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Moving Toward Collective Liberation: Reflections and Next Steps

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On Tuesday night, over 300 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people and our allies packed into the Stewart Auditorium of the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center for a night of spoken word, music, and mobilization. This special gathering was made possible because of the active collaboration we enjoy with A Queer Endeavor and generous funding from the Twisted Foundation.

Our powerhouse line up of performers and speakers who joined us kept the space full of radical hope and honesty. You can click on each name for more information about their life-changing work. 

Dr., Krishna Pattisapu of I Have A Dream Foundation held the space by emceeing an evening that included: Phoenix, Colorado’s Trans Community Choir, Mosaic Gospel Choir, Drs. Bethy Leonardi and Sara Staley of A Queer Endeavor, Andrea Gibson, Daniel Ramos of One Colorado, Dr. Glenda Russell, Juan Gallegos of Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, David Brena of Out Boulder County, Jean Hodges of PFLAG, Hugo Juarez-Luna of Motus Theater, and Sound Circle.

For those of you unable to attend the event we have collected some of the speeches in writing and they can be found on our blog. Additionally, we are in the process of capturing the 5 action steps that each community partner (there were 24) who tabled has prepared so we can move further into mobilization. Please look to next week’s newsletter for all the ways you can mobilize in our community.

 

Below are the collected speeches of our collaborators. Thank you for your wonderful words.

Dr. Sara Staley and Dr. Bethy Leonardi, A Queer Endeavor Co-founders

Welcome (Both)

Thank you so much for being here. I’m Bethy Leonardi and I’m Sara Staley and, as Krishna said, we lead an initiative called AQE, which is housed in the SoE at CU Boulder. We are so grateful to be here this evening in partnership with OBC and all of the other organizations who have joined us. We are consistently reminded how critical it is to resist single-issue politics and to collaborate and build partnerships that work within and across movements for social justice.

We want to thank Out Boulder County for its leadership and partnership in this event and also, The Twisted Foundation, for its generous sponsorship of the evening.

Why We’re Here (Sara)

Tonight, we gather in the spirit of connection, solidarity, and collective liberation. And, truth be told, we could think of no better way to begin mending our wounded hearts than by organizing a space for coming together and taking comfort in the healing energy of community. Rumi said, “The wound is the place where Light enters you.” Tonight, together, we want to cultivate that light.

We organized this evening because we believe in the power of community—and because we know that now, more than ever, we need to show up for and with one another. Thank you for taking a step toward responding to that need by being present tonight.

This November has challenged us with uncertainty, fear, worry, and desperation. The election has weighed heavily on our hearts, and it’s important that we feel those emotions and grieve. But we want to take care to name that the emotional burden is not equally distributed. Some members of our community are bearing a much heavier burden because of the powerful ways in which identity and privilege shape our experiences in the world. It’s always been that way, but now, the edges of that reality feel sharper.

So, what to do? We’re all a little curious about what the future holds, where we can look for signs of hope, how we can tap into the strong, energetic community of Boulder County, and how to find ways to always move forward-- toward this idea of ‘collective liberation.’ One thing we know to be true is this: In the face of darkness, we must not retreat. So, tonight, we extend an invitation to embody the ways in which November has also challenged us to act. Yes. This is a call to action.

Radical Hope (Bethy)

In thinking about how to frame this evening, there was something that we wanted to name--  in this idea of sharing information, engaging hope, and mobilizing, but we didn’t know quite what to call it. And then we read a piece by Junot Diaz-- and if you don’t know him, he’s an amazing author and also on the board of Freedom University, which is a volunteer-driven organization that provides college-level instruction to all academically qualified students regardless of their immigration status; it’s in Atlanta.

In response to the recent election results, Diaz puzzles with this question of ‘what now’? And I think that we’re all wondering that and that’s why we’re here tonight, to figure that out together, as Sara said. Diaz talks about the importance of “connecting courageously” with the rejection and fear and vulnerability that this election may bring up for us, and also says that we can’t  turn away or numb ourselves or lapse into cynicism.

He says that we need to organize, and form solidarities, and to fight-- “to be heard, and safe, and free.” But then he also says that “all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope.” Diaz explains it like this. He writes,

What I’m trying to cultivate is not blind optimism but what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. ‘What makes this hope radical...is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.’ Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as ‘imaginative excellence.’ Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence.

He ends by saying that he believes that “[radical hope] will help us create a better, more loving future.”

So, tonight, we’re here to sip in some radical hope. You’ll hear from several leaders and artists  in our community and in their messages, you’ll hear places where radical hope is possible. So, what we’re asking of you tonight is that you listen, with your head and heart, and that feel your way into how radical hope can look in your life, what you can do, how you can take action, and also what supports and love you need to take those steps.

