Creating Change 2013 · Uncategorized

House Balls: Keeping LGBT community health in vogue

DMT headshot2
Daniella Matthews-Trigg
Program Associate
Highlights of Creating Change: Ballroom 101!

Last year, The Network tabled at Creating Change, and while that provided a really great opportunity for me to talk to almost every person who attended the conference, I didn’t have much of a chance to attend sessions. This year, our tactic was different, and I found myself pouring over the conference book, completely overwhelmed by the diversity of sessions, and the fact that every single session I REALLY wanted to attend was at the exact same time as every OTHER session I REALLY wanted to attend.

Photo from Skillz Ball 2012 (photo credits go to The Rainbow Times)

“Ballroom 101: Calling All the Children to School” was one of the sessions that I instantly circled in my booklet. And then set like, three alarm reminders in my phone so I wouldn’t miss it. Since watching Paris is Burning a few years ago, I have been completely fascinated by Ballroom culture and it’s role in queer communities of color. Last July, the LifeSkills team at Fenway Health hosted a ball as a community outreach event to spread awareness about their study (for young trans women), other studies at Fenway, and the health services available at Fenway. The event was a HUGE success!

Commonly called “Drag Balls”, balls are competitive dance and performance events based on categories that highlight the talents, creativity, skills and attributes of participants.

Bursting into public consciousness between 1989 and 1991, the culture of drag balls and voguing can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century. Harlem’s Hamilton Lodge staged its first queer masquerade ball in 1869, and some 20 years later a medical student stumbled into another ball that was taking place in Walhalla Hall on the Lower East Side. He witnessed 500 same-sex male and female couples ‘waltzing sedately to the music of a good band’.

Balls however, are much more than just “events”. Balls represent cultural pride within queer communities of color. Balls are organized and hosted by the heads of “houses”, which are chosen-family kinship networks that provide both community (in the form of safety, stability, and sometimes housing) and mentorship to community members (and especially youth), not only for the balls, but for life as a queer person.

Legendary Rico Allure, Realness with a Twist, from

The Ballroom 101 session at Creating Change focused largely on the use of Balls to facilitate conversations about safer sex and HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s and early 90’s. I kept thinking about Lifeskills’ Skillz Ball and what an innovative throwback to public health outreach techniques used during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Outreach at Balls, which by definition are attended by traditionally disenfranchised and high risk communities, is the perfect opportunity for community engagement in public health campaigns.

While outreach at Balls has often been about sexual health and HIV (which is greatly needed and so, so important!), the expansion into other areas of health as well, such as tobacco use in LGBT communities, and healthcare access for those without insurance, could be seamlessly incorporated.

So much of creating healthy individuals and communities is about empowerment, and Balls, which have always represented safe spaces, free expression, acceptance, and creativity, are ideal opportunities for public health outreach and targeted health campaigns!


If you have not yet seen Paris is Burning, you can watch the full film here: (andddd you should get on that right away.)

Check out LifeSkills on facebook!

For more information on Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of NYC 1989-92 and Harlem’s Drag Ball History

Creating Change 2013 · Uncategorized

“Speaking for Ourselves” My Experience at Creating Change

alex picBy Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
Closing Thoughts on Creating Change

What a week it has been since I ventured on a trip to Atlanta for the very first time in my life. Creating Change definitely left me richer in knowledge and friendships; met amazing individuals, and network with fantastic opportunities around the country. Here are some of my feelings I encounter during my stay.

Undocumented Immigrant rights Activist representing different states and organizations

Successful Inspiration

I could start with the tremendous success of the first latino institute at the conference and the impact it made  all weekend long. A full room with over 130 participants of diverse latino communities across the country and the borders, filled the chairs with powerful ideas and voices.Our energy didn’t need translation since language was not a barrier but a beautiful melody played throughout the rooms; always understood & never neglected. Our traditions and medicine were not a coincidence that Thursday.

I was empowered to connected with undocumented youth from the south and learn on how they would like to see our LGBTQ Latino community more engaged and supportive. All of the  workshops that I attended, the topics of Immigration, Family, Spirituality, LGBTQ Youth Services, Health Disparities and Activism in rural areas definitely made an impact on my ways of thinking.
it was powerful enough to see familiar faces that recognized me and pushed me to attend different workshops, including grant writing and “fun-raising” strategies.


