LGBTQ Statewide Summit empowers volunteers, activists and thought leaders

Lousiana’s

The summit also featured the panel discussion "Organizing for Political Change," moderated by Sebastian Rey (LGBT Community Center of New Orleans) and featuring panelists Frank Perez (LGBT+ Archives of LA), Cherry Galette (National Performance Network), Dylan Waguespack (Equity Louisiana and Louisiana Progress) and Shaena Johnson (BreakOUT!).

Nearly 70 attendees spanning spectrums of gender, sexuality, activism and leadership gathered for the inaugural LGBTQ Statewide Summit on Thursday and Friday (Oct. 13-14) and organized by Foundation for Louisiana at the Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge. Attendees participated in a range of activities tailored to both identify key issues facing the LGBTQ community and collaborate to find and implement strategic solutions.

The two-day conference included the development of a timeline to illustrate a shared history of struggle and triumph over the past four decades. They also participated in a team-building exercise called “Issues Speed Dating,” in which they paired off in a series of rotating two-minute exchanges with one another and answered a question posed by the moderator, thus allowing them to get better acquainted.

The “World Cafe” series of discussions, which spanned two days, helped attendees identify key issues, data and solutions around housing & homelessness, health care, mental health, violence, right-wing attacks, community and coalition building, criminalization, education and economic opportunities. While participants gathered around tables for group discussions on a given subject, they weren’t tethered to that subject and often were encouraged to move about and collaborate on different subjects. The results included, beyond the robust discussions, lists of issues, challenges and possible solutions to reduce risk in the LGBTQ communities and create more opportunities for equity.

“It’s a chance to get together all of the community organizations that are working on LGBTQ issues to work collaboratively so that we can move toward developing a common agenda and create a pooled fund to support the different projects that they’re working on,” said Tanya Gulliver-Garcia, FFL’s Associate Director for Programs and Planning, organizer of the event.

As much as the summit focused on facts, figures and data to drive much of the discussion and problem solving, there were some personal and sometimes emotional moments as well, with attendees sharing their own journeys to where and who are they are today — with a fair share of hugs, tears and even laughter.

Each day featured deeply personal poetry from performance artist and activist trice triceyy triceyydaddyy, each time evoking emotional reactions (and applause) from the audience members. (Watch the raw video of one reading here.)

“We kept this conference deliberately small, brought together people who are active already, but who maybe don’t get the chance to talk to each other beyond business meetings,” Gulliver-Garcia said. “By creating opportunities for them to network, to have these conversations, you create trust. And when you create trust, it means you can go deeper into the issues. And when you get deeper, that’s when you start to get emotional. And I think that’s good, because that’s how you know you’re getting to the good stuff. It makes people want to work harder to work together.”

The summit also featured the panel discussion “Organizing for Political Change,” moderated by Sebastian Rey (LGBT Community Center of New Orleans) and featuring panelists Frank Perez (LGBT+ Archives of LA), Cherry Galette (National Performance Network), Dylan Waguespack (Equity Louisiana and Louisiana Progress) and Shaena Johnson (BreakOUT!).

“It’s been a really great experience so far. What I’ve gotten out of it is a sense of community and a sense of awareness,” said Ileana Ortiz, a New Orleans resident and Miami native who, among other things, works with the Innocence Project New Orleans’ Young Professionals Committee. “I didn’t realize there were so many amazing organizations throughout the state and so many amazing people that are doing really hard and necessary work.”

Some participants representing foundations and other organizations that raise funds for their LGBTQ work discussed the development of a pooled fund to support operations and strategic growth of LGBTQ organizations. The fund would help LGBTQ nonprofits and programs reach more people and strengthen their effectiveness by providing both funding and technical support.

The final day ended with poetry, reflections, a conversation about possible solutions and a capacity-building discussion.

We would like to express our gratitude to partners Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Greater New Orleans Foundation for their support in planning the summit. The summit was produced in part thanks to a $50,000 grant from Funders for LGBTQ Issues, whose Out in the South initiative seeks to build up local LGBTQ funds as sustainable sources of locally rooted LGBTQ funding, and strengthen the capacity of local community organizations making a positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ Southerners. Read more here.

Watch the video from summit: