Press

Powerhouse lineup of speakers at National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change

Date: 
January 11, 2008

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NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, national LGBT rights leader Matt Foreman and musical legends Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon featured keynotes; Kate Clinton to host plenaries

“Are gay rights, civil rights? Of course they are!” — Julian Bond

“I think the thing that is the most mystifying to me and the most troubling about the Church of England is its refusal to be honest about just how many gay clergy it has — many of them partnered and many of them living in rectories.” — Bishop V. Gene Robinson

“No civil rights movement has left part of its community behind as it moved forward, and we’re not about to be the first one to do so.” — Matt Foreman

The New Yorker says of Toshi Reagon: “...her live shows shower retro funk, urban blues, and folk on the audience with evangelical fervor. To hear her is to believe.”

AOL calls Kate Clinton “smart, gorgeous and funny as L,” while the Los Angeles Times says, “Clinton rattles off policy issues and political hot potatoes like a Beltway insider.”

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announces a powerhouse lineup of keynote speakers at its National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, Feb. 6–10 in Detroit, Mich. Two thousand lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates will converge on the Motor City just one day after Super Tuesday, to strategize and organize for the critical year head.

On opening night, Feb. 7, Julian Bond, NAACP chairman and civil rights leader, will address the conference. The next day, Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman will give the annual “State of the Movement” address. On Feb. 9, Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson will share his unique perspective on faith, equality and social change, and the mother-daughter musical team of Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon will perform at the closing plenary on Feb. 10. The plenaries will be emceed by comic and social commentator Kate Clinton.

More about the keynote speakers

Julian Bond is the chairman of the NAACP, a distinguished professor-in-residence at American University in Washington, D.C., and a professor of history at the University of Virginia. In the face of a contentious and prolonged national debate over equal rights for LGBT people, Bond has taken an unequivocal position: “…when I am asked, ‘Are gay rights civil rights?’ my answer is always, ‘Of course.’” Bond doesn’t just talk the talk. He recently joined a statewide coalition effort in Florida to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and any other type of partner recognition. As a national civil rights leader, his contribution to the current struggle for equality stands as a beacon of hope in a time when few have shown the courage to face down anti-LGBT political and religious leaders who malign LGBT people for political gain.

As the first openly gay man to be named a bishop in the Anglican Communion, V. Gene Robinson attracted worldwide attention, with some leaders of the Anglican Communion moving to sever relations with the Episcopal Church of the United States. Robinson has not been invited to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, a meeting of bishops and archbishops of the Anglican Communion invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which is held every 10 years. In the face of all of this, he has repeatedly called for understanding, love and dialogue with his detractors. At his consecration, he said, "There are faithful, wonderful Christian people for whom this is a moment of great pain and confusion and anger."

Matt Foreman is a fearless leader with a dynamic and uncompromising voice for equality and justice. Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has worked for LGBT rights for 25 years. During the battle for an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he unequivocally stated, “No civil rights movement has left part of its community behind as it moved forward, and we’re not about to be the first one to do so.” Foreman will present the annual “State of the Movement” address.

The mother-daughter team of Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon will perform at the Sunday plenary. For more than 40 years, Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded the acclaimed African-American women’s a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice; singing, teaching — speaking out against racism and organized inequities of all kinds. Toshi Reagon is a singer/songwriter/producer and activist. The New Yorker says of her performances: “...her live shows shower retro funk, urban blues, and folk on the audience with evangelical fervor. To hear her is to believe.”

The duo has collaborated on many projects, including creating the musical score for the award-winning films Africans in America on PBS and Beah: A Black Woman Speaks for HBO.

Comic and social commentator Kate Clinton will emcee the plenaries. From coast to coast, Clinton provides a witty and comedic political critique about important issues of the day.

Watch this video about the conference and register online at www.CreatingChange.org. (The room block at our host hotel, the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, is sold out. Overflow rooms at two different hotels in close proximity to the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center have been secured. Please call the Detroit Marriott in case a cancellation in our block has made a room available. All conference activities will be held at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. Get more details here.)

The conference is supported by its founding sponsor, the Anita May Rosenstein Foundation.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s 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.