NOVEMBER 7, 2003
 8:10 PM
CONTACT:  National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Newsroom: 323-857-8751
16th Annual Creating Change Conference Kicks Off in Miami
  WASHINGTON - November 7 - The nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist and allies conference opened its doors in Miami on Wednesday, November 5, 2003 for two days of pre-conference intensive day long-trainings. Creating Change continues on Friday, November 7 with the continuation of last year's conference theme, 'Building an Anti-Racist Movement for Social and Economic Justice' with 15 separate day-long sessions of the "Skills Academy For Leadership and Action." Saturday and Sunday will feature nearly one hundred workshop sessions on a variety of topics including: Aging; Anti-Violence; Bisexuality; Campus Issues; Elections and Campaigns; Gender Identity; Health; Legal; Military; Media; People of Color, Transgender and Youth Issues; and, Spirituality and Faith. The 16th annual Creating Change conference attracts more than 2,000 attendees from across the country.

"I hope as a city we influence the politics on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues to a higher level...including influencing the politics of the county and state," Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer said in welcoming the conference to Miami during Thursday evening's opening reception. "One day there will be no issues of discrimination in any city."

"We have to remain vigilant," said Dade County Commissioner Jimmy Morales later in the plenary. "With you guys (the Task Force) down here in Miami, we can continue to build our momentum and bring the rest of the state with us into the 21st century."

Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman then announced the winners of the $10,000 Anderson Prize Foundation Creating Change Awards, which this year went to Newark, NJ activist LaQuetta Nelson of the Newark Pride Alliance and San Francisco activist Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

"My heart is saddened because of how I got here," Nelson said. "I am here because a young 15-year old lesbian had the courage to do something I didn't have the courage to do as a child. Look what price Sakia Gunn paid for me to be here today... no child should have to fear losing their life walking down the street. No child&for African-American LGBT people, it is hard. I challenge every one of you who are in the white LGBT community, I challenge you to challenge yourselves to do better in the area of race relations."

"I am incredibly grateful to the Task Force and to the Anderson family for this honor," Minter said. "As a transgender man working for a lesbian organization, I am proud to accept this award as a testament to the many other transgender activists and allies who have labored for years to build bridges between the gay and transgender communities. I am especially honored to be selected by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which has long stood as a beacon of uncompromising support and acceptance for transgender people."

Democratic Senator Jarrett Barrios of Massachusetts set the stage for the day-long Skills Academy for Leadership and Action during this morning's opening plenary session, saying, "Why is it important that it not just be about LGBT issues? We in this room understand in our bones it isn't just about our equality. It's not just us too, but you too when we talk about whatever issues affect us. The challenge will always be, must be, you too. Not just LGBT folks, but all of us."

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman spoke of the forces of the religious and political Right mobilizing an anti-LGBT backlash the likes of which we've never seen. "Using the threat of 'gay marriage' they are raising millions of dollars and launching an unprecedented, coordinated campaign to dehumanize, demonize and defame us," Foreman said. "This is about much more than denying equal rights for LGBT people. Just as they have exploited choice, race, immigrants and poor women (to name only a few) in the past, they will use LGBT people as a wedge issue in the 2004 elections to divide America and insure that they - a distinct minority - stay in power."

Creating Change attendees will participate in an intensive and all-new training and skills-building component at Creating Change this year. "The Creating Change Skills Academy for Leadership and Action" Friday curriculum was designed to meet the needs of activists and organizers working at the local and state level build a stronger and more powerful political force for social and economic justice. Experts and leaders from the LGBT movement and from allied movements for social change will teach the Skills Academy sessions.

Upcoming Creating Change events:

Saturday, November 8:

- Nearly one hundred workshop sessions on a variety of topics.

- Plenary session: "Relationship and Family Recognition; Why We Need It and How We're Going to Get It" featuring: Democratic Representative Evelyn Mantilla from Connecticut, Juan Battle; Joyce Pierson and Evan Wolfson.

- LGBT Film Series

Sunday, November 9:

- Workshops continue

- Closing Plenary session: "2004 Presidential Election: Working With Allies to Win" featuring Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida; Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State; and, Connie Watts, Director of Field Operations for Planned Parenthood Federation of America