Members of Philadelphia's LGBT Latinx community joined 250 other Latinx individuals from around the country at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott for a national traveling conference.
The National LGBTQ Task Force hosted the "Union Equals Fuerza: Latinx Institute" at the organization's Creating Change Conference. The Latinx Institute featured activities, icebreakers and workshops focusing on LGBT issues within their community.
Nikki Lopez, executive director of GALAEI, applauded the overall energy of the people in Grand Ballroom I and J for the Latinx Institute.
“What I love most about the Latinx Institute is being able to connect and see this sort of electric thread that is connecting all of these Latinx activists and queer Latinx activists across the country in one space,” Lopez said. “The Latinx Institute is a conglomerate of all of these connections that are built and really showcases how we take care of one another especially in spaces like this.”
Members of the Gran Varones, a video and photography project aimed at telling the stories of Latino and Afro-Latino gay, queer and trans men, facilitated a discussion on various topics of intersectionality. During one large group discussion, they provided a list to participants. The list included topics such as race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation and gender identity. They asked the participants to share which identity they feel safest and least safe.
Lopez chose “race” as the identity where she feels least safe.
“I have always identified internally as Afro-Latinx but because I pass as white and I’m read as white, I always struggled with vocally and externally proclaiming that I’m Afro-Latinx,” Lopez said.
Alexander Velez, 23, had similar feelings as Lopez. Velez was one of the participants selected for the Embajadores program, a group comprised of LGBT Latinx individuals from Philadelphia. As part of this program, Velez attended Creating Change with the the intention of using the lessons he learned within his local community.
“I was very hesitant to become involved with the Latino Institute because throughout my life, I thought maybe I wasn’t Latino enough in regard to language, culture or styles,” Velez said. “However, I was actually doing the workshop for Afro-Latinos and I saw the feedback from the crowd and other people felt the same way. Some thought they weren’t Latino enough. So that’s definitely something that I took back from it because I didn’t realize that this was a common feeling that many of us are feeling. We just never talk about it.”
Velez mentioned how there were workshops designated for specific identities with sections for Afro-Latinx people and trans Latinx people, to name a few.
“I definitely felt like there was something that all marginalized groups can take back [to their local community],” Velez said. “There was a little bit of everything here for everyone and that’s something I definitely appreciate.”
Elicia Gonzales, a community activist, said the space allowed people to be vulnerable and open up to each other.
“There were a lot of tears that were shed,” Gonzales said. “I don’t really feel like we see these kinds of exchanges in other spaces. It’s a beautiful combination which allows people like me to really be safe in a short amount of time.”
Gonzales said she wants the Philadelphia community to take what they learned from Creating Change to “continue to support brown and black queer people in Philadelphia after this conference ends.”
“I think there’s an ethical obligation — that there is a call to action — that really demands that the white LGBT community can no longer be passive in fighting against anti-blackness, in fighting against anti-class issues,” Gonzales said. “We really are coming together and are really demanding that the white LGBT community steps up and takes charge.”