The 19th annual Creating Change Conference officially got under way tonight in Kansas City, Mo., where more than 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates have converged to strategize and plan on the heels of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Creating Change 2006 got off to a rousing start tonight, fueled by excitement over the outcome of Tuesday’s midterm elections and today’s marriage victory in Massachusetts.
Hundreds were welcomed by U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (pictured), a Missouri Democrat, who in 1990, as a member of the Kansas City Council, voted against amending the human rights ordinance to include sexual orientation.
“Some elected officials harden their position after a vote like that, but others keep listening, keep learning and remain engaged with their constituents,” said Task Force Deputy Executive Director Rea Carey in introducing Cleaver. “Councilman Cleaver became even more engaged with LGBT people in Kansas City. He attended that year’s Kansas City Pride Picnic and talked with the very people whose hopes he and others had dashed just months before. At the Pride Picnic, Councilman Cleaver told the crowd that his vote had been influenced, in part, by right-wing opponents who told him that LGBT people were trash and deserving of eternal damnation. That day, the councilman declared that his God doesn’t make trash.”
Tonight, 16 years later, Cleaver was on the stage, speaking profoundly of how a new day has come after the power-shifting election of a Congress that “can no more protect marriage than it can protect New Orleans.” A religious scholar, Cleaver said: “I have studied the three major religions of the world — Christianity, Islam and Judaism — and I haven’t found a single word about hate in their scriptures.”
Cleaver also noted that, with Democrats regaining control of the U.S. House and Senate, “the people who are trying to divide us are in the minority...your mission is to work on everything you can to work for your freedom...rise up!”
Jolie Justus (pictured), who on Tuesday became the first openly gay person elected to the state Senate in Missouri, spoke about how our community is creating change by “taking back our country with our true values: fighting for equality and justice.”
Galen Smith, chair of the Disability Education and Accessibility Committee, highlighted the result of a year of hard work by the committee to develop guidelines about making the Creating Change Conference more accessible. Creating Accessibility is a two-page document in this year’s program book that highlights what attendees can do to make the conference more accessible.
In a poignant moment, Rea Carey invited conference attendees to place on a massive “We Remember” banner the names, photos, words or personal items of people that could not join us at this year’s conference. The banner, loaned by Heritage of Pride, New York’s pride committee, will be on display throughout the conference.
In the closing segment of the opening plenary, a panel (pictured) moderated by Andy Marra, board president of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and featuring Eddy Morales, outgoing president of the United States Student Association, Rinku Sen, publisher of ColorLines, Olga Vives, executive vice president of the National Organization for Women, and Cuc T. Vu, immigration campaign manager for the Service Employees International Union and Task Force board member, talked about the intersection of social justice movements.
Sen said that while many might be excited by the outcome of the election, come January when the new Congress convenes, “we need to push really hard to win back the rights we’ve lost over two decades and expand those rights, so by ’08 we can begin having a really different electoral conversation.”
Photos by Linda Kliewer