Chicagoland Latino LGBT activists, leaders, and supporters met March 5 at Lakeview Specialty Clinic, 2861 N. Clark, to discuss the past, present, and future of the national and local Latino LGBT movements in a forum called Sigamos Adelante Chicago.
Aurora Pineda, Edgar Gutierrez, Nilsa Irizarry, and Mary Torres led the workshop, in which attendees were urged to represent themselves, not their agencies. A recent development that kick-started the planning of the meeting was the shocking and sudden demise of LLEGO, the only national non-profit organization devoted to representing Latino LGBT communities and addressing issues relevant to them.
A large portion of the workshop was devoted to the advantages and drawbacks of national and local organizations. People listed greater visibility, empowerment, networking opportunities, and the power to bring about policy changes as some of the benefits of a national association. Conversely, they felt that local groups often suffer, among other things, losses of funding and other resources. Also, while activists believed that local groups can suffer from limited funding and an agenda that is too narrow, they also felt that those same organizations have autonomy, focus, and a sense of community. The attendees voted to have a local unified voice that would incorporate Amigas Latinas, the Association of Latino Men for Action ( ALMA ) , and other groups.
However, people also felt that having a national voice would be positive. Other topics that were discussed ranged from the meaning of activism to how Midwest agencies and organizations are ignored compared to associations based on both coasts.
Attendees also heard reports from the 2004 Sigamos Adelante National Forum in Seattle as well as the 2004 Creating Change Conference in St. Louis. The former included workshops on Latino LGBT individuals and the media while the latter was a skill-building and strategic event that had more than 120 workshop sessions and presentations.
The Chicago gathering concluded with a plan to meet April 2. Among the items to be discussed are establishing the local unified collective; creating models of working groups; understanding the actual functions and missions of various Latino LGBT groups; and providing voices for underrepresented populations, including youth ( well represented at the forum ) , elderly, and the disabled.