Hello, all! Some of you know me as the Social Justice Resident at Spirit in Action, but for many of you, this is your first time hearing from me. My name is Caroline Duble; I am from Houston, Texas, and I have lived in Swannanoa, North Carolina for the past 5 years. I graduated from Warren Wilson College in May 2014, and have been working for Spirit in Action since August 2014!
There are so many things that I want to share with you all, about We the People, about the class that Linda is teaching at Warren Wilson, about our vision for a better Swannanoa… but I’ve recently returned from a spectacular professional development experience, and I feel the need to write about this experience first.
In February, Linda Stout and I flew to Denver, CO to attend the 27th annual Creating Change: National Conference on LGBTQ Equality. Over the course of 5 days, the Creating Change program presented 18 day-long institutes, two dozen trainings in the Academy for Leadership and Action, a special programming segment for faith leaders and organizers, over 300 workshops and caucus sessions, four keynote plenary sessions, film screenings, meetings, receptions, and a multitude of networking and social events. It was a whirlwind of new information, best practices, sharing, collaboration, and fun! To give you an idea of what Creating Change is like, I will share a couple of my favorite workshops and lessons learned in Denver.
If you’re not already aware, the We the People program seeks to build power and create community across class differences here in Swannanoa. I attended one workshop that specifically applied to this work, called “Organizing Across Class Differences.” This workshop had attendees from many different class backgrounds that work in many different types of communities. I had the opportunity to network and share best practices with other rural organizers from across the country. We discussed how to be mindful of language and perspective when talking to people of a different class than your own. The burden to code-switch and adapt to the privileged culture is often placed on poor people. This workshop allowed me to brainstorm ways to create spaces in which everyone in Swannanoa can bring their voice without having to sacrifice their experiences and emotions.
I attended a myriad of workshops and events that focused on the intersections of queer and racial justice. One such workshop was “#LGBTQFerguson,” which featured a panel of young, queer activists from St. Louis and Ferguson, MO who spoke about their experiences surrounding Mike Brown’s murder and how they have been empowered since this movement picked up speed in August 2014. It was incredible to hear these young leaders describe their journey from isolation and disempowerment to community power and self-love. By claiming space, they have made a huge impact on our nation, and will continue to do so until equity and justice are reached. Young black and queer people are rising up to empower each other and demand justice. I am floored by their commitment to civil disobedience that is motivated by deep-abiding love. All attendees of Creating Change were lucky to witness an example of their direct action tactics when they interrupted the Creating Change plenary speeches, in collaboration with the Trans* Latina Coalition. They did this to hold the Task Force accountable and ask attendees for a greater commitment to the #BlackLivesMatter and trans* justice movements. They refuse to let business as usual continue, and they are making sure the national LGBTQ organizations get that message as well.
Immediately following this workshop was a memorial for Jessie Hernandez, a 17 year old, queer, gender non-conforming Latina recently murdered by the Denver police. Some of the local organizers, called Branching Seedz of Resistance (BSEEDZ), spoke at the altar they set up in her honor. This memorial happened on the same day as Jessie’s funeral, and it was powerful to see so many conference attendees making sacred space to remember her and commit to seeking her justice. On the other hand, it was frustrating to see so many at the conference ignore what was happening and complain about the direct actions. We were lead in a chant, “La lucha sigue, sigue! Y Jessie vive, vive!” (The struggle continues! And Jessie lives on!). This call to action will continue to ring in my mind, as I process and look ahead for pathways to equity in my own communities.
There are so many more workshops and events and speakers that I could mention. The people that I met have already proven to be valuable connections in the social justice world. I learned so much during my time at Creating Change, and hope that I can continue to attend in the years to come. Stay tuned for more information about the work we’re doing in Swannanoa!