By Jason Carson Wilson
Justice and Peace Policy Fellow, Justice and Witness Ministries
We asked Jason Carson Wilson from Justice and Witness Ministries’ Washington office to blog about “Creating Change,” the annual gathering of the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Creating Change created community and connections. That was the tremendous value of my first National LGBTQ Task Force annual conference in Philadelphia from Jan. 18-22. Being in community with LGBTQ people from around the country provided the perfect opportunity to openly affirm each other. It was also a great distraction from the inauguration of Donald J. Trump.
Banding together served as a soothing balm in the midst of a new challenging chapter in U.S. history. But, as Glee’s Alex Newell sang during the closing plenary, we’ve got to “Keep It Moving.” The Rev. Dr. William Barber’s rousing message during the opening plenary set the tone.
Even as we lamented, Barber encouraged us to keep our eyes on the prize. With that said, a sermon wasn’t the only thing that inspired the queer activists gathered. Creating Change’s wide range of sessions helped keep us centered as we gained tools to fight for liberation.
My Creating Change experience began with the daylong Racial Justice Institute. While much of it reinforced my knowledge, the institute made a conscious effort recognize and honor intersectionality. That gave me life. It was, wait for it–fabulous–to be in space where my whole self was affirmed and challenges facing one of my communities weren’t ignored.
The queer people of color caucus provided the amazing experience of being in a room full for queer POCs. Being in community in that space was affirming and energizing all at the same time.
While the RJI provided time to be in community, my first regular session, “ Friending Our Foes,” facilitated conversation and debate about how to engage those who use religion and theology to attack our community. It was a good opportunity for me to show those, who justifiably distrustful and disgusted with the church, that we’re not all bad.
With that said, the session, “Faith Support in the Majority,” provided evidence to counter stereotypes about the religious community in regard to LGBTQ issues. No one discounts that homophobic religious people exist. However, despite the perception, that number is smaller than anecdotes dictate. That affirmation of what I felt to be true was gratifying.
Gratifying isn’t an adequate word to describe the session, “Black Joy as Radical Resistance: People of Color Caucus.” As a Black queer man, being in community with Black LGBTQIA people has a particular meaning for me. A meaning that I can’t fully articulate.
Queer Memoir Storytelling opened me up to being vulnerable in front of strangers. Sharing my stories in the most abbreviated form gave me a sense of freedom. And, it challenged me to write in a new way.
In another nod to intersectionality, “Racial and Economic Justice–You Can’t Have One Without The Other,” stressed its theme effectively and provided good resources with which to work. However, we didn’t just talk about justice–we decided to be about it. Participants took part in the Women’s March in Philly. Being in solidarity with the marches across the country reinforced my need to be in the streets. And, it was an honor to march for mother, sisters, nieces and grandma. Joining in unity with millions of Americans was fortified my spirit.
Being in community with my United Church of Christ brethren also fortified my spirit. Understanding and knowing there is a queer presence in the UCC is one thing. Spending time in community with LGBTQIA people is quite another. I felt affirmed and blessed.
Creating Change was a phenomenal experience.