NGLTF ‘Creating Change’ lineup mixes activism, entertainment

Nearly 3,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists, organizers, academics and clergy from across the country are expected to be in Pittsburgh Nov. 11-15 to take part in the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s 11th annual “Creating Change” conference. The event, which will be held at the Westin William Penn Hotel, downtown, also marks the 25th anniversary of the NGLTF.

The conference serves as a grassroots training center for political activists, according to organizers of the event.

But Steve Zupcic, one of four cochairs of the local host committee, stressed that everyone is invited to attend the conference. “You don’t have to be a screaming, raving activist to be a gay or lesbian organizer,” Zupcic explained. “You can do something as simple as coming out at work.”

Zupcic and cochairs Tom Spanedda, Lee Kikuchi and Mary Ann Hrach want local community members to know they are welcome to take advantage of the variety of informational sessions and social events regardless of their interest in activism. “This is the perfect way to get in touch with the gay and lesbian community nationwide,” Zupcic said.

The local host committee is also recruiting volunteers to ensure the event’s success.

“Help welcome 3,000 queers to Pittsburgh,” Zupcic quipped. Volunteers are needed in a number of roles, from housing conference participants in their homes to staffing the hospitality booths that will offer information on local restaurants, retail shops and other attractions.

“Volunteering is a good way to sample the conference,” Zupcic noted. Volunteers who attend an optional Nov. 8 orientation/training meeting and work at least one four-hour shift will receive free admission to conference sessions.

While the conference is targeted at activism, its array of informative sessions on topics such as working with foundations and planning fund-raising events would benefit anyone involved with a nonprofit organization, Zupcic noted. “Walk-in registration is welcome,” he added.

Major plenary sessions begin Nov. 12 at 8pm with “What is This Movement Doing to my Politics?” Session speakers will discuss the political principles that drive the gay movement and methods for remaining committed when those beliefs are challenged by adversaries and colleagues alike. Other plenary sessions scheduled for the following three days include “Many Dreamers, One Dream: Justice for All,” “Why Must They Erase Our Art?” and “Family: An Act of Faith… and Politics.”

Plenary speakers will include lesbian presidential appointee Virginia Apuzzo; National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland; Luis Alfaro, director of the Latino Theatre Initiative at the Mark Taper Forum; and comedian and author Kate Clinton.

Daylong “institutes” held Nov. 11 and Nov. 12 prior to the official conference opening will address “The Issue of Race,” “Youth Organizing,” “Becoming a Better Leader” and “Organizing for Economic and Social Justice,” among other special topics.

Connecting all sessions for the first time is the theme “Building Our Movement in Fifty States.” According to NGLTF director Sue Hyde, many of the training sessions will target efforts at the state level by focusing on reaching state legislatures and establishing statewide networks.

More than 60 vendors are also expected to offer exhibits, Zupcic said. “Everything gay you can imagine will be represented by these vendors,” he added. Exhibitors will include gay computer group Digital Queers and gay-friendly national employers such as AT&T and IBM.

Pittsburghers are also invited to attend a number of social events scheduled to be held during the weekend. Nov. 13 will offer a fund-raising cocktail reception at the Andy Warhol Museum, as well as a gay prom beginning at 8pm at the Westin William Penn. Prom organizers from “Rainbow High, Home of the Fighting Poodles” encourage “proper attire”—which includes “anything you want, from ’50s fashions to black tie, drag or other costumes.” Raffle tickets sold at the prom will benefit local organizations including Couples of the Pittsburgh Area; the Gay and Lesbian Community Center; Lesbian Health Collective; Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; Renaissance City Choirs; Seven; and Shades of Black.