Coretta Scott King spoke at the opening plenary.

Returning to the South and specifically to Atlanta is important to ensure Southern states are heard when it comes to outlining priorities for the movement, Carey said.

There is much to be learned from Southern states where LGBT discrimination is still, unfortunately, the norm.

“We expect more people from the South to be there and influence what is talked about. There are a lot of cities and states in the South with no protections when it comes to economic and racial justice. Those advocates bring those perspectives,” she said.

“For us as a conference, it is not only about us putting forth compelling programming, but a chance for us to really learn and take information in to help us as an organization, to learn more what folks in the South care about and what our movement should focus on,” she said.

Learning from Georgia

Several Creating Change workshops will be facilitated by LGBT activists from Atlanta and other Georgia cities. Some include:

• “How I Became An Icon and Saved Our Stories” facilitated by LGBT historian Dave Hayward. This workshop features Atlanta pioneer LGBT activists including Pat Hussain, Winston Johnson, Richard Rhodes and Saralyn Chesnut.

• “Hallelujah Our Heroes: Tales of Activism Against AIDS” will feature AIDS activist Dr. Jesse Peel, who co-founded AIDS service organizations in Atlanta and Georgia.

• “Art & Culture: Spit That Truth: Propel the Movement Through Performance” – Cortez Wright, Paris Hatcher, Amber Thomas

• “College Campus Issues and Organizing for Students: Creating a Safe Space Program for Students” — Gaius Augustus, Jillian Ford

• “Community Organizing The South: Sex, Politics, & God” — Caitlin Breedlove, Paulina Helm-Hernandez, Kai Barrow, Bishop Donagrant McCluney

• “People of Color: Creating Acceptance within African-American Faith Communities” — Rev. Gwen Thomas, Rev. Roland Stringfellow

• “Breaks in the School-to-Prison-Pipeline: How Queer Youth Can Stop Bullying and Win Alternative Policy Solutions to ‘Zero Tolerance’” – Holiday Simmons, Lambda Legal; Yvonna Cazares, GSA Network

• “Deepening the Roots of Our Movement: Organizing to Prevent and Reduce Police Violence and Misconduct Against LGBTQ Communities” — Holiday Simmons and Beverly Tillery, Lambda Legal; Chai Jindasurat and Ejeris Dixon, NCAVP; Andrea Ritchie, Streetwise and Safe; Wes Ware, Break OUT!; Jason Terry, DC Trans Political Coalition