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BOLD Gathering - nation's largest gathering of LGBT people of color - aims to increase political power

News release from BOLD Gathering:

Focus is on Base Building, Best Practices and Effectively Directing Culturally Sensitive Advocacy and Services Across Overlapping Identities and Issues

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (December 2, 2011) - For the first time in the history of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) political movement, ethnic members of the community are joining forces on a national scale to build political power and change the course of the LGBT movement.  Invited are over 180 representatives from over 80 people of color (POC) led community based organizations that work in empowering POC LGBT constituencies. They are coming together from diverse regions across the United States.  Leaders are gathering from the west, California and Washington State, and east coasts, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and also from the southwest, Texas, and the northeast states of Minneapolis and Michigan among others. 

Hosting the gathering are eight LGBTQ Funders as part of a Racial Equity Initiative launched to create healthy grant making institutions that embody fairness and inclusiveness and support the leadership of LGBTQ people of color and their organizations. When the initiative was launched in 2008, there were over $100 million in annual grant awards to LGBT agencies, but only 12% were awarded to LGBT POC organizations.  And only about 20% of all LGBTQ funders supported LGBTQ people of color projects. Yet, combined, people of color communities make up a majority of the population in the United States and each includes a proportion of LGBT identified people, as do other communities.  People of color communities including those from African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American/Two-Spirit and others also tend to experience more conservative attitudes about sexuality and concurrently have the highest incidences of economic, health and educational disparities. 
At a time when the national and statewide LGBT organizations are focused on winning state and federal  marriage equality, POC LGBT organizations are working within the intersection of their LGBT and ethnic identities and challenging their own ethnic communities to win basic acknowledgement and acceptance.  "In California, we have worked on marriage equality and would again if necessary. However, working on marriage equality in our Latino communities seems illogical when our LGBT community has not sufficiently done the advocacy and support work for family acceptance" declared Ari Gutiérrez, co-founder of Honor PAC and the Latino Equality Alliance. "Our learned lesson is that it's our own leaders of color who  best succeed in establishing and activating the networks necessary to create community-wide cultural change" she added.

Likewise, “In our Native American culture, our traditions take precedence in how we approach our two-spirit work, but we find that funders often do not understand our work and that the granting process in many ways are at odds with our cultural approach," explained Harlan Pruden, Co-Founder of the NorthEast Two Spirit Society based in New York City and member of the Cree Nation.  "As our two-spirit communities struggle to fund our organizations -- we operate as a minority group within a minority group making empowering our two-spirit community very difficult."

A project of the Racial Equity Initiative, the national gathering will be held in Minneapolis, MN December 2 - 4, 2011.  The PFund Foundation, based in Minneapolis, along with the Astraea Foundation, based in New York, are the lead agencies working with the national planning committee of LGBT POC leaders to develop programming for the gathering.  "Our focus is in creating an opportunity for the leaders of People of Color LGBT organizations across the nation to know and learn from each other and also to provide an opportunity for our foundation peers to better understand the LGBT movement from the perspective of LGBT POC organizations," explained Alfonso Wenker of the PFund Foundation.

An array of speakers representative of the LGBT POC community are slated to participate in the gathering including Kenyon Farrow, Malachi Larrabee-Garza, Miss Major and Sharon Day, each delivering a rich and complex cultural history of activism, organizational leadership and insight on social movements.  "This is our Movement Moment -- one that will be marked by communities of color becoming the majority in this country within the next two decades. As a result, we have an unprecedented opportunity to move the movement towards justice and full inclusiveness. Why? Because working towards justice, rather than just-us, has always been the legacy of queer and trans communities of color. In order to do so we need to build towards understanding one another's issues and working across communities to achieve collective power," stated Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz, an author and principal of Intersections/Intersecciones Consulting, a leading LGBT social justice consultant that is assisting in the development of the gathering.

Communities of color are often disproportionately affected by anti-LGBT policies.  For example, a Williams Institute (UCLA School of Law) analysis of US military discharge data suggests that, over time, ethnic women bore an increasingly large burden of the military’s "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  In a front-page New York Times story published in January, Gary Gates, a demographer and distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute observed, “Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children...They are also more likely than their white counterparts to be struggling economically.”  He goes on to explain that, “A large number of gay couples, possibly a majority, entered into their current relationship after first having children with partners in heterosexual relationships.”  As a result, many same-sex couples with children are living in communities with little, if any, LGBT support and programming.  In fact, recently released data from Census 2010 shows that same-sex couples raising children are more common in socially conservative areas of the country like the South and Southwest that include large communities of color.

The conveners believe that increasingly the success of the LGBT movement itself will rely on the success of its work within communities of color.  "At some point, the large LGBT organizations, their funders and ally supporters need to change their culture and approach and instead work in tandem with our LGBT POC organizations.  It’s important they understand that work in LGBT POC communities is actually the key to winning equality, including marriage equality," stated Gregory Walker, Managing Director of the Philadelphia based The Brothers’ Network.  "Our collective work in POC communities would go far in improving the lives of LGBT Americans but it takes winning support of our ethnic families and communities and we need the help of an inclusive and culturally sensitive LGBT movement," she added.

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The BOLD Gathering is a Queer* & Trans People of Color Gathering to Support our Liberation and Self-Determinationis an invitation only gathering designed by and for LGBT POC representatives and sponsored by the eight primary funders for LGBT issues. For more information and to support the effort please visit www.BOLDgathering.org.  

*Queer is used as a term of self-empowerment and is not indented to offend or deter from the right to self-identity of LGBT individuals.

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