Wednesday, April 29

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the LGBT* in the South Conference, hosted by Campaign for Southern Equality in Asheville, North Carolina.

About 500 people from around the region gathered for two days of peer learning and collaboration. It was exciting to connect with folks who are changing hearts and minds in their local communities, and to share some of the skills-building work we do at Equality Federation as a presenter. The event was full of great speakers and workshops, but a few stood out.

My long-time friend Mandy Carter gave the opening keynote. As always, Mandy drew powerful connections across issues and groups, and called on the audience to take a broader conception of what LGBT work looks like. "We have to make sure," she said, "that we're working for justice, and not for 'just us.'"

A packed workshop highlighted Federation member Equality North Carolina's partnership with Southerners on New Ground, Freedom Center for Social Justice and the North Carolina NAACP for Moral Freedom Summer, a campaign to protect voting rights in the state. It was inspiring to see how four organizations serving LGBT people and people of color, each with varying approaches, were able to come together to achieve success. My Federation colleague Anne Stanback helped the groups develop this plan and secure funding for this exciting, intersectional work, making me feel a little extra pride in what they've achieved.

Another plenary session shared the insights of four leaders from faith communities. With opponents of fairness pushing so-called "religious freedom" legislation, having influential faith voices like these is more important than ever.

Even more than any session, the best part of the conference for me was hearing about the incredible work people are doing in their Southern communities. While people outside the region often write us off, there is so much hard-won progress being made.

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Ian Palmquist

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