Keeping it real, one of my barriers to attend the conference was the lack of money. I felt that it wasn’t as “Community Inviting” as I thought it would be. Meaning that Low-Income Queer people of Color should be aware of these tools and have some representation at this Conference. If it wasn’t for my noisy and curious self, and the part that I helped organize the Latino Institute and blogging here right now, the thought of paying hundreds of dollars to come here, wouldn’t have made me that interested to come at all.

Closing the conference

The Closing Plenary was something I was most enthralled to witness. One of the things we always fight in youth services, advocacy, or even within the Immigrant Youth Movement, is the so called “Linear Representation” that many LGBT organizations have fantasized, particular with DREAMers (political term for Undocumented Youth).

The good moral character, the big non-profit organization with a name and a budget versus the grass-roots organizers, the ones fighting deportations, or even struggling to come to this spaces to represent themselves due to the lack of funding.

Listening to Jose Antonio Vargas, Sousa-Rodriguez, Paulina Helm-Hernandez and Viridiana Martinez represent various organizations and types of work was something much need to decolonize within the concept of a “DREAMers”.

When Jose called out Fredy’s name, and to see him rise in front of the hundreds of people present at the plenary, was indeed the most rewarding feelings. Weeks before the conference I outreached to Fredy because I believe in community engagement. He needed the help to get an attorney, and I was excited to see him being approached by some folks and hopefully to get good representation. He needs that ankle-bracelet monitor out of the way.

Most importantly, it was much need to have a gender-balanced conversation: the Women at the plenary sure did know how to step it up! From listening to Paulina contradicting Vargas on the terms of defining our identities (Americans) to actually acknowledging the fact that we don’t need to sell our indigenous roots nor cultures of origin to be part of society, to my favorite moment when Viridiana and Sousa debated  ceremoniously on a battle of words with the Term “Illegal vs. Undocumented”

Although I’m always “educating” with the “undocumented shield” ,to Correct a woman from their personal perspective and opinion, is something I grew up with in my culture. Something we still see everyday, and as queer privileged males, we need to step back and honor those spaces and check ourselves.

“Living in the south people don’t know what Undocumented means, we need to take it back on own it, and stand up to what they’re familiar with, stand up, organize and show that we are no longer afraid. Yes I’m an “Illegal”, and I breath, and I bleed, and I’m as much human being as you are”. Martinez finished the interruption, challenging the other panelists and the audience by an outstanding ovation.

Many of the advocates forget about this principle. We called ourselves the leaders right… But are we really making leaders? It is our obligation to invite those who are not as involved or visible. Those who haven’t had the experience. We don’t need to take up space  if we lack the ability to inspire new minds in the struggle.

I see brave bloggers and queer advocates, but I also see courageous women stopping deportations, challenging our culture and creating safe spaces all across the country, making art, making chants, organizing campaigns nationwide.

Borrowing shamelessly what Angela Davis resonates every time I hear her speak from poet June Jordan :

“We are the ones we have been waiting for”.

So let’s not wait for our big organizations to speak for us and decide our messaging on what’s to come for this Immigration Reform circus. Take a stand, challenge your own consciousness, the time is now. Dehumanizing deportations and separation of families continue to happen every day. Are they less worthy than us?

Creating Change 2013 · Uncategorized

Setting the tone: Crafting an Agenda for the Black LGBT Community.

Trevoi pic
    Trevoi Crump
   Guest Blogger 
   Setting the tone: Crafting an Agenda for the Black LGBT Community.

Ha, so you’re probably thinking, did he attend any other workshop where NBJC was not present? Yes! Yes, I did. However, NBJC and there resources were most beneficial to a lot of questions that I had upon arriving at Creating Change. Once again, this workshop was powerful, and also a little heated. I noticed during this presentation that when you place too many authoritive figures on a panel, things could either go well or things go go relatively bad. I believe during this particular presentation it was combination of both. Serving on the panel were many different people from different arenas of life such as: Earl Fowlkes, Jr – Center for Black Equity, Aisha Moodie-Mills – Center for American Progress, Stacy Long – National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Kylar Broadus – Trans People of Color Coalition and Curtis Lipscomb – Executive Director, KICK – The Agency for LGBT African Americans.

