A combination "revival and a strategic planning meeting" are the words Alvan Quamina uses to set the tone of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum annual conference to be held in Chicago this month.
The "Healing & Rebuilding" conference will be held President's Day weekend of Feb. 17— 20, 2000 at the Westin Hotel. The current agenda is open-ended with an emphasis on figuring out what direction the only national Black LBGT group should take.
At present, the status of the Forum could be best described as being in need of resuscitation. The Forum has been run by its board since June 1998 when Jubi Headley resigned as executive director and joined the board. Currently Headley is the board chair serving the remainder of former board chair Willa Taylor's term. Taylor resigned from the board in the summer of 1999.
Alvan Quamina assumed the currently unpaid executive director position for the Forum in October. Quamina was in Chicago during the first week of December to get the conference jump started. Quamina is hoping for a strong Midwest turnout to the conference. Earlier this year, Chicago Black Lesbians and Gays ( CBLG ) made the strategic decision to produce its UNITY Conference in October 2000 so as to not compete with the Forum event. The action-oriented agenda for the Chicago Forum conference allows for discussions aimed at "visioning at new Leadership Forum." Although the Forum has been in a precarious financial situationQuamina acknowledges a debt of around $60,000Quamina went on to say that, for a national group retiring such a debt should not be "overwhelming."
Quamina's plan for turning the organization around has board approval. Quamina, a lawyer who prides himself as technician and trouble-shooter, believes that the Forum can and should turn itself around. Quamina helped engineer a turn around at the Los Angeles-based African-American AIDS, Support-Services, and Survival Institute ( AMASSI ) . Quamina said he is motivated out of a desire to see the Forum succeed and not die. A central element to Quamina's turn-around strategy is to make the Forum a member-driven organization. As part of that philosophy, Quamina sees the Forum annually re-examining its mandate from the membership.
Furthermore, Quamina believes it key to make the Forum more accessible to the average Black LBGT person.
Local activist Renae Ogletree served on the Forum's board for about a year. Agreeing with Quamina's strategy, Ogletree believes the Forum has to reflect and connect to the local work being done, and make the connections between the various communities. Ogletree, who has extensive not-for-profit board and management experience, affirmed that financial issues are problematic for organizations in general and the Forum in particular. Just as important as the focusing on members, including bringing new people to the table and retaining their interests, Quamina says that "business acumen" is critical as well.
Quamina's vision is to have the Forum be the "primary facilitator of national networking and mobilization of Black lesbians and gays both generally, and in the specific context of a number of key 'subject areas.'" The key subject areas include spirituality, youth and education, health, and economics.
"I see the Leadership Forum serving as our representative in National Discourse ( i.e., providing a Black lesbian and gay voice in the national media, in federal public policy discussions, and in the lobbying efforts of other national organizations, etc. ) on matters of concern to Black lesbians and gays," wrote Quamina in a letter circulated on the Internet. The registration fees for the conference are $125. Registrations made payable to the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum can be sent to the Forum at 1714 Franklin St. Suite 100— 140, Oakland, Calif., 94612. See the webpage for details: www.chocolatecityusa.com/special/brochure.pdf or see webpage www.chocolatecityusa.com
The Conference Structure includes "Identifying the Challenges," "Creating a Community Agenda," "Visioning a New Leadership Forum" and "Alignment on Moving Forward."
Other highlights include performances by A Real Read, Chicago's African American LesBiGayTrans Performance Ensemble; a Talent Show showcasing local and national performers; and an Awards Reception to recognize individuals and organizations for their work in the Black LGBT community.
The weekend will close with a luncheon on Sunday, Feb. 20. All delegates will receive passes to The Rails club.