The Creating Change Conference roars into The Big D Wednesday, January 15 through Sunday, January 19, bringing together thousands of leaders, activists, and advocates to the annual LGBTQ confab at the Sheraton Dallas.
The conference is billed as “the foremost political, leadership, and skills-building conference for the LGBTQ social justice movement. Its theme this year is Love, Learning, and Liberation. The event is sponsored by the National LGBTQ Task Force, and its goal is “to build the LGBTQ movement’s political power from the ground up to secure our overarching goal of full freedom, justice, and equality for LGBTQ people and their families in the United States.”
In its 250 workshops, speakers and plenary sessions, the conference will be keenly focused on the key challenges of the year ahead for the queer community: the need to ensure the counting and participation of diverse communities in the 2020 census; advocacy efforts to support and empower refugees and migrants; the crucial nature of the November presidential elections; and combating the epidemic of violence directed at transgender Americans. On the opening night of the conference on January 16, conference attendees will rally to call for an end to the murder of transgender Americans and to celebrate trans lives.
“We face a historic election year, some of the most significant Supreme Court cases in our lifetime, on-going attacks from the current administration, and an epidemic of violence, among other challenges,” observed Conference Director Andy Garcia.
The opening keynote address for the conference, “Love and Justice are One,” will be given by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, an author, activist and trainer who has been hailed as “the most intriguing African-American Buddhist” by Library Journal. Her most recent book is Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love & Liberation.
The closing keynote speech will focus upon “Queering Immigration: Owning Our Power, Building the Defense Line,” and will feature a panel discussion of experts from across the country, including representatives of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress and the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Trailblazing Houston transgender activist Monica Roberts will be honored with The Susan J. Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement, sponsored by Wild Geese Foundation. Roberts has advocated for human rights for two decades. She is the founder and editor of the blog Transgriot, and is also a columnist for OutSmart. She is the recipient of a 2018 GLAAD Media Award, the Robert Coles Call of Service Award from Harvard University’s Phillips Brooks House Association, and the Barbara Jordan Breaking Barriers Award from the Harris County Democratic Party.
Other leaders from across the nation will be honored at the conference. Judy Tallwing McCarthy, who served as the first International Ms. Leather in 1987 and as Co-Chair of the National Leather Association from 1988 to 1992, will be the first woman of color to receive The Leather Leadership Award. Stephanie Cho, Executive Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, will be honored with the Haas, Jr. Award for Outstanding LGBTQ Leadership for Immigrant Rights.
The SAGE Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues will be presented to Carmen Vasquez, who was the Founding Director of the Women’s Building in San Francisco, and who helped found the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center in San Francisco, and the LGBT Health & Human Services Network.
The conference begins on Wednesday, January 15 with the Day Long Racial Justice Institute, lasting eight hours, with workshop topics ranging from Beyond Diversity and Inclusion: Organizing for Racial Equity to Hard Knock Life: Best Practices for Intersectional Canvassing. The Day Long Institutes continue on Thursday, January 16 with a wide variety of topics, including the Disability Justice Institute, Ending Mass Incarceration, Queering Reproductive Justice, and #StopPoliceViolence – Resisting Violence and Criminalization.
Founded in Washington, D.C. in 1988 one year after the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the first Creating Change Conference was attended by 300 people. It now hosts approximately 4,000, and is the largest LGBTQAI event in the country for training, networking and making advocacy come to life.
Dallas has hosted the Creating Change Conference twice before, in 1994 and 2010. Six years ago, Houston hosted the 2014 Creating Change Conference, which attracted a record-breaking 4,000 attendees and featured a rousing keynote address by acclaimed transgender actress Laverne Cox, star of Orange Is the New Black. A host committee of Houstonians was formed to help organize in advance of the 2014 conference. The relationships forged by this group helped to generate a cohesive network of activists to advocate for the passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by the Houston City Council in 2014.
Over the years, Creating Change Conferences have had a powerful impact on several noted Houston LGBTQ activists, including Rev. Lynette Ross, who has served on the board of the Lesbian Health Initiative and as co-chair of the 2014 host committee for Creating Change.
“The level of passion, energy, and commitment was palpable,” Ross observed of her first experience of the conference in Atlanta in 2013. “I left there believing we could change the world. I left believing there is no group better suited to lead the way to a truly inclusive world than the LGBTQ community.”
For more information on the conference or to register, go to www.creatingchange.org.