Thousands of queers and allies from across the country gathered in Atlanta for the 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, January 23 – 27. The annual organizing and skills-building conference, run by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, featured over 350 workshops and training sessions, four plenary sessions, and tons of networking opportunities. Queer women of color were representing in Hotlanta this year. ELIXHER caught up with a few Creating Change attendees.
“From exploring issues of racial justice, to crafting an agenda for the Black LGBTQ community, this was truly the place to be,” says Jabriel Walthour, a Southern trans activist. “My favorite part of the conference was the synergy and sense of family.”
Bisexual, youth, transgender, people of color hospitality suites granted attendees a chance to get connected, get comfortable, mix and mingle. Sessions on bi-inclusivity, campus and community organizing, disability and accessibility, queer families, and sexual freedom presented countless opportunities to get informed, share best practices and unpack.
One workshop, “Sex Justice: Mapping Our Desire,” explored how the pursuit of our personal desire is relevant to our work for justice and how the struggle for and emphasis on relationship recognition in the public sphere has forced an erasure of sex from view in our movement conversations, organizations and agendas. Panelists included the Mobile Homecoming Project’s Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Julia Wallace.
“The positive energy of so many queer beings gathered was almost overwhelming, but being able to co-facilitate and participate in the offering of the Sex Justice/Sexual Liberation track was profoundly rewarding,” shares Gumbs. “It was such a blessing to have the space to explore in community what my most intimate experiences are teaching me about the sex I want to have, the life I want to live and the erotic power I want to bring to all of my work. I think Audre Lorde would have been scandalized but also thrilled to see so many people taking their desire seriously and delving into the transformative journey of claiming our individual and collective erotic power.”
Other sessions included a screening of The New Black, a forthcoming documentary that uncovers the complicated histories of the African-American and LGBT civil rights movements. Specifically, the film examines homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar, the black church, and reveals the Christian right wing’s strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an antigay political agenda. A lively and interactive discussion followed the screening with writer/director/producer Yoruba Richen and GLO TV’s Maurice Jamal.
“Queering Hip Hop: Using the Social Message of Rap’s Storytelling to Shift Media Perspectives and Create Alternative Spaces” was geared towards bridging the gap with unconventional media outlets. By using hip hop’s cultural history and space of resistance, attendees discussed how hip hop as a cultural tool can create social change within LGBT communities. ELIXHER founder, Kimberley McLeod, was among the panelists.
“I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s conference and appreciated the Task Force’s intentionality behind bringing a racial justice lens to their LGBT advocacy work,” says McLeod. “It was refreshing to see black, brown and white folks having the not-so-easy-to-have conversations. I applaud the Task Force for creating the safe space for our community to do just that.”
The workshop “Calling All Brown Bois: Building Infrastructure for Change,” for instance, explored some of the ways that masculine of center men and women are reshaping masculinity and gender around the country. Attendees shared tools for organizing, building leadership, and community with young masculine of center people of color.
The Task Force was sure to end things with a bang. The closing plenary featured a stellar performance by bisexual singer Frenchie Davis. (Relive her magic right here on ELIXHER.)
“There were so many opportunities to meet new people, try new things and step outside of my own comfort zone at Creating Change,” adds Jeshawna Wholley, a DC-based activist. “The participants were very welcoming and open to what I had to offer as a facilitator. I had prepared to provide information about my organization and the programs that we have to offer, but it was fulfilling to gain just as much information from the participants. I can’t wait until next year.”