Report from Creating Change

Saturday, January 31

HIV/AIDS takes center stage at Creating Change
Robyn Ochs receives Susan J. Hyde Activism Award
Graylin K. Thornton receives the Leather Leadership Award


HIV/AIDS takes center stage at Creating Change

HIV/AIDS took center stage today at Creating Change with a plenary panel, HIV/AIDS Crisis: This Is What We’re Doing About It, that featured leading advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Each spotlighted the urgency of tackling the AIDS epidemic, with a focus on communities of color, and all issued powerful and passionate calls to action.

Indeed, a call to action was a theme throughout the plenary, beginning as hundreds of attendees entered the room and were handed postcards to send to their federal lawmakers urging them to “fund a stimulus plan for the fight against HIV/AIDS” and implement a National AIDS Strategy.

Panel moderator Marjorie Hill (pictured), chief executive officer of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, opened the session by describing how far we’ve come, but have yet to go. Watch the YouTube video excerpt here and post a comment.

Kenyon Farrow, a Policy Institute fellow at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, talked about the high rates of HIV infection in communities of color and the LGBT movement’s need to support black LGBT leaders. Watch here.

David Ernesto Munar, vice president of policy and communications of the Chicago AIDS Foundation, offered his own action steps. Watch and post a comment here.

Bishop Yvette Flunder, founder and senior pastor of City of Refuge Church in San Francisco, and executive director of the Ark of Refuge, Inc., a nonprofit agency providing services to people affected by HIV/AIDS, meanwhile, spoke of the need to reach out to faith communities as another strategy to fight HIV/AIDS. Watch the YouTube video excerpt.

Watch for more video excerpts soon!


Robyn Ochs receives Susan J. Hyde Activism Award

Robyn Ochs was honored today with the Susan J. Hyde Activism Award for Longevity in the Movement. Ochs is co-founder of the Boston Bisexual Women’s Network and the Bisexual Resource Center; editor of the international anthology Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World; has taught gender and sexuality studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Johnson State College; and is a strong advocate for transgender rights, marriage equality and animal rights.

In presenting the namesake award, Creating Change Director Sue Hyde told Ochs: “We hear your clear voice, we see your staunch advocacy and we respond to your loving insistence that our movement includes all of us.”

In her acceptance remarks, Ochs graciously said, “I salute everyone who is here today and I thank each of you for doing whatever type of work it is that you’re doing, because together, together with all these different types of work, we have a strong movement.”


Graylin K. Thornton receives the Leather Leadership Award

Graylin Thornton received the Leather Leadership Award today for his longtime work on behalf of the leather community. Known as Sigma to his leather family, Thornton is deeply engaged in LGBT and leather community organizations in California and elsewhere.

In 1993, Thornton won the title of Northern California Mr. Drummer and later went on to win the title of International Mr. Drummer and remains the only person of color to ever hold that title. Among other contests, he produced the first Ebony Leather Contest in San Francisco, which was developed to bring the leather lifestyle to more people of color. Thornton currently serves as the co-chair of San Diego Leather Pride, as well as the producer of the Mr. San Diego Leather Contest.

In accepting his award, Thornton invited participants to commit to mentor other leaders to advance full LGBT equality. “We don’t know the influence we have on other people, especially young people, but the commitments that we make to people now, they have to be lifelong commitments, we need lifelong friendships,” he said.


This year’s Creating Change awards are made possible by the generosity of the Anderson Prize Foundation, the Gill Foundation and the International Court System.

Photos: David Mejias

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