Alaska Pride Conference: Living, Working, and Playing Wherever You Are

More than two decades ago, Pride Foundation awarded its first grant in Alaska in support of Pride Conference, an annual conference put on by the Alaskan organization Identity. Since that first grant, the conference and Pride Foundation have each grown in scale and scope, and both continue to serve the LGBTQ community of The Last Frontier.

This year’s conference: Live. Work. Play: Reshaping Our State of Pride was held on Saturday, October 12.

Each year, the Pride Conference brings together LGBTQ and allied leaders from across Alaska to create a welcoming educational environment with informational workshops and networking opportunities. With the support of three dedicated volunteers (Katy Hogan, Marlene Vail, and Kara Casanova), Pride Foundation was able to participate in the full-day of workshops and plenary sessions focused on improving the ways in which LGBTQ and allied Alaskans “live, work, and play.”

There were many highlights from the 2013 conference. The keynote presentations were given by Andrew Halcro, President of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, and Justin Nelson, founder of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Both speakers emphasized how equality for all, including LGBTQ people, is good for business and how commerce benefits from more open participation of diverse suppliers and consumers. Justin later keynoted an Anchorage Chamber event, which was covered by statewide media and broadcast on Alaska public radio stations.

Pride Foundation Board Member Kathy Reim, in her capacity as PFLAG’s Pacific Northwest Regional Director, also presented a workshop at the conference targeted to area PFLAG chapters. Kathy’s session provided hands-on tools for engaging in sensitive conversations about LGBTQ issues and responding to hurtful comments.

For a conference that has been ongoing for nearly 20 years, participants said that the 2013 event felt markedly different. Many pointed to the significance of having the head of the local Chamber of Commerce open the conference. Mr. Halcro’s presence signaled a level of engagement and interest by the mainstream business and civic communities that hasn’t been experienced before.

As a result of the Anchorage Chamber’s involvement with Pride Conference and the Anchorage LGBTQ community, a new business diversity initiative was launched. “One Anchorage, One Economy” hopes to support nondiscrimination in the workplace and build a bridge between the LGBTQ community and the larger business community. Wells Fargo and BP have already signed on in support of this effort.

The initiative is just one aspect of a broader quality of life campaign being led by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. Known as “Live.Work.Play.” the AEDC campaign aspires to make Anchorage the number one city in America to live in, work in, and play in by 2025. That includes making the city more welcoming to and supportive of the LGBTQ community.

Pride Foundation is excited to be a part of this cross-sector collaboration and eager to continue to support Identity, the Pride Conference, and so much great work happening in Alaska.

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

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