Many issues were discussed in the workshop, one that stuck out was how do we get better resources for the Black LGBT community, that are effective, so that we’re including the entire community. I learned that it will take work within ourselves before this can be accomplished. We continue to marginalize those issues in the Black Gay Community, that we don’t find to be important. And then we question why we don’t have accurate or up to date data. We as a community, need to produce more national surveys based around the Black LGBT community. Nonetheless, talking about these ideas is one thing. We need to identify exactly how to bridge the gap between not saying how we will achieve it, but actually achieving it! We must understand that many things that happen in our communities start with us! The question was posed “What is at stake if the Black LGBT community can’t seem to get our wealth together?” It was stated very simple. We as a race, won’t be here! It falls back to the power that consumes money and people. We have the peoople, but wheres the money. The Black LGBT community, has an extreme issue with complaining about the affects of what happens in our community. But we never donate to support each other, we can go out and pay $.475 for lattes or $40,000 for a car knowing we can’t afford it… but won’t set aside $20 to help build up resources for our community! Earl Fowlkes stated “We can’t continue to lift up one community. We have to lift everyone up, we are our brothers keeper.”

Creating Change 2013 · Uncategorized

“Home-Queer-Home” Rural Organizing

alex picBy Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
Recap on Saturday’s SONG Rural Organizing workshop

A wrong turn down the second floor, in the hopes I could find the nearest wash room, and listening to the  echoes of vivid voices  on this particular room,, made me forget about my personal deeds in the toilet to what I thought would be one of the most relevant  and charming workshops on Saturday afternoon at the conference.

It took me a minute to sit down near the exit (in case I had to go really bad) to blend it with the topic under discussion. I had actually bookmarked the workshop and perhaps had forgotten about it. No coincidence again I was meant to be here.

SONG’S Rural Organizing Workshop brought me back to my community, to the desert.  In the Coachella Valley, being distant from all other cities and services from California, definitely brings to light good ideas not only to “queerify” spaces, but also to invite by immigrant community, including the farm workers, students, artist and allies to create something like the work SONG does in the South:

“We Decide Who We Are. We Decide Who We Love. We Decide How We Survive and Thrive”

5 of 6 SONG Founders celebrating 20 years of SONG


“We believe that Community Organizing is the best way for us to build collective power and transform the South. Out of this belief we are committed to building freedom movements rooted in southern traditions like community organizing, political education, storytelling, music, breaking bread, resistance, humor, performance, critical thinking, and celebration” -said along the lines of one of the presenters representing Southerns On New Ground.

It’s amazing to have organizations like these in the south, facing all the “anti-immigrant” sentiment that impacts the well-being of many.

What really touched my heart is to remember my origins, the land in which me and my mother migrated. yet my work comes with me to every city or state I find work and opportunity, i find the moral obligation to come back home, whenever I can, and remain active, engaging, helping the inter-generational activist to create spaces that don’t exist, but also bridge those who do exist and yet don’t work with one another. The power of collaboration.

I’d love to see Catholic Charities work with our Queer groups in the Desert! (Sarcasm).

I think It is time for me to come home after a long year of learning. I’m hopeful to bring back home this tool to refine our communities understanding of what the queer immigrant life has looked like, and could look like, outside the urban context, and understand how queer life and rural life came to be positioned in many people’s minds as categories that often feel like they’re mutually exclusive.

Problems like crystal meth use among young man having sex with man (YMSM), hostile border patrol offices, bullying and new HIV infections continue to affect this land that I grew up. A Land divided by the expensive golf club and fancy hotels. With a Music Festival that brings Thousands, but is nowhere in our youth’s budget to attend or makes a positive impact to address our struggles in the community.

The Legacy and Dream of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer communities as committed to liberation, dignity, and safety for all people must be remembered, amplified, and carried forward….

I never forget where Home is in my heart. Year after year, I’m grateful to bridge services and empowerment to my younger generations that probably think moving to West Hollywood and Los Angeles is the best option that they have to succeed as queer youth.

