This year I had the amazing opportunity, along with two staffers and one youth, to attend the Creating Change 2017 Conference. While I was excited about being able to attend the conference, I was equally excited about the opportunity to travel with a group of phenomenal youth and staff whom have never attended the conference before.
During our time in Philadelphia we not only had the opportunity to gain insightful knowledge to support the work that we are passionate about, but we also had the opportunity to tour the city,, take in sights like the Liberty Bell, eat lunch at the Reading Market, meet area locals, and engage with some women who were in town for the Women’s March in Philadelphia.
The conference schedule was full of a variety of classes, workshops, and caucus events that covered a full spectrum of interest. From workshops and classes specifically for youth, faith-based activism, polyamorous relationships and more.
In addition to the wonderful workshops, I enjoyed the spirit of the conference. When I was out at lunch one day and a local asked what conference I was attending. I told her Creating Change 2017 and proceeded to explain the purpose of the conference. After I finished she replied by saying, “I am so glad you all are here. It seems like everyone that I have met from the conference is happy and very pleasant. We need more of that during these trying times.” That statement alone made me even more proud of the opportunity I had as a Queer Woman of Color to be a part of Creating Change.
Over a span of 2 days, I was able to attend several informative workshops that included the following:
Aging Issues, Activism, and the LGBTQ Movement
During this session, I was able to hear from LGBT Activist and providers on how they work for an age-inclusive activist movement, to raise awareness, and to advocate for change in their communities. Through interactive workshops, group storytelling and panel discussions I was able to learn about the importance of intergenerational support within the LGBT community.
It was alarming to me to hear the stories from elder LGBT community members about the struggles they are experiencing with isolation and exclusion from those within their own community. An older transgendered woman and a bisexual woman described these points of isolation. As a young queer woman, I had the assumption that as persons grew older many of those issues would disappear. However, I learned they did not.
After leaving this session, I gained a newfound purpose for intentionally ensuring there are more intergenerational conversations being held within the LGBTQ community in hopes that we will all be able to learn from one another. The reality is at one point we all were young and we all will grow older one day. We have to learn to support one another and reduce the isolation within our own community. The change must start from within.
Treat Yourself: The Necessity of Self-care for Advocates
As a devoted advocate, I often find myself placing the needs of others before my own. While I take moments of self-care, I can admit that I do not practice it faithfully. This class further reminded me of the importance of ensuring that I practice consistent self-care. Through yoga, journaling, and opportunities for self-reflection during the class, I was recharged and felt determined to bring the practices back home and to implement them in all areas of my life. The biggest take away that I received from the class is this; if we are not our best selves to ourselves, we are doing ourselves and others a disservice by trying to give something we do not have.
Let’s Talk Race and Gender in Schools
As a trained sexual health educator, I am always intrigued by the lack of conversations that are had within schools regarding, race, gender, and sexual health. During this session, we were able to discuss and name how diversity or the lack thereof affected our understanding of what it means to be inclusive and diverse. After unpacking, we were led in guided discussions and strategic planning on how we can create and support spaces in the schools where all voices are heard and valued. This was valuable for me as I have the privilege of working with many schools in DC, MD and VA and I have the opportunity to create and support these safe and affirming spaces.
In addition to the above mentioned workshops I also had the opportunity to attend: Building and Sustaining Coalitions to prevent LGBTQAI+ Suicide, and Sex, Queers and Health Equity: Creating a community Action plan, and Queer Greek life: The value of LGBTQ Sororities and Fraternities, Agents of Change Love Ball 2017, and Rev. Dr. William Barber II Forward together: The Prophetic post-election call to action.
Through all of the workshops I was able to attend, there was a common theme. All persons, regardless of race, class, educational background, age, gender identity, and orientation were committed to Creating Change. A change that will affect lives now and those of the future generations. Being able to share spaces with Trans youth as young as 8 or 9 and adults as old as 80 was affirming. During the conference, I was affirmed as a woman of color who is faith centered, queer, the mother of two children, and passionate about all people. I left Philadelphia on Saturday morning ready to tackle the tasks that are ahead despite the political issues we are experiencing. I left more determined to be the change I desire to see and to advocate for those who have not recognized their voice, especially our youth. Creating Change 2017 reminded me that in order for change to happen you have to create it.