 

David Breña, Out Boulder County Intern

Hello everyone, my name is David Breña and I am a queer, transgender, immigrant from Peru. I moved to the U.S. 12 years ago and since then I have lived in immigrant communities the majority of this time. I have been an out and proud, queer advocate for the last decade. And about 2 and a half years ago, I came out as a transgender man, which has given me peace of mind but also has brought many challenges.

The result of this last presidential election was very painful to me because as an immigrant and as a transgender person, it felt very isolating and oppressive. It is painful to know that people around us voted for a president who has promised to deport our families and friends, and for a vice-president who believes in conversion therapy, who would probably deny me the right to go to the bathroom of the gender that I identify with and that I would feel safe in. The day after the election I learned that the executive order that makes it possible for transgender people to change our gender markers in our social security cards and passports could be gone after Trump gets into office. After hearing this news I rushed to change my name and gender marker but I am not sure if I’ll have my documents ready before January. If I can’t have documentation that shows my name and gender marker, how could I find a job in the future or housing? It is doable but it just makes life harder when we already face barriers and discrimination. It adds a burden that people who are not transgender don’t have to face.

Another fear that I have as a result of the elections is losing the protections that have been granted to transgender people in the Affordable care Act as there are provisions that have made it possible for us to receive appropriate care, especially transition-related care. I recently met someone who told me that in the past he had been denied care because being transgender was seen as a pre-existing condition.

Although these are the fears that I have in regards to my gender identity, my biggest fear is that my friends and loved ones will lose legal status in this country, or face deportation. Or that in the next 4 years, folks in my community won’t have any legislation to help them gain legal status. I think my fears speak to how important it is that our communities  work together, because this is when we are most powerful, this is when we are most effective, when all of us marginalized people come together in action.

I don’t want to be an alarmist, we don’t know what is going to happen yet. But we have some indication based on the cabinet that our president-elect has chosen. I am not going to “wait and see what happens”, I will not be passive or complacent. I am going to get ready, and organize with others to fight for everything that so many before me have fought for. And I am ready to fight not just for transgender rights, but also for other marginalized communities who are rightfully scared, or furious.

If you are an ally, you can help us, first by not silencing our righteous anger. Because in so many spaces we have to fake that we are not angry or sad, and it’s exhausting. We can’t do that for “allies” as well. Second, as an ally you need to stand up for us as if your life depended on it, because OUR lives do depend on it. That means when you are called to act, you need to be there. You need to make calls to immigration offices to stop people’s deportations, you need to talk to your relatives about the realities that we face, you need to speak to your elected officials when we are advocating for policy changes, and if you are an elected official, you need to use your power to protect us regardless of the outcome of the next election, you need to make it clear that our identities will not prevent you from hiring us or housing us, you need to make spaces safe enough for us to be visible, and you need to stand with us when you are called to engage in civil disobedience.

Because as we have seen in this election, and in the last years, radicalism has been strong against us. We have had millions of deportations in the last 8 years, many states have tried to pass anti-transgender bills. This is just one more step of those who are against our communities to gain political power.  It’s time for us to also  be radicals for justice asl. We have to be bold, brave and precise. For those in these communities,in the transgender and immigrant community, I am here for you. I am here for you emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially. I am realistic about the potential outcomes of these political changes but I have hope. I have hope that our marginalized communities will do the work that we need to do to keep ourselves safe, that we will work together, in coalition, and that others who love us will also do this work to protect our civil rights.

 

Mardi Moore, Out Boulder County Executive Director

"My name is Mardi Moore. My personal pronouns are she, her and hers, and I am the executive director of Out Boulder County. And, in the words of one of my political heroes, Harvey Milk, 'I am here to recruit you!' 

I am here to recruit you to be an agent of change for Boulder County and the world. I am here to recruit you because so many important changes often start right here in our own community. I am here to recruit you to fight a battle that our community has not seen equaled in your lifetime. I know I’m not alone when I say that the reality of Donald Trump as president of the United States of America is literally frightening to me. The heartbreak, the dismay and the actual fear that I have heard from so many of you echoes my own feelings. Donald Trump’s political rhetoric, not to mention his roster of appointments and their direction, all stand in stark opposition to the values that we in Boulder so cherish. The results of our nation’s presidential election told us that equality and inclusion are no longer values we can count on to be prized by our country’s leaders.

Tonight, I am here to recruit you to stand strong with our trans community whose rights and privileges are now negotiable. Tonight, I am here to recruit you to stand with religious minorities, people of color and immigrants. Tonight, I am here to recruit you to stand up and speak out when you hear hateful, destructive rhetoric no matter where it is spoken.

