Over 2,500 individuals attended the 23rd National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change this February in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Presented by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the five-day conference, a blend of workshops, day-long institutes, caucuses, keynote speeches, social events, and more, is an annual conference to educate community leaders and train activists. The mission of the Task Force is “to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community … 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.” Local politicians, including Mayor R.T. Rybak, Senator Al Franken, and House Representative Karen Clark, gave their support for the conference program.
Prior to 2011, there were no day-long institutes dedicated specifically to the challenges, struggles, and excitement of being an ally to/within LBGTQIA communities. MN Campus Alliance member Ross Neely attended an ally caucus at Creating Change 2010 where after much discussion he realized there needed to be more than a caucus. People needed to be and wanted to be more informed. Other members sharing in this experience came together and submitted a proposal for an Ally Institute.
The Ally Institute committee was made up of Mike Grewe, Anne Phibbs, Jamie Ann Meyers, Justin Nash, Ross Neely, and Jen Parshley. Once the proposal was approved by the Task Force, the committee started planning the training program in summer 2010, meeting several times a month until the day of the conference.
The first-ever Ally Institute was designed specifically for both allies to and within the LGBTQIA movement to strengthen their knowledge base, skills, and organizing savvy with LGBTQIA communities through an inclusive, social justice frame. Participants considered how allies to the work of gender and sexual freedom can help create inclusive and accessible environments in the different positions, roles, and communities where they live, work, play, and workshop through a mix of facilitated activities, skills sharing and small group work. The eight-hour training drew components from each of MN Campus Alliance’s training programs.
We had 30 people attend the session. Some people even recruited their friends to join us after lunch break! We received amazing positive feedback and have been invited by the Task Force to present the Ally Institute in 2012 at Creating Change Baltimore. We could not be more proud!
If you’re interested in discussing the experience and/or want to help us plan for 2012, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org