Immigration Reform Takes Center Stage at Creating Change Conference

In January, I flew to Atlanta to attend the National Conference on LGBT Equality, Creating Change. More than 3,400 people from all over the country attended the 25th edition of the five-day annual conference that featured over 300 workshops, training sessions, meetings, and events.

The topic of comprehensive immigration reform took center stage with keynote speaker Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, sharing his experience as a gay undocumented immigrant. Vargas founded Define American after he “came out” as undocumented in the New York Times Magazine article “My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant”. As Vargas noted in the keynote, he was not the first to do so and many brave people have been speaking up and demanding new policies.

You can access this keynote and the panel he moderated, featuring other LGBTQ immigrant rights activists, as well as all of the keynote and plenary addresses on the Task Force’s YouTube Channel.

I was thrilled by the opportunity to listen to great speakers and participate in discussions about how the LGBTQ movements could integrate immigration reform into their work and priorities. For many of us who are queer and come from immigrant families, it is an exciting time to be active—to see how the varying worlds we navigate are now working together for a shared vision. As President Obama recently said, “The time is now for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Other key highlights included:

  • “The Fear of a Brown Planet”: a discussion hosted by ChangeLab about the growing and soon to be majority population of people of color in the United States. I learned a lot about the continued rise of the Tea Party and white supremacy movements, and how their ‘fear of a brown planet’ impact progressive movements, candidate elections and issue campaigns including the campaigns for comprehensive immigration reform.
  • I was excited to learn that Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) announced its formation at the conference. MASGD’s mission  is to support, empower, and connect LGBTQ Muslims and to challenge root causes of oppression, including misogyny and xenophobia. The new group aims to increase the acceptance of gender and sexual diversity within Muslim communities, and to promote a progressive understanding of Islam that is centered on inclusion, justice, and equality.

And of course, another highlight is simply being able to meet other activists and leaders across the country. Who are my favorite leaders? Pride Foundation Scholars! I am continually amazed at how I can land at national conferences and will inevitably meet a Pride Foundation Scholar or former scholar (like Oregon Scholar Jenny Lor pictured above). This has happened to me twice—last year in Minneapolis, MN and this year in Atlanta, GA!

See you soon, Atlanta! I’ll be back for more Chicken & Waffles.

UR-WWA-Blog-Uma-RyanLi-JordanShout Out: My colleagues at the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) were invited to present a day-long institute on grassroots fundraising. As a member of their Trainers Network, I got invited to join them! This is the first time the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force invited GIFT to present at Creating Change, and we were nervous. But of course, we rocked it! Here I am with my colleagues Ryan Li Dahsltrom, Movement Building Director at GIFT, and Jordan Garcia, a GIFT board member and a fellow trainer after our training.

Uma Rao is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Western Washington. Email Uma.

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