Silence will not protect us. It never has. A month ago I would have said to you, 'If you think everything is fine in Boulder County for the LGBTQ community, sit in my chair for a day.' Now I say to you to: there is no time to sit in my chair. We must get out into the middle of our community, advocating for equal rights and public services. The needs of our community have doubled in two short weeks. Thankfully, the outpourings of support have nearly kept up.

Out Boulder County is well-positioned to affect real change, not only here in Boulder County but across the state of Colorado and the nation. But the time is now. And we need help. We must each ask ourselves – “What will I do to quell the fears of our community’s youth and at-risk populations. What will I do to move equality forward?

Let us not permit this new administration to be the only ones who set a national agenda for its first 100 days. We too must set an agenda for their first 100 days. Our agenda must be to increase contributions to the organizations that work toward equality. Our agenda must include volunteering to help support our local community groups.

Ask yourself what you can do – put a plan in place to run for office? Become active in your GSA? Sign up for the Youth Film Project and make a film that changes the world? Join a board or a commission? We have so much to do that it seems overwhelming. But our community has faced challenges as great. We’ve overcome them by working together. We take care of our own. We became famous for this in the 1980’s. And now, over 30 years later, we must do it again.

I’m going to close tonight by asking you to take increased care of yourself. Stay vigilant. Speak out in public but do so safely and not with inflammatory remarks. Cry with friends. Go to therapy. Take a self-defense course (we will offer one in the near future). Eat well. Get some rest. Do your studies. Ask for help. Smile when you see your reflection in the mirror. You are important and valued. Be Brave! Be Smart! Be you!

 

Speaker Bios

Here are the collected biographies of everyone who spoke, sang, or performed at the event. Please continue to build this intersectional community! Reach out to each other and find common causes and ways to offer your allyship, if you're from a group with privilege.

Phoenix, Colorado’s Trans Community Choir, is a fully collaborative intergenerational grassroots community who believes in the transformative potential of the arts for personal empowerment and societal change. Although many of its members are trans-identified, the choir is home for anyone who does not fit neatly into the gender binary, as well as all those touched by trans issues, including partners, parents, friends, and allies. Founded in Sept 2015 and based in Broomfield, we draw singers from all over the Front Range and perform frequently at community events. For more information, contact Sam.Bullington@colorado.edu or our Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/coloradotranschoir/

Mosaic Gospel Choir is an open community choir that focuses on songs with spiritual message or intent that range mostly in or near the African American Gospel tradition.  We meet on Wednesday nights from 7-8:30 during the school year at Wesley Chapel on the CU campus.  Our free final performance this semester will be on December 4 at 5pm at Wesley.

A Queer Endeavor: Housed in the CU-Boulder School of Education and led by Bethy Leonardi, PhD, and Sara Staley, PhD, A Queer Endeavor is an initiative focused on supporting teachers and school communities around topics of gender and sexual diversity. In partnership with educators and school communities, our goal is to move toward making unworkable the silence that historically has surrounded LGBTQ people and topics in education. We seek to contribute to the knowledgebase on affirming policies and practices in education, inform research and praxis, and engage in broad-based coalition building with a variety of community-based stakeholders. While our focus is on gender and sexual diversity, our commitments extend to issues of equity more broadly; we recognize that to work toward anti-oppression requires that we work along all lines of oppression, and we are committed to doing that work. aqueerendeavor.org

Daniel Ramos is the Executive Director at One Colorado. Before taking on this role, Daniel served as Deputy Director, Director of Safe & Inclusive Schools, as well as the Political and Organizing Director — managing our safe schools program and leading One Colorado’s work to mobilize, educate, and engage the LGBT community around important issues. Prior to joining One Colorado, Daniel served as an Organizer for the Stonewall Democrats’ “Elect-Equality” Initiative. As an Organizer in Palm Springs, CA, Daniel worked to execute an aggressive field plan to recruit, train, and manage volunteers to facilitate voter engagement. Throughout Daniel’s college career, he was involved in many local, state, and national organizations. After years of involvement in the University of Colorado Student Government, Daniel was elected as a Student Body President in 2009. During his term, he advocated for many diversity and sustainability initiatives, including a program that established CU-Boulder as the First Zero-Waste Student Government in the United States. Also during college, Daniel was active in the Associated Students of Colorado and the United States Student Association, organizations that advocate for access and affordability in higher education. Serving on USSA’s National Board of Directors and Executive Board, Daniel worked as a Regional and National Outreach Officer to develop outreach plans to build membership across the country. Recognizing barriers that exist in higher education, Daniel educated and mobilized students in Colorado around issues like Student Aid Reform and the DREAM Act.

