Creating a Conference

Baltimore confab brings together various LGBT voices, as well as NAACP's Benjamin Jealous

It’s not quite a quarter century, but the 24th year of Creating Change comes so very close. And Sue Hyde, the current director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation’s ”national conference on LGBT equality,” has been involved since the beginning.

”It’s gotten a lot bigger,” says the Cambridge, Mass.-based Hyde. ”The first one, in ’88 at Hotel Washington in D.C., we had about 300 people onsite. We’re expecting about 3,000 in Baltimore.”

That the Hotel Washington is now D.C.’s W hotel is evidence of change – but not nearly as much as is the conference itself.

Says Hyde, ”I think the change and growth [of the conference] is reflected in the change and growth in the U.S. It’s been an opportunity for emerging elements of the LGBT movement to gather and gain strength and voice.”

Hyde points to junctures in the history of Creating Change the have seen a variety of cohorts emerge and become more organized.

”In 1991, the fourth conference, we did our very first major organizing by and for LGBT people of color,” Hyde begins, then points to a variety of communities. She includes queer youth, bisexuals, transgender people, disabled LGBT people and seniors as some communities that have been celebrated particularly at Creating Change. ”Really, you can almost track the emergence of these various subgroups of LGBT people.”

She adds with a laugh, ”As conference director, I like to think the conference has a lot to do with that.”

As for this year’s Creating Change, running Jan. 25 to 29 at the Hilton Baltimore, the lineup includes the conferences first congressional lobby day, an interfaith service, myriad trainings and workshops and even a ”House Ball for All!” It also includes Benjamin Jealous, CEO and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), delivering the conference’s opening keynote address.

Jealous as keynote speaker continues a trend, says Hyde, of Creating Change reaching out to non-LGBT progressive allies. Jealous was not available to speak with Metro Weekly, but Derek Turner, senior communications associate at NAACP, points to a 2010 interview Jealous gave to Big Think to illustrate Jealous’s sentiments regarding LGBT equality.

”The national [NAACP] office signed onto the lawsuit to invalidate Prop. 8 because we were able to get consensus on the principle that a simple majority vote should not be able to trump a court’s finding of the fundamental right,” Jealous, whose brother is gay, said at the time. ”That’s a threat to a whole range of rights, including the right to marry, but also the right to be treated with respect in the workplace. … Gay people have been involved in the NAACP for a long time. The NAACP has been supportive of a broad civil human rights agenda in this country, including rights for gay and lesbian people, for a long time.”

From Jealous to Kate Clinton to Wilson Cruz to thousands of activists, Hyde promises that Creating Change 2012 will be an incredibly welcoming venue for a variety of voices, for a variety of concerns, helping to train and enlighten grassroots activists to take the fight for equality back to their home jurisdictions.

”Creating Change is a space and place where the LGBT movement learns from itself, teaches itself and gets to know itself,” Hyde says. ”We’ve learned a lot about what ‘radical welcome’ entails. We’ve done a pretty good job of making that a reality. It’s a gathering of all kinds of LGBT activists and organizations. Some say it’s a cacophony. I like to think it’s a chorus.”

Creating Change, The National Conference on LGBT Equality, runs Wednesday, Jan. 25, to Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Hilton Baltimore, 401 West Pratt St. Basic registration is $325 until Jan. 20, $375 at the door. Limited income, youth, senior and other rates available. For more information, call 202-393-5177 or visit creatingchange.org.

[Read Metro Weekly’s interview with Wilson Cruz.]

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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