Building Momentum in Juneau

In September, Pride Foundation joined with local Juneau LGBTQ groups to convene a town hall. This was the third in a series of town halls held across Alaska to engage the community in a discussion about the future of the statewide LGBTQ movement. Juneau is a geographically isolated capital city with a population of 32,000. It is only accessible by air or sea, so physically connecting this forward-thinking community to the statewide movement is exciting.

Devyn Reece, an emerging leader and recent transplant to Juneau from Colorado, has been active as a volunteer with the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association (Four A’s) and the local chapter of the Imperial Court of All Alaska. Wanting to connect with other groups and build a powerful community-wide movement has been a goal of his, especially when it comes to addressing bullying in the local schools.

“The town hall was an opportunity for all our organizations to get on the same page,” says Devyn. “In doing so we made new connections, refreshed old friendships, and laid out a plan for a year worth of improvement.”

Bronze Ickes, a volunteer with the Southeast Alaska Gay & Lesbian Alliance, felt a desire to connect the experience and history of long-standing Juneau LGBTQ organizations with the energy of emerging leaders. Despite the momentum in Juneau, there are still some very real challenges with being a college town and capital city.

“The young people’s energy is excellent and encouraging. My primary concern, however, is that the GSAs normally struggle because most college students do not live here in Juneau,” Bronze reflected. “I was very excited to hear that they want to have a block party this summer for pride month and they want to be in the Independence Day parade.”

Long-time Pride Foundation supporters and volunteers, Boo Torres and Joanne Alcantara, were also present. Formerly from Seattle, Boo and Joanne fell in love with Juneau over three years ago, and have been looking for opportunities to connect their family with the broader Juneau LGBTQ family.

“I was glad to come to the town hall and see different parts of the Juneau LGBTQ community gathered together,” stated Joanne. “It helped me get a better sense of who is part of our community here and what might be possible in the future.”

While the format of this meeting was different from those held in Anchorage and Fairbanks, the energy in the room was the same: positive and forward-thinking. New and veteran activists, young and experienced community members identified successful moments from the past year, and developed four focus areas to organize around: events, marketing, youth/community education, and public policy advocacy.

To keep the momentum of collaboration, the event participants decided to enhance public communication about upcoming events and issues with a new Facebook page, Southeast Alaska LGBTQ Connections.

This town hall mostly focused on local efforts, but these efforts have contributed to the success of Alaska’s statewide LGBTQ movement. The strong relationships and community coalitions being built in Juneau will enhance our future efforts together.

Josh Hemsath is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Alaska. Email Josh.

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