Andrea Gibson is not gentle with their truths. It is this raw fearlessness that has led them to the forefront of the spoken word movement– the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam —Gibson has headlined prestigious performance venues coast to coast with powerful readings on war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality. Andrea’s work has been featured on the BBC, Air America, C-SPAN, Free Speech TV and in 2010 was read by a state representative in lieu of morning prayer at the Utah State Legislature. andreagibson.org

Glenda Russell is a psychologist who has been working on research on resistance and resilience in the face of noxious political events since 1992.

Juan Gallegos, Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition: Juan Gallegos immigrated to the United States on the fourth of July 2001, when he was 12 years old. He Attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney, pursuing a Bachelors of Art-Multimedia, a minor in Visual Communications and Design, and a minor in Spanish. In 2009, Juan started volunteering with immigrant rights organizations and more specifically in support of the DREAM Act. In 2010, Juan came out publicly as undocumented in an interview with local television. Juan has helped to organize students in the state of Nebraska and on a national level with the United We Dream network. As founding member of the Nebraska DREAM Alliance, an immigrant youth organization, Juan was able to help win state legislative battles in Nebraska, including the right for DACA youth to obtain a driver license. After college he started working on creating a local organization that would address the needs of a diverse community in his hometown of Hastings, Nebraska. Juan has always felt the need to help others in whatever capacity he can specifically in the immigrant rights field. From 2012 to 2015, Juan worked as the Communications Coordinator for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition where his work was published regularly in different outlets throughout the state including the Denver Post, and at the federal level on Congressional Record. More recently Juan moved to Nebraska to fight his dad’s deportation and to engage Latinos in the political process. He worked as a Paralegal at a private law firm and continued to publish his voice and opinion in state and local news outlets. In 2016, Juan returned to Colorado and to CIRC as the Civic Engagement Coordinator. http://coloradoimmigrant.org/

David Claudio Brena is a queer Peruvian, immigrant and a Master of Social Work student at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Since his college years, David has been dedicated to LGBTQIA+ and immigrant rights. In 2008, David became an intern at Equality California where he advocated for marriage equality, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). He also worked at The LGBT Center in Orange County where he facilitated LGBTQIA+ youth support groups. As part of DeColores Queer Orange County, he organized a forum about the impact of the fall of DOMA on LGBTQIA+ immigrants as well as asylum and detention issues for transgender immigrants. In addition, David organized citizenship workshops and taught citizenship classes in order to support hundreds of working-class immigrants in becoming citizens and voters in his role as Citizenship Program Coordinator at OCCORD (Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development). David has lived in Colorado for almost two years and is currently an intern at Out Boulder County where he is organizing and facilitating LGBTQIA+ Latinx groups. David looks forward to getting more involved and engaged in intersectional organizing by meeting more advocates in the area.

Jean Hodges: PFLAG is Jean's passion ever since she retired from high school teaching and theatre directing. She and her husband helped to co-found PFLAG Boulder, Colorado, where she served as president for 14 years. Continuing her commitment to education, she co-founded the Boulder Safe Schools Coalition in l998 and in 2010 produced the film, "Faces and Facets of Transgender Experience" to break down stereotypes and support families with gender variant children. She has served as chair of the Colorado Coalition of PFLAG Chapters, Mountain West Regional Director, and was chair of the Regional Directors' Council, a National Board member and is currently National PFLAG President. Jean has led workshops and made presentations in schools, faith communities and parent groups in local, regional and national settings. She and her husband Jack traveled extensively until he died in September, 2014. Her three children live nearby and offer great support.

Mardi Moore: Executive Director of Out Boulder County since October 2013. Mardi’s work is making a difference in the community and this year received the PFLAG Boulder GLBT activist of the year award, The CO GLBT Center’s Trans Ally of the Year Award and Boulder County AIDS Project Local Legend Award.

The women of Sound Circle, an 18-voice a cappella women’s vocal ensemble, have come together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation to create performances that speak to the hearts and souls of the individuals in our audiences. Many of the singers are lesbians, which informs our messages and outreach. We sing music that speaks of our experience of the world. We care about authenticity and relevance. Our awareness of the healing power of ensemble singing influences our choice of repertoire and our sound quality. Most of our music is contemporary, and much of it is created by women. In our commissioning and creating of new music, we aspire to be refreshing, exploratory, and true to ourselves. We value our role in the fabric of social awareness and activism in our community. Sound Circle was founded in 1994 and is directed by Sue Coffee.

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