More than 2,000 GLBT-rights advocates will gather in Minneapolis February 2-5 to strategize and organize for the critical year ahead. Hosting the annual Creating Change Conference is the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), whose mission is to build the grassroots power of the GLBT community by training activists, as well as through other means to be discussed and demonstrated during the gathering.
NGLTF Deputy Executive Director of External Relations and Conference Director Russell Roybal said, “Creating Change brings together a collective community of activist leaders. The most important issue to effect change is the question we all must ask ourselves: What will I do to move freedom, justice, and equality forward? Creating Change is a truly unique opportunity for people to learn skills to actually be able to move freedom, justice, and equality forward.”
Although the tragic shootings in Tucson make change seem an unreachable goal, Roybal expressed optimism: “In the LGBT community, we know all too well the result of hateful rhetoric. We have been verbally assaulted, beaten up, and killed simply for being who we are. I hope the events in Tucson help shine a light on the fact that whatever differences we may have, violence is never the answer, and that in order to grow as a society, we must be generous with one another. We also know that creating positive change is possible, because people from every part of this country are doing it every day.”
In her annual State of the Movement address at the conference, NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey is expected to address some of these possibilities, stressing that change always has happened at the state and local level, and will continue in the coming year as in the past.
NGLTF will pursue federal agency policy changes to recognize our lives and our families, and encourage elected officials to become publicly supportive of full GLBT equality. The push for greater inclusion of GLBT issues in broader progressive change work will go on, together with a stepping forward of GLBT activists on the broad range of issues that affect our lives, but that some may believe are not “GLBT issues.”
Kate Clinton, noted comedian and social commentator, will emcee all plenary sessions at the conference.
On the role of humor in these parlous times, Clinton remarked, “Now more than ever, we need to laugh—to lighten the spirit, to light the way, to make us light enough to move. As an LGBT movement, we need to laugh together to refresh and reenergize. And we also need to ridicule some seriously stupid ideas—homophobia, sexism, racism, violence—to vaporize their tenuous hold on the citizenry, so that we can truly make change. And if I can get you to blow a drink out your nose while laughing, I’ve done my job!”
Over the several days, some 30 different top-level training sessions will take place, as well as development of political and organizational skills for attendees.
Dan Hawes, Director of the NGLTF Academy for Leadership and Action, explained “At the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, the Task Force will offer top-notch trainings known as the Academy for Leadership and Action to LGBT leaders seeking to build lasting political power. These trainings, will teach political strategy and advocacy skills that are critical for passing pro-LGBT legislation, and defeating anti-LGBT ballot initiatives, such as the threatened antimarriage referendum facing the Minnesota LGBT community. They’ll also develop skills that are vital for building thriving organizations that endure for the long term, including raising grassroots contributions, and engaging in effective strategic planning.”
In addition to the leadership training activities, Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson of Metropolitan Community Church, along with Bishop Yvette Flunder, Founder of City of Refuge Community Church (United Church of Christ), will deliver the kickoff plenary speech, “Practice Spirit, Do Justice: Hard Work for Our Common Good.”
Reverend Rebecca Voelkel, NGLTF Faith Work Director, noted that “Practice Spirit, Do Justice” “is a multifaith, multiracial gathering happening within the Creating Change Conference. We will explore and strategize around the religious-secular partnerships within the pro-LGBT movement—both the pain and mistrust that often occur and the opportunities for collaboration. We will honestly examine the relationships between different spiritual and religious communities, particularly the ways in which religion has been used to oppress and destroy many cultures. And we will build upon opportunities for work across faith communities that is authentic.”
According to Sue Hyde, Conference Director, NGLTF seeks to work with local “partners in communities. The Task Force works with a range of local entities in Minneapolis-St. Paul to bring the 2011 Creating Change Conference to life. We have enjoyed great relationships with many community partners over the past 12 months, and we know that our community partners have built relationships in new ways by working with each other and with the Task Force on the 2011 Creating Change Conference. A local host committee of over 100 volunteers organizes Minnesota LGBT organizations, leaders, and groups to staff the event with onsite volunteers.”
Hyde related that these volunteers, who shoulder numerous tasks, “ensure that all who would be interested in the event know and hear about it; staff and prepare our six hospitality suites during the conference; feature Minnesota’s LGBT projects and organizations in the conference program; coordinate worship services; organize 12-step meetings for those who want and need them; host out-of-town guests in community host housing; and ensure that the conference is accessible to disabled LGBT people and allies.
“Community foundations such as PFund Foundation, and local businesses and corporations such as General Mills, support the 2011 Creating Change conference with funding; volunteers; and support for specific aspects of our program.
Hyde continued, “Local businesses will be selling merchandise in our exhibitor/vendor area, while LGBT advocacy organizations, such as OutFront Minnesota, the Bisexual Organizing Project, and Shades of Yellow, will present at workshops, and utilize the event to better organize to meet challenges and opportunities in the coming year.
“Also included are religious and faith community organizations, such as All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church, who support the event by inviting members to donate to the host committee; organizing receptions and gatherings at the conference; and hosting exhibits in our exhibit/vendor area.”
An important teaching tool is the daylong institutes, with topics like dealing with racism today, and GLBT students and bullying (of any students, straight or gay).
Hyde pointed out, “Many years ago, we realized that 90-minute workshop sessions do not always meet the needs of our movement and our community activists. The daylong institutes cover many topics that need and deserve expanded time and attention.
“Solving vexing problems and addressing complicated issues such as racism and school/community violence and bullying requires more than one day, but we know that by annually presenting programs that take up these issues, we are making an important contribution to our movement’s capacity to recognize and resolve them.”
Hyde invited “all interested Creating Change attendees to join these important sessions with open and listening minds and constructive questions. It is the only way we will create durable and sustainable change, and build a society that accepts and welcomes all of us.”
Among the numerous speakers will be Chrystos, internationally-known poet and activist, who will address the topic “Indigenous People of the Americas.”
At the closing plenary brunch, titled “Minneapolis Loves You Better,” hip-hop/pop/soul duo God-Des & She will perform.
For events, times, and venues, as well as to register, visit http://creatingchange.org