The best remedies practiced for many generations are found in the house, with our elders. In our community. Never forget to give back to yours.

Creating Change 2013

Emerging Leaders: Getting to know National Black Justice Coalition


Josh Gale
Guest Blogger
Emerging Leaders 


I attended a great workshop hosted by National Black Justice Coalition that was truly inspiring. That workshop was the most inspirational workshop I’ve been to thus far. I loved how they were all passionate about what they stood up for whether it be for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender. One question was asked that caught my attention was when a woman asked how she can get the LGBT community to actually care about anything that goes on, such as gay bashing or discrimination. The answer that they gave really blew me away and that was that she could have events or show videos or clips to her college about how gay bashing and discrimination effects not only her but others around her. The overall idea is that if we find opportunities to share information in settings such as college campuses, churches, etc we have the ability to engage new folks in the movement and address concerns affecting the community. Any venue is a platform to share knowledge, and in doing so you cause sort a snowball effect per say and have people informed on whats going on with the community and urge them to pass on the knowledge. By them being aware of the issue at hand and have more attention set upon it hopefully will strike something up in her community. It was if they don’t just answer the question just to answer but they get with you on a personal level.

Another thing that stood out to me about NBJC workshop was their persuasiveness of giving the mind set of being in the category of the top 100 National Black Justice Coalition emerging leaders. I don’t know about anybody else but they truly got me pumped and motivated to become an activist  of NBJC’s emerging leaders. But the catch is you can’t just barely make this list you really have to work and prove that you fight for the issues in the LGBT community. Overall I really have to tip my hat off to NBJC because they truly gained all respect from me personally. All the members that I saw today were head strong and knew what they was talking about. They were prepared and provided an experience I will never forget. But the question they left with me was what can you as an individual do for your community. There are numerous ways I can but the big question is will it be affective?

Creating Change 2013

Fundraising: Getting past the fear of asking


Josh Gale
Guest Blogger


As my day slowly died down I attended the last workshop for my day. The title – Fundraising: Getting past the fear of asking. This workshop basically gave you techniques on how to not only ask for donations during fundraising opportunities but how to conduct fundraising events. The workshop itself had me from the jump due to the energetic speaker and his methods on how to approach certain fears most have. For example, when you go from door to door asking for donations but as your trying to explain your reasoning the customer has a totally puzzled look on their face. The reasoning behind that is that your not making your explanation clear enough. He also taught a brilliant ten step plan for what he calls a “Ask” method. Now this method is mainly focused on the event fundraising groups . It came very helpful from my aspect because of easier and more simple ways of getting a yes for donations instead of no. I liked his 5 truths to fundraising and wanted to share them with you all:

5 Truths to Fundraising

  1. You need to put yourself in the donor’s shoes.
  2. You must ask way more people than the number of gifts you need.
  3. It has to be OK with you for people to say no.
  4. You will need to ask some people, but you don’t need to ask everyone.
  5. What you believe in has to be bigger than what you are afraid of.

He also had 10 tips for making the ask my top three were:

1) Make your gift first. Make your gift before you ask someone else to give. The conviction that is felt by someone who has already given can not be duplicated. It makes a huge difference.

2) Be positive, sincere and passionate about the cause. Upon greeting the prospect, be upbeat and passionate about the organization and its mission.

3) State the need. After greeting your prospect, re-state the importance of the organization and how it makes a positive difference in the world.

The full list can be viewed by clicking here.

The workshop in my opinion was more telling ideas rather than anyone really having a issue. I feel as if everyone was their to hear more fundraising ideas. But overall it was a very informative session. Okay after all that I decided to really find out what was the buzz about concerning this mini-ball. I’m not gone lie I came extremely late but it was still alive and kicking. The competitors where to die for and the personalities on that stage could have blown anyone away. Although it was very flashy and yet humorous at the same time I truly enjoyed myself. Every category was difficult to judge but the best won I would have to say. The mini-ball was a total success and I hope to get involved in one pretty soon.

