One of the largest LGBTQ conferences prepares attendees for unity and action

Creating Change Remix 2022 Speakers and special guests: ALOK; Sandra Valls; two-spirit activist Beverly Little Thunder; Kierra Johnson and Mayra Hidalgo Salazar.

Create the Change Remixed 2022

The National LGBTQ Task Force, an LGBTQ rights organization, hosted its 34th Creating Change Conference (CC22) on March 19-20, 2022. The virtual conference titled Create the change remixed focused on influencing positive change as a unified international group.

Participants in Creating Change had the opportunity to participate in nearly 14 different one-day institute sessions translated into English, Spanish, and American Sign Language (ASL).

These sessions included education policy, intersectionality, youth action and mobilization, gender, climate change, LGBTQ Latinx community building, white supremacist culture, and more. The conference began with the annual State of the Movement Address with Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson and Deputy Executive Director Mayra Hidalgo Salazar.

“We know you’re tired,” Johnson said. “Many of you are afraid, and rightly so; be tired, be angry, be frustrated, confused, sad. Be all of these things. But I do know that I am speaking to a group of people who know that these events, these feelings, are not the reason to stop working. These are the reasons we do the work.

More than 240 anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender bills were introduced in the United States last year. In preparation for the year ahead, activists have given their youth, adults and elders the tools to enact change.

This was the second year that the task force organized the creation of change virtually due to Covid-19. The conference was originally scheduled for January 12-16 at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans. While the virtual shift reduced the size of the conference, it also brought an increase in new attendees and continued to be, for many, another year of growth and learning.

“I think we were all thrilled with not only how the conference went, but also the level of participation,” said Cathy Renna, communications director for the LGBTQ working group. “You know, so many people who had signed up to be in person were heartbroken, but, you know, they were still there.”

The weekend also created a space for people who challenged the mainstream LGBTQ movement. Ola Osifo Osaze, recipient of the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund Award for Outstanding LGBTQ Leadership for Immigration Rights, criticized the movement’s lack of progress for black LGBTQ populations, immigrants, migrants and sex workers.

“What is your mainstream LGBTQ movement North Star?” Asked Osaze, the project director, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) of the Transgender Law Center. “The sooner you understand this the better for the rest of us because what you don’t want to be is a bulwark against any real progress black trans people, immigrants and non-immigrants have been trying to do. in this country towards the goal of black liberation and justice for migrants,” Osaze said.

Osaze’s speech reminded attendees that movement work must do better to diversify, heal and build inclusion for change. Something Renna said is integral to the conference. She has been to every conference since 1988.

“I think we’re in a time where caring for ourselves, each other, and healing is front and center because frankly of the trauma we’ve been through,” Renna said. Whether you’re talking about Covid, or whether you’re talking about the anti-LGBT climate we’ve had to go through. But to be honest, it’s still the theme of Creating Change.

Non-binary author, poet and performer Alok Vaid Menon played a pre-recorded speech at the closing of the event to a virtual audience of nearly 200 people. Their bright pink hair curled into curls atop their heads as their face reflected the spotlight. Renna said they were impressed with Menon as she watched their speech in person.

Renna remembers Menon as a young participant in Creating Change a decade earlier, said listening to them talk was one of her favorite moments of the weekend. Menon’s aunt and LGBTQ rights activist, writer and lawyer, Urvashi Vaid, has been on the task force for decades.

“I’m learning that love is about interdependence, not isolation. Love means the sum is always greater than its parts. ‘We’ is so much more than ‘you and me,'” Menon said. in his closing address dedicated to the late author and the university bells, “The only way to create change is to recognize that we must continually move beyond our own paradigms and expand our imaginations of freedom,” the writer continued.

Others at the conference echoed similar sentiments.

Louie Ortiz Fonseca, Director of LGBTQ Health and Rights at Advocates for Youths, spoke about the importance of relationships in the Stepping Out of the Margins: Youth Activism, Mobilization and Direct Action 101 institute. Fonseca asked audience members what comes to mind when they think of trust. Words like vulnerability, communication and care flooded the video chat room.

“When we think about trust, especially in this context, and the organizational context, in this space that we share, it’s the trust that, you know, you have something to share; you have something to offer, don’t you? It’s a bit like faith, isn’t it? And I know that faith often has that kind of religious connotation, or the spiritual connotation, but trust is having faith in yourself and in the communities that you work for and advocate for, and in the communities that you work with for defend,” Fonseca said.

That vulnerability, the intimacy of relationship building, is the foundation for change, Fonesca said. So how do these relationships create change?

For Beverly Little Thunder, a two-spirited Lakota woman, great-grandmother, and activist committed to racial and social justice, protecting and healing the Earth, and building up future generations, it’s about standing with of those who are oppressed and to take time to listen.

“Think about why we call this conference creating change,” Little Thunder said in his opening remarks. “Creating change is a task that we are tasked with today. It is the young people of today who are going to create that change. Let this be the time when you learn to listen more than you speak. Learn to be a accomplice instead of an ally who pays lip service,” she said.

For more information on creating the 2022 change, visit the task force’s website or follow him on Instagram @thetaskforce.

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