Youth Activists and Actions Abound
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
Thousands of youth activists across the nation are taking the lead in organizing and mobilizing for Equality Begins at Home, a major campaign for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) equality. From a march against hate violence in Georgia to a youth-led conference in Oregon, young people are organizing to bring their issues and their voices to the forefront in the struggle for equality. Equality Begins at Home will take place from March 21–27 and is the first-ever coordinated political campaign of actions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality. Issues affecting youth will be one of the major themes for the week of political actions. Equality Begins at Home is coordinated by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and organized by the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Statewide Political Organizations.
"Youth involvement in Equality Begins at Home isn't only benefiting the young activists. Equality Begins at Home is giving adult activists the opportunity to work with youth who have been honing their organizing skills since they were 13. Adult activists are quickly learning that youth can do more than stuff envelopes. These young activists aren't the leaders of our movement tomorrow, they have already been leading the movement," stated Rea Carey, executive director of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC). NYAC is supporting Equality Begins at Home through organizing workshops for youth and working with Federation groups to increase youth involvement in Equality Begins at Home.
"Young people often bear the brunt of homophobia in our country. While they are more exposed to violence and harassment in their schools, in their homes and in the streets, they are also the least protected. We need look no further than the brutal attack this month against Adam Colton," said Kerry Lobel, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director. Anti-gay attackers targeted Colton, a 17-year-old student at San Marin High School in Novato, California, for the second time in six months. Last week Colton was beaten unconscious and the word "fag" was carved into his flesh with a pen. In September, Colton's car was vandalized, and he was attacked.
Youth events for Equality Begins at Home include rallies, speakouts, and conferences addressing the issue of safe schools, hate crimes, coming out, and more. In addition, in many states youth are an integral part of the overall Equality Begins at Home organizing. In Tennessee, 22-year-old Brandon Hutchinson, a student at East Tennessee State University, is organizing a caravan of young people from rural eastern Tennessee to Nashville to participate in an Equality Begins at Home lobby day. The Tzabaco Company provided funding for Hutchinson's efforts through a $2000 Equality Begins at Home organizing grant.
Like Hutchinson, many of the youth activists involved in Equality Begins at Home are graduates of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Youth Leadership Institute. Started in 1995, the Youth Leadership Institute is an annual week-long intensive skills-building training for youth activists. In North Carolina, NGLTF Youth Leadership Institute graduates are working in coalition with local anti-racist and economic justice youth organizations to organize a youth speakout at the state capitol. "Equality Begins at Home is an opportunity for young people to see themselves as assets and agents of change within our community," said youth activist John Harrison of the North Carolina Lambda Youth Network.
Equality Begins at Home youth-related events across the nation include the following:
- California – Youth lobby day at the state capitol.
- Colorado – Rally, youth-led lobby training, and PFLAG potluck dinner for young people.
- Connecticut – Lobby training for youth and lobby day with youth contingent.
- Georgia – Youth march and rally against hate crimes, teen suicide, and harassment in schools.
- Kentucky – Youth speakout, and safe schools will be a main theme of state EBAH activities.
- Massachusetts – Educational mailing to high schools throughout the state encouraging the establishment of Gay/Straight Alliances.
- Michigan – Organizing conference for high school and college students.
- Mississippi – Rally with youth contingent and a campus organizing training for students.
- New Hampshire – Youth contingent at a rally against the state's adoption ban.
- New Jersey – Youth contingent at a lobby day at which youth issues will be one of the major themes.
- North Carolina – Lobby day with youth contingent.
- Oregon – Youth conference.
- South Carolina – Youth lobby day on hate crimes legislation and a youth conference.
- Texas – Youth lobby day.
- Washington – Vigils for the passage of a safe schools bill.
- Wyoming – Rally against violence and harassment against GLBT students and a community meeting with the Wyoming Department of Education to discuss this issue.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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