Wow! I am still energized from Equality Federation Institute's Summer Meeting that was held in Charlotte just a few weeks ago. Our state-based leaders and national partners bring to the table incredible enthusiasm, creativity, and grit – that unique courage and strength of character it takes to fight for equality. I am humbled and honored to be a part of this community.
Over 200 advocates attended our largest Summer Meeting yet, and we all owe Equality North Carolina our deepest gratitude for their warm Southern welcome to Charlotte. Their fabulous team helped garner sponsorships, organize our welcome reception, outings, and even an impromptu press conference to celebrate the introduction of the Equality Act. Still, it was all the little things, like giving restaurant suggestions and pointing people in the right direction that won us all over. They practice what they preach: y'all means ALL!
There are so many champions working for equality in states that are facing difficult challenges. This year, I was proud to honor Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality with the Equality Federation Institute's Leadership Award. Since the 1980's, Jeff has been a tireless advocate for LGBT people and has worked on issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to community empowerment. He has served on numerous boards of directors and has been the Grand Marshall of Atlanta Pride three times. Congratulations Jeff and Georgia Equality!
The most rewarding thing to witness at Summer Meeting is the exchange among the states of ideas and lessons learned in their efforts to win equality. This year, our FEDTalks – 5 minute presentations for state-based leaders to share something about their work – were remarkably informative, sharp, and witty. We'll be posting videos of them soon, and I can't wait for you to see them.
The workshops showcased a diverse range of topics and discussions, presenting an unprecedented opportunity for us to learn and grow together. Issue areas included youth and schools, addressing violence against transgender people, racial justice, nondiscrimination messaging, campaign strategies, and more. Someone remarked that our conference was the only one where even the very last workshop session was well attended: that speaks to the brilliance of our state-based leaders.
This year, social media played a role in Summer Meeting more than ever. For our Welcome Circle, everyone tweeted something about their organization and read it out loud to the group. Throughout the conference people used #Fed15 to share what they were seeing and learning in their workshops. And, towards the end, some people used #FEDcrush15 to share photos of themselves with their (professional) crushes in the movement. We've compiled some of our favorite tweets and social media moments for you here on storify. We've also posted photos on Facebook.
Summer Meeting is only possible with your support and our corporate sponsors. This year, we had more support from businesses than ever before, thanks in large part to the efforts of Ian Palmquist, Director of Leadership Programs, and the Equality North Carolina team. Thank you to Ford Foundation, the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund, American Unity Fund, Replacements, LTD., Human Rights Campaign, National LGBTQ Task Force, Americans United, David Bohnett Foundation, Foundation For The Carolinas, Jerry Ginsburg & Steven Foster, ACLU, Duke Energy, Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, Lasting Printing & Graphics, NCLR, SAGE, SALSA, Thompson Coburn, LLP., Wild Swan Resources, Winning Connections, and Guilford Green Foundation.
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