Heyen, Murrell, Ramirez, Tovar tapped to head up 2010 NGLTF conference in Dallas
The four North Texans tapped to co-chair the 2010 National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change in Dallas said recently they hope the conference will be a launching pad for lasting change within the local LGBT community.
The conference is presented each year in a different city by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Sue Hyde with NGLTF is the conference coordinator.
The co-chairs are Henry Ramirez III, programs manager for the Resource Center of Dallas; Beau Heyen, youth counselor at Cathedral of Hope and co-chair of the Dallas chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network; Lovely Murrell, principle organizer of Ladyfest in the Bible Belt and nutrition and bodycare manager for Cupboard Natural Foods in Denton; and Marlene Tovar, a former NGLTF employee who now works for the Texas State Historical Association in Denton.
Tovar, Hyde said, is the first non-gay ally to serve as a Creating Change co-chair. And Tovar said both the Task Force and the conference hold a special place in her heart.
"I worked for the Task Force for 6 1â„2 years, from 2001 to 2007, and I worked on five Creating Change conferences in different capacities," Tovar said. "Each conference is unique to the city that is hosting, and for me, it is an empowering event to attend as an ally.
"I moved back to Texas in June 2007, and I missed the last two conferences. Since they were coming to my town [in 2010], I wanted to join in and help in any way I could," she added. "These folks are my family and friends. The wealth of information and the stories you hear are life-changing, and you walk away with a different point of view."
Tovar said that the conference provides a great experience for LGBT allies and community organizers who are "interested in equality and want to educate themselves and others."
"It’s an honor to be chosen as a co-chair, especially as the first ally and first former [Task Force] staff person to hold that position," Tovar said. "I hope that other allies will join the host committee and attend this conference, and walk away with the tools and knowledge to create change in their life and in their community."
Murrell, too, sees co-chairing the conference as a unique opportunity in a life of activism.
"Part of the reason I decided to accept the nomination to be a co-chair is that I have been an activist for a long, long time," Murrell said, recalling how, at age 6, she marched with her parents on the Colorado state Capitol to call on the government to recognize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a state holiday.
Since then, in addition to Ladyfest in the Bible Belt, a festival held in Denton in 2004 that focused on women in film, the arts and politics, Murrell has been active in her local chapter of the Buddhist community Sokka Gakai International, and in organizing youth summits and festivals.
She said Creating Change is "a great opportunity to build networking with activists in Dallas, specifically in the African-American community.
"I want us [African-American LGBT people] to be more visible. I really wanted to be present at the committee meetings and the conference to show people that gay folks aren’t just white. We come in all shapes and sizes and colors," Murrell said. "It’s really important that that visibility is there."
She also said she hopes that the alliances created to plan and stage Creating Change will be maintained after it is done, and that issues that have separated the community in the past can be addressed and resolved.
Ramirez began working at the Resource Center in 1994, and is now manager for the wildly successful Gay Bingo held each month at S4 and for the center’s Workforce Development series, among other programs.
He said this week he is honored to have been chosen as a Creating Change co-chair, and that he believes the conference will help attain the goals he has always had for the LGBT community.
"My purpose in accepting the nomination was to help the GLBT community in Dallas become more powerful, to work together better and be more powerful in raising money and supporting each other," Ramirez said. "I think this conference can help us do that."
Most of Heyen’s work in the LGBT community, both as a Cathedral of Hope employee and a GLSEN volunteer, centers around LGBT youth. He said he believes his position as co-chair will allow him to make sure adequate attention during the conference will be focused on those young people and their issues.
"I feel really connected to the youth and their issues, and I believe we need some new, fresh ideas and faces and images," Heyen said.
"I have seen such great need for some collaborative work between organizations, and this conference will be a great springboard toward that," he added. "We have worked together as a community and as different organizations on special events and projects, but I see Creating Change as an opportunity build a network to continue collaborating once the conference is over.
"I want to see us maximize our impact and get as many people involved as possible in meaningful ways," Heyen said.
The Creating Change host committee held its first official meeting, headed up by the four co-chairs, on Thursday, April 23. Subsequent host committee meetings will be held on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Resource Center, at 7:30 p.m., and subcommittees will meet whenever necessary, Hyde said.
She also noted that if someone is interested in participating but has not yet attended any of the meetings, they are still welcome to join the host committee.
The Creating Change conference will be held Feb. 3-7, 2010, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 1, 2009.