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Avalon in Full Force at Task Force Conference

Jamie Natelson
By JAMIE NATELSON | Monday, 14 February 2011 14:32
Categories: Avalon News, Avalon Client News
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Client conferences are always a way to see one’s clients in action and to get in touch with their activists and supporters.  Inevitably, I come away from more educated, inspired, and energized.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual “Creating Change” conference amplified this feeling. More than 2,500 activists from a wide range of LGBT and progressive organizations gathered in freezing Minneapolis (thank goodness all activities were indoors!). The Avalon team was there in force, including Allison Porter, Barb Perell, Will Kraiger and myself.

While the air outside was frigid, attendees were fired up—and it was contagious! The scene was vibrant and engaged. Activists, young and old, were there with a common agenda: to learn, to share, and to make a difference in the fight for equality.

I was personally moved by the session I attended on “Fighting Back Against a Global Anti-Gay Agenda,” which was especially poignant in light of the recent horrific murder of LGBT rights activist David Kato in Uganda. The program detailed the devastating impact American evangelicals and clerics are having in exporting their hate to other countries.
I also attended on the highly informative session titled “The 1964 Civil Rights Act: Our Path to Dignity and Equality.”  Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Todd Fernandez provided a beyond-comprehensive overview of how the Act has evolved and how it applies to the LGBT community.

Finally, we all left the screening of the film “Bullied: A Student, a School, and a Case that Made History” a little tearful and a lot more motivated. The film chronicled the case of a gay student who faced discrimination, violence and outright ignorance—and how he learned to stop being polite and sue for his rights and the rights of others.
I asked my fellow Avalonians what they got out of the conference, and here’s what they shared:

Allison gave a big thumbs up to the Academy for Leadership and Action session she attended on “Effective Organizational and Campaign Planning.” She says: “It was an incredible hands-on session that included working as a group to develop a strategy for a hypothetical campaign using SWOT analysis and power mapping.  It was fascinating to work with the group (most of whom do community organizing on an ongoing basis) and to see a campaign from an organizer’s point of view in an incredibly in-depth way.”

Barb especially liked the session “Responding to Myths about LGBT People.” Participants worked in small groups to dissect and refute anti-LGBT statements made by the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and Justice Scalia. Using a framework provided by the moderators, each team presented their arguments, to which the moderators added their own supporting data and research.

Will remarked that the most disturbing fact he took away from the conference was that the attempted suicide rate among transgender adults is 41%. On a more optimistic note, he found the session on “Changing Minds of Conservative/Evangelical Christians,” which explored avenues for more effective communication with this community, to be highly insightful and encouraging.

Thank you to everyone at the Task Force for giving us the opportunity to participate in this energizing event! Our eyes are wide open, we have thawed out, and we are ready to get down to business for equality.


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