By Tereasa Nims

Valiente president praises statewide summit staged by LGBT people of color group

Fernie Sanchez

Since 1995, Fernie Sanchez, who works with HIV/AIDS clients, has had "Wear a condom" ingrained in his head. But a recent sexual liberation discussion has him seeing things another way.

"Sexual liberation is a choice about what I do with my body and if I choose to use a condom," said Sanchez, president and co-founder of Valiente DFW LGBT Latino/a Alliance, an organization focused on fostering pride and promoting community in the Latino LGBT community in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

"Negative people share as much of a responsibility to discuss that they are negative as a positive person does to say they are positive. They both have an obligation," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said sexual liberation was one of the social justice issues discussed at a people of color summit held April 18-20 at the Alma de Mujer retreat facility near Austin. The event was organized by Allgo, a statewide organization for "queer people of color."

The summit was designed to help Allgo organize a statewide network of LGBT people of color, and Sanchez was one of an estimated 30 activists that attended. Topics such as women’s reproductive rights, immigration and nonviolence were also discussed.

"It was a very empowering summit," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said he admires what Allgo is doing in attempting to become a statewide social services organization. The organization previously focused on services for the HIV/AIDS population. Now it is shifting focus to include social justice issues.

Jesus Ortega, director of community organizing at Allgo, said the organization was founded in 1985 in response to the need in our community to have an organization where people embodying multiple identities were able to think, strategize and work toward enacting change around multiple issues.

"Allgo responded to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the late 1980s, however HIV/AIDS was not the reason the organization was created to begin with," Ortega said. "We are still committed to working toward a world where HIV/AIDS and other ailments affecting our communities [such as breast cancer and diabetes] are conquered and to continuing to provide health education resources and materials."

Ortega said Allgo has stopped accepting government funding for health programming "due to the increasing restrictions, demands and policies that are not in line with our vision of creating informed, healthy and thriving communities."

He said when the group celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2005, members assessed their previous 20 years and looked at their future.

"Informed by the growth of LGBT people of color organizing across Texas and the organization’s founding principles, the group developed the recommendation to transition Allgo from a community-based organization in Austin to one with a statewide focus," Ortega said. "Our primary vision in becoming the country’s first and only queer people of color statewide organization is to work with community leaders, groups and organizations across Texas to create spaces for shared information, resources, community and relationship building, and mobilizing our communities."

Sanchez said he attended the summit to see what role Valiente could play in the statewide network.

He said the organization brought them together so they "could all figure it out together. It was a combination of all of us doing it together."

Ortega said he was pleased with the summit turnout and hopes for it to be an annual event.

He said the summit brought together people from all over Texas.

"[They] came together in what was a historical milestone event in our communities," Ortega said.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 25, 2008.

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