Praying for Change

Posted on 04 Feb 2010 at 5:36pm
By DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Organizations, individuals from across the spectrum of the LGBT community gather in Dallas for 5 days of workshops, speeches


STANDING UP FOR GAY UGANDANS | LGBT religious leaders from around the country, including from left, the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle with the Brite Divinity School at TCU in Fort Worth, Bishop Yvette Flunder of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco, HRC Religion and Faith Program Director Harry Knox, the Rev. Deborah Johnson and the Rev. Jo Hudson with Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ in Dallas gathered at the Creating Change conference in Dallas on Thursday, Feb. 4 for a prayer breakfast to respond to the National Prayer Breakfast that same day in Washington, D.C. Right-wing evangelicals who reportedly helped craft virulently anti-gay legislation in Uganda were among those attending the D.C. event. For a full story on the Creating Change conference so far, see Page 10. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Activists from across the country gathered at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel this week for the 22nd annual Creating Change conference sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The conference opened on Wednesday, Feb. 3 with daylong institutes on racism. Thursday’s institutes covered a variety of topics including youth issues, aging and ageism, transgender rights, moving marriage forward, family issues and community centers.

Gabe Javier was a host committee co-chair for the 20th Creating Change conference that was held in Detroit. He spoke about the wide variety of issues addressed and workshops offered through the weekend.

He said, "We see a huge spectrum of issues and see they’re all connected."

Rickke Mananzala, executive director of the New York youth of color organization FIERCE, agreed. He saw the weekend as a chance to interact with LGBT youth from across the country as well as work with influential people throughout the movement.

He said the group raised $30,000 to provide scholarships for LGBT youth to attend, representing youth groups from New York to Hawaii.

Rudy Rosado described FIERCE, which stands for Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment, as a group that provides leadership development and political education, rather than services. Though based in the West Village, the group does not have a permanent home and is campaigning for a permanent, 24-hour drop-in facility in the neighborhood.

Ash Hammond, born in Zimbabwe but now a student at NYU, said, "We organize youth to hold people who represent us accountable."

They said racial and gender profiling by police are rampant and widespread problems in New York City.

In Chicago, the problem Ahkia Daniels sees begins with the intolerance in schools. She works with a program to make that city’s public schools more affirming to decrease the violence.

She said, "I witnessed it in my school from a security guard" who attacked a student.

Roberta Sklar works with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs and is a former director of communications for NGLTF.

She said that not only are hate crimes against the LGBT community on the rise, but the severity of the violence is increasing. Between 2006 and 2008, anti-LGBT violence increased 26 percent.

"Transgenders are really the most vulnerable population in the United States," she said. She said that ending discriminatory laws like "Don’t ask, don’t tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act, and enacting employment nondiscrimination were important steps in solving the problem.

"Institutionalized discrimination sanctions violence," Sklar said.

On Friday at 10:45 a.m., Sklar will be part of a workshop, "Ending LGBTQ Violence by the Numbers."

Thursday’s programming began with an alternative prayer breakfast, held in response to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Expected at that gathering in D.C. were the American evangelicals who helped craft Uganda’s anti-homosexual bill that could lead to a genocide of the LGBT community and their families. President Obama also attended.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, the first openly gay faculty member of Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School, led the Dallas event.

Harry Knox, the director of the religion and faith program for Human Rights Campaign, said that the gathering was to "speak out in a powerful way that will help our brothers and sisters in Uganda."

He said, "We called on Obama to make a strong statement and we hope he will do so."

Pedro Julio Serrano, communications managers for NGLTF, spoke of going to Puerto Rico to comfort the mother of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, who was murdered and dismembered in a hate crime attack. He said when the teen came out to his mother, she told him, "If I loved you before, I love you more now."

He said the president of the Puerto Rican Senate said the murder was just one criminal killing another criminal.

The conference continues through Sunday, Feb. 7. Friday and Saturday include half-day academy sessions and shorter workshops. Comedian Kate Clinton will moderate the plenary sessions. Rea Carey, executive director of NGLTF, will deliver the State of the Movement Address at 1:30 on Friday afternoon.

The conference closes Sunday with brunch and a performance by Vogue Evolution. Awards will be given, including one to Dallas Voice columnist Hardy Haberman.

For more information, go online to CreatingChange.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 5, 2010.

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