Creating Change 2013

Recap – A Flashback of Creating Change Day 3

Trevoi pic
   Trevoi Crump
   Guest Blogger 
  Recap – Creating Change Day 3 
“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our every man must take on a science fictional way of thinking.” – Isaac Asmiov

•As I sit back and reflect on today’s festivities, I must say I’m completely in awe of all the information I consumed in one day. If you don’t remember, I’ve prepared a little refresher for your memory•

1. National Black Justice Coalition: This workshop was presented by Sharon J. Letterman-Hicks, Rodney King, Jr, Kimberly McLeod, and Je-Shawna Wholley. This workshop was absolutely amazing. It was great seeing so many young African American LGBT students, who are already activist in their local communities such as Marcus Lee from Morehouse, who wanted to know how to implement more programs such as NBJC on his HBCU college campus; or Shaunda from Boiling Springs, who took her issue of not having enough support from her own African American peers at her school, to the NBJC board members in hopes they would come up with numerous game plans to promote a change in that matter. I think this workshop was a sigh of relief for all college students in attendance. We saw the worries of other students, as well as heard the cries for help on each of their college campuses, but moreso, I myself felt better knowing that I’m not doing anything wrong , it’s not me. I was reassured to continue fighting for my rights as an LGBT African American young man.

2. Sex (Education) is a RIGHT: What a powerful workshop! It started off on a great note, I mean I was pretty friggin’ excited. Well, truthfully the topic “Sex Education” is what I really went for. Lol! But, I’m glad I did. The presentation, the presentors and the seminar it self completely dynamic; they took sex education to another level and made it easier to fully understand. They stressed the importance of knowing and understanding your sexuality, but most importantly practicing safe SEX!  They informed us on how the term “abstinence” til marriage is not necessarily a bad thing, many of us often beat ourselves up over being a virgin! But, it’s a GREAT thing to hold on to your innocence for aslong as you can. I definitely walked away from this seminar knowing way more, than I did before  I arrived in Atlanta.

Lastly, today during the plenary we recieved the ultimate surprise. That’s right, President Barack Obama sent a video message to Creating Change, during his message he stated “And Today, you’re helping lead the way to a future where everyone is treated equal with dignity and respect, no matter who they love or where they come from.He then concluded his address with these words, “I’m more confident than ever that we’ll reach a better future as long as Americans like you keep reaching for justice and all of us keep marching together.” It seems no matter which session I attened today the message was all the same, Equality never sleeps, we must press on daily working towards the prize which lies ahead. 

Until next time


Creating Change 2013

“Be The Change” – A Morning with the National Black Justice Coalition

Trevoi pic
   Trevoi Crump
  Guest Blogger 
  “Be The Change” – A Morning with the National Black Justice Coalition

Creating Change Day 3! The day started off great. I woke up anxiously anticipating the day ahead not exactly knowing what workshops I would attend. However, once I finally figured out were I was going , I headed over to the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). Even though I arrived a few minutes late the workshop was very informative. As soon as I walked in  they were at the end of a conversation, that was already in progress, but I did catch the question that was possed. The question at hand was “How do we obtain organizations such as NBJC and other relatable organizations on our college campuses?” Me personally, I thought this was an extremely important topic to discuss, coming from a PWI in Columbia, South Carolina, I found it rather interesting to hear what exactly was going to be said. The response to the question was simple, yet profound. We are the CHANGE, it sounds cliche, right? But it’s true, we must take action on our own campuses if we wish to see change in and around our communities.

One significant thing I will say was pointed out is that, the work won’t be easy and the road will definitely be long! However, again we must create the atmosphere for change to take place. I’m a strong believer in the scripture “Faith without works is DEAD.” So we continue to sit around and wait on someone else, then what will we ever accomplish? President Barack Obama stated “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers & sisters are treated like anyone else under the law… for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”  That statement speaks volumes to the world as well as the LGBT community, it’s time that we stop waiting on others to start the process, when we can start it ourselves!! The NBJC is a great organization, I was extremely excited with all the information, and handouts I recieved. I realize that I now posses the information,  needed to continue on the path that’s already been set for me. But it’s up to me as to whether I progress or fail.

NBJC logo

Until next time.



