Organizers from The National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change met at the Hilton Chicago Tuesday to explore the possibility of holing the the 2016 annual National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce conference in Chicago.
The intention of the meeting was to reach out to local LGBT activist groups and organizations to get their input on the capacity for the LGBT community to support the conference.
“You know your city better than we do,” said Sue Hyde, director of the Creating Change conference.
Assessing the Chicago community is critical for the organization. If Creating Change comes to Chicago in 2016 it will represent the very first time the conference will be held here.
Prior to 2008, the conference was held in November, often posing potential conflicts with other Chicago-area conferences and conventions. Organizers have since shifted the time for the conference to late January/early February, and Chicago has become a viable site.
Some of the organizations represented during the exploration meeting were Invisible 2 Invincible (I2I), Center on Halsted, Affinity Community Services, SAGE and Equality Illinois.
The importance of local organization capacity will shed light on the direct organizing capacity of Creating Change itself. Because conference organizers are rarely based in the city hosting the conference, local activists are utilized to be part of the welcoming committee. This committee consists of 60 to one 100 organizers and four co-chairs.
“I want those four co-chairs to be not like me,” said Hyde. “If there were four 60-year-old white lesbians we would not get the diversity we want.”
The welcoming committee is divided into 16 subcommittees on issues ranging from fund raising, housing, transgender hospitality, disability hospitality, community housing and spiritual needs.
Much of the meeting discussed the logistics of the two main hotels they are currently in negotiations with, the Hilton Chicago and the Marriott. No agreement has been reached but the tone regarding negotiations was positive, according to Hyde.
The diversity of the Chicago LGBT community was discussed as both an obstacle and an opportunity, especially in the wake of racial tensions in Boystown.
Each city has its own particularities and politics, according to Hyde, and this is why they work in advance of the conference with local activists.
“In any particular year we work with folks on the ground to launch the host committee,” she said.
She added that the committee hopes to be mindful of this when putting together a welcoming committee and keep an eye toward setting aside lingering political tensions.
The official location should be announced at the end of the summer.