Last week, I had the incredible honor of attending the Creating Change Conference in the vibrant city of New Orleans. The mission of the Creating Change Conference, which emphasizes LGBTQIA+ organizing, thought leadership, and skill building, aligns closely with the goals of HCN’s Ma'at LGBTQIA+ Dream Keeper Initiative. Both initiatives strive to promote inclusiveness and equity. Therefore, it was an honor to be in that space, surrounded by like-minded individuals committed to these important values. Experiencing the Creating Change Conference in New Orleans was an AMAZING experience. Before arriving, I had not heard of this conference nor knew what to expect. The HCN team had prepped for the presentation but something was missing. It wasn't until we checked in that I understood what it was: the vibrant energy and sense of community among the audience.
HCN was among fifteen groups presenting on Wednesday morning, marking the opening day of the conference. Our CEO, Dr. Silas, kicked off our presentation with a level of energy that even coffee couldn't match. In our presentation, we explored tools for liberation, both within our organization and on a personal level. Shawneshia, a director at HCN, shared insights into how they embrace their role, champion the needs of clinicians, and contribute to structural change
Once it was my turn to speak, Ma’at LGBTQ Dream Keepers Initiative was able to shine in all its glory. In just three months, this program has grown to connect with over 1000+ professionals and numerous schools, and facilitated over 200 personal conversations with students. While standing in front of the crowd, proudly queer and black, discussing a program I have loved shaping, Homeless Children’s Network felt like a true place of comfort and liberation. I declared how professionalism is rooted in white supremacy, and how colonization separates us from our bodies; encouraging folks to acknowledge their bias on how people show up and take care of themselves.
Cameron, a director at HCN, finished out the presentation by discussing HCN’s Afro Cultural Preservation Mini-Grants, which focuses on celebrating and maintaining the rich Black LGBTQIA+ heritage of San Francisco.
Together as a team, we had the chance to meet various individuals, forge new connections, and discover additional avenues for growth. Engaging in these conversations served as a powerful reminder of the vibrant community we're part of, and the ongoing efforts needed to foster progress within our communities.
In the days after our presentation, we had the opportunity to network further and attend presentations by other groups. This allowed us to engage with a diverse range of ideas and perspectives, enriching our experience at the conference. The Creating Change Conference was leading the way with inclusion and accessibility. There was STI testing, COVID and Flu vaccinations, and a space for different religions, sexualities, ethnicities, and races, while also ensuring different interpretations in each session. Throughout the week, I was able to talk to about 500 individuals at the conference, getting to know them more personally and professionally. Although New Orleans has a designated space for tourists, I was able to talk to over 100 locals and other tourists about their work, their lives, and sharing space for what I do at Homeless Children’s Network. I have returned to San Francisco with no voice but so full of joy. The energy and community that appeared missing in the beginning, immediately dissolved once a community of people gathered to discuss liberation.