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Creating Change Seeks to Mobilize LGBT Fight for Equality

by Conswella Bennett
Contributor
Tuesday Jan 22, 2013
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A National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change Conference will be held in Atlanta on Wednesday, Jan. 23-27 at the Hilton Atlanta. The event, which is run by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is described as the premier annual organizing and skills-building event for the LGBT community and their allies.

About 3,500 people are expected to attend from all over the country. While a bulk of the attendees will be from the host state, Georgia, and the nearby connecting states, there will be a large presence from other cities and countries. Russell Royball, deputy executive director of external relations at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said that there would be 20 delegates from China who will attend the conference.

During this conference, LGBT rights advocates will be strategizing and organizing for the critical year ahead in the areas of politics, marriage equality, faith, family, business and more.

The conference was held in Atlanta back in 2000 and after a great experience then, Royball said that for the 25th conference there was no better location for the much anticipated event than Atlanta.

"We had a great experience in Atlanta when we were here the last time, and we had wanted to come back," he noted.

According to Royball, the conference exists to bring talented leaders and activists together to organize and to network.


"We want folks to not only learn the skills necessary to succeed but also to make contacts," Royball said. "When they return home, we want them to roll up their sleeves to fight for LGBT equality and social equality for everyone."

Since a lot of the work to fight for equality and justice can be emotional and time consuming, Royball described the conference as a "good shot in the arm. Folks come and get to recharge and energize."

The five-day program features more than 350 workshops and training sessions, four plenary sessions, and tons of networking opportunities for participants. Presenters and participants come from all walks of life and include members of the business community, elected officials, students, faith leaders and staff and volunteers of non-profit organizations, states the press release.

According to the website, the five days will also include more than 15 day-long institutes, two dozen sophisticated trainings in the Academy for Leadership and Action, a special programming segment called Practice Spirit, Do Justice for faith leaders and organizers, worshipful gatherings, film screenings, meetings, receptions, social events and a multitude of opportunities for attendees to meet and learn from each other.


Youth participants will also be involved in the conference. According to Royball, one third of the participants will be under the age of 25. There are also a number of sessions that are designed for young people and young leaders.

Although the conference sounds like participants will be doing a lot of sitting and listening, Royball assures that it is actually a lot of fun. Folks who do social justice and activist work at times feel isolated, but the meetings are ways for the folks to meet others who do similar work and to learn some of their techniques and to perhaps have an exchange of ideas, he noted.

There will plenty of time for good food, fun and entertainment. A highlight for the conference is a closing performance by Frenchie Davis, a Season Two contestant on "American Idol." Besides bringing an end to the conference, Royball said that Davis would also attend the conference and be a participant.


Some of the conference highlights include:

Jan. 25: The annual "State of the LGBT Movement" address by National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey, in which she presents a vision for the year ahead in the struggle for LGBT equality. This is the most highly anticipated speech of the year for the LGBT community in America, and we hope you will consider covering it, as well as other aspects of the conference.

Jan. 26: Immigration is a hot issue, and President Barack Obama has said immigration reform will be a priority in his second term. José Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and openly gay immigration activist, will headline a plenary session on immigration issues where he engages a panel of LGBT DREAM Act organizers.

Jan. 23-24: Pre-conference institutes include, for the first time, a Latino Institute and a Human Rights Institute. Other institutes will focus on the critical role of faith in the LGBT rights movement, racial justice, transgender rights, LGBT elders, youth, funding and more.

Jan. 24: Center for Community Change Executive Director Deepak Bhargava gives the opening keynote. The Center for Community Change builds the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to have a significant impact in improving their communities and the policies and institutions that affect their lives.

Jan. 27: Songbird Frenchie Davis, a Grammy-nominated artist who competed on "American Idol" and "The Voice," will perform at the closing plenary.


The online registration is closed, but those still hoping to attend can register on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, GA. For more info, visit www.creatingchange.org/

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