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Task Force hosts 'State of the Movement' at Creating Change
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

This article shared 2861 times since Mon Jan 25, 2016
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National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey took a backseat to some of her organization's staff as they stood on an equidistant portion of the stage to deliver the State of the Movement address during 2016's Creating Change at the Hilton Jan. 22.

The format of the plenary session was preceded by a somber In Memoriam segment honoring the LGBTQ people who were lost in 2015, including the names of each of the 23 transgender women who were murdered, some of those transgender and gender nonconforming individuals who took their own lives, longtime Chicago gay activist William B. Kelley, former Chicagoan Jean Hardisty, songwriter and activist Marcia Deihl and feminist writer Sidney Abbott.

"We treasure their memories and they remain in our consciousness because of their valuable contributions to our movement," Task Force Assistant Faith Work Director Barbara Satin said. "Many of us feel strength and renewed passion when recalling those who have passed on. Sadly, this past year in the United States has been drenched with violence—for the trans community, particularly trans women of color, for the Black men and women killed in confrontations with law enforcement, for our society's overwhelming reliance on guns and other weapons to settle disputes."

"Healing can be reached through treating a person with dignity and respect," Task Force Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs Stacey Long Simmons said after recalling the genesis of her career which began at the Center on Halsted and the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago. "Regardless of who you are or how you speak or how you smell or how much money you have or don't have, you deserve respect."

Long Simmons and each of the staff members shared a personal story and opinion, connecting and weaving it into the State of the Movement and the Task Force's affect upon it.

"With President Obama's administration preparing to close the chapter on an era of unprecedented leadership on behalf of LGBTQ rights there is so much at stake," Long Simmons said. "Right now, our LGBTQ movement is polarized. It is getting in the way of the work that we need to get done."

"As I stand here and reflect on this past year, one word comes to my mind: violence," Task Force Policy Counsel, Reproductive Rights/Health/Justice Candace Bond-Theriault, Esq., LL.M stated. "Gun violence against the Black and Brown communities at the hands of police, mass shootings and arsons at Planned Parenthood clinics, violence against trans women of color just for being who they are, the bombing of Black churches. I am still grieving after, in Charleston, South Carolina, nine innocent Black church goers were shot dead and killed in the name of hate. For me personally, these senseless and tragic acts of violence are reproductive justice issues. For me, this is personal."

Senior Policy Counsel, Criminal and Economic Justice Project Director Meghan Maury, Esq. recalled the abyss of heroin abuse as a teenager—in particular, the day she watched her then-girlfriend overdose while Maury hesitated before calling 911.

"I will never forgive myself," Maury said. "I knew she was a person of color and she would carry the consequences for my actions."

Homelessness followed from which Maury described escaping with "a thousand little baby steps."

One step of overwhelming significance to the community was reached earlier in the week while Maury sat in her hotel room at the Hilton.

"I was talking to the Bureau of Prisons about how people need access to affirming healthcare when they are released from incarceration and they agreed, on that phone call, to include LGBTQ affirming health centers in their resource guide for people who are returning," Maury announced.

Task Force Policy Counsel, Trans/Gender NonConforming Justice Project Director Victoria M. Rodriguez-Roldan was mourning the tragic loss of her mother and could not be present. She was represented by her colleague and friend Digital Strategies and Social Media Manager Kayley Whalen.

"This past year was an extremely important one to the trans community," Whalen said in delivering Rodriguez-Roldan's speech. "For the first time we are being portrayed in the news, TV shows and movies in positive roles. At the same time, 23 trans women and gender nonconforming people were murdered that we know of. The vast majority were people of color. Many more have been victims of violence simply for being who we are. Today, and for all the days to come, we make the call 'Trans Power Now' and 'Stop Trans Murders'."

Task Force Deputy Executive Director Russell Roybal recalled his family's history and the greater Chicano experience in coming to the United States. "We never crossed the border. The border crossed us," he said. "Immigration in its modern form still impacts me and those I love. The recent raids by Homeland Security on undocumented women and children hit close to home. Thousands languish in ICE [Immigration Customs Enforcement] detention centers. LGBTQ detainee safety is often in jeopardy without access to counsel, due process or appropriate healthcare."

"We have been lied to," Task Force Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action Rodney McKenzie, Jr. asserted. "Faith has been stolen. Texts have been pimped and betrayed to harm those who deserve justice—those who deserve liberation, peace in the midst of racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ableism, classism and so much more. Texts have been used to say that I shouldn't be alive, that we shouldn't be alive. I'm so hurt. I'm so angry. Only the truth of who are in our totality will create a world of liberation. This is our movement."

That movement has been defined by Katherine Acey, celebrated lesbian activist, writer and former executive director of GRIOT Circle and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

She received the recipient of the SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues from SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams to a long-standing ovation.

"I know there's hope within our movement to do the intergenerational work that's so important," Acey said. "No one can do it alone and make any kind of difference. When we feel alone, we really are not."

"It's not about 'if you're too old or too young'," Acey added. "It's about how we talk to and work with each other. LGBT older adults of color remain largely invisible in most services and research and public housing initiatives. There are many challenges facing [them]. We can do something about this and we must do it together."

"I don't need to be young to understand the context as a young person is different today than it was for me," she concluded. "I don't have to be an immigrant to say 'No. Not One More [deportation].' I don't have to be Jewish to challenge anti-Semitism wherever it exists."

To underscore her point, Acey asked the audience to stand by generation until the entire room was on its feet.

This article shared 2861 times since Mon Jan 25, 2016
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