Creating Change 2013

The Power Behind Creating Change

 Trevoi pic
  Trevoi Crump
  Guest Blogger 
  The Power Behind Creating Change
 Two words Creating Change … was truly a GREAT experience. This was my first time attending Creating Change, and I must say I was completely blown away. When I first began hearing about the conference, I was a little skeptical about it. I mean, this would be my first time attending something on this capacity. However, days leading up to the conference I became overwhelemed with excitement, it hit me that I was about to partake in something great; not to mention the conference falls around my 20th birthday. Once I arrived at Creating Change it was definitely a lot to take in, so many people, so many exhibitors, and so many sessions to attend; and I couldn’t think of what to do first. I attended the Campus Pride workshop, and I definitely learned a lot. It was really good to hear about how other campuses are including  African-American students in their organizations/ and or activities, this workshop was informative and very descriptive, it’s almost like we viewed the gay lifestyle from every perspective. But it was also intresting to learn how to bridge the gap between those in the LGBT and Heterosexual community. 

It feels great to be here, being in the same room with other activist, leaders and many other LGBT figures is AMAZING!! I am most enthused about seeing so many youth, if I don’t appreciate anything else I appreciate youth who believe in fighting for their rights! I’m excited about seeing what other organizations are doing nationally, as well as locally. Out of all the events I attended tonight, I really enjoyed the Opening Plenary. It was GREAT seeing so many LGBTQ people in the same room, but not just we’re getting along! If we keep at this rate the fight for equality will be a smooth one, not easy, but smooth. Learning to work amongst each other is the first step of many, and I look forward to working with the future activist, leaders and many other authoritive LGBT figures present this weekend.

Until next time.


Creating Change 2013

How being an Undocumented Queer Immigrant Brought me to Creating Change

alex pic
By Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
Recap on the Latino Institute 


For the first time in 24 years, the National Conference on LGBT Equality Creating Change will be having its first Latino  Institute on Thursday, January 24th, 2013. The day-long institute’s most demanded topic by national organizers will be to discuss the next steps within the Latino LGBTQ community and Immigration and how we can best strategize efforts to bring justice and dignity to both of our communities.

I cannot help but to feel enthralled to meet amazing familia that is dedicated to serve the latino LGBTQ community at a national level and that have made it possible for me to be part of these conversations.

The real excitement however, comes from the community, from the land in the south.Two years ago I had the fear of traveling even within my own community. After Liberating that fear by coming out of the shadows about my legal status, I decided to deport such fear and make it into self-empowerment to mobilize power to the people.

The chills I get on realizing the community in which the conference will be taking place is Georgia, one of the worst  anti-immigrant states in the country ,in which many families had been separated, young undocumented students don’t have rights to go to school, and looking brown on the streets, adds another burden to your identity as a queer person.

That is why, our opening ceremony will be joined by some of the bravest radical DREAMers in Georgia that have made a difference to many families.

Dulce Guerrero, among 2 other queer undocumented youth will be representing the community of Georgia and the National Immigrant Youth AllianceDream Activist GA which has helped prevent many deportations and has fiercely empowered those who continue to resist HB 87 locally ,and the current separation of families that has reached millions of deportations with programs such as Secure Communities and 287g nation-wide”.

queer undocumented youth from Los Angeles

Georgia Dreamers will encourage anyone attending the Institute to helps us build a “Community Altar” with offerings, blessings, pictures, banners and other items that represent your State, Country or Territory. In short, The work that drives you to be part of creating change, the community you serve, present in a visual way.

Participants will be welcomed to simply join the opening ceremony to be part of the circle, which will be blessed with good intentions to follow up with an intense agenda full of energies. The Institute welcomes all types of religious backgrounds and beliefs.

I’m so humbled to be part of this dialogue with the Institute, because equality to me goes beyond false borders and hate in our communities, because It is important for us to speak for our selves and not allow political figures to decide for our future existence in this country.
The complexity of struggle in our queer communities of color goes beyond Marriage Equality, it is about dignity and respect as human beings.

The Altar will be present throughout the day to remind us that even though we might come from different places or have different opinion, migrations continues to open those borders for us to work together as freely as they did hundreds of years ago, continuing to preserve proudly our culture and our roots, so we can build together a better future.