Conference and Event Reports
Black Women Rise Conference, 2017
By Alix Dobkin, 1940
Good humor and inspired energy permeated the Embassy Suites Hotel in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 17 and 18, 2017, as hundreds of happy women of all races, ages, classes, and cultures convened to celebrate the first annual Black Women Rise Conference, and I was happy to be there with them. This unique convention offered workshops, panels, breakout sessions, brilliant entertainment, and a rare opportunity to strengthen our determination to resist injustice.
Workshop topics ranged from podcasting to drumming to Black women in mainstream politics. Dr. Delores Walters, 1944, demonstrated tracing genealogy and encouraged us to track our own ancestry. Judge Helen Whitener shared her experience and observations of law and justice systems, and Karen Williams used humor as a basis to explain the importance of self-care.
A rare sense of intimacy and commonality when Women of Color are central provided a particularly appreciative audience for Dr. Yvonne Welbon, whose “Sisters in Cinema” proved a great hit. Angela Davis departed from her usual format and highlighted personal stories and insights. Ubaka Hill showcased her “Drumsong Orchestra,” made up of enthusiastic workshop participants.
Universal recognition of the intersections of oppression and injustice is now a given among progressive activists. Women have unearthed new determination to unite for our rights. Black Lives Matter, Pink Hat demonstrations, and a new phase of activism such as Indivisible have solidified connections among people of all colors and creeds, old and young, newcomers and veterans alike. At Black Women Rise, a deep solidarity among Women of Color was evident and infectious. We look forward to strengthening and deepening our relationships with progressive movements and especially with Lesbians of Color.
Hats off to conveners Danielle Allen, Denise Walker, Paulette Armstead, Toni Armstrong Jr., and all the awesome women who volunteered to make this such a magnificent event!
Facing Race Conference, 2013
By Alix Dobkin, 1940
What struck me most forcefully about the Facing Race Conference Nov. 15–17 was the number of national and local organizations, groups, and agencies working on social justice issues. The conference was very well organized and well attended. Eight hundred were expected but 1,400 showed up, more than half women (natch). I found the positive, excited, welcoming energy inspirational and exciting, more so even than the actual program. I loved handing out our little rainbow cards. Everyone lit up when they read it and were all happy to hear about OLOC.
The topics of the three plenary sessions were “Now What? Debriefing the Election and Taking Governance,” “Race and Gender in the 21st Century,” and “Culture Trumps Politics: Or Does It.” It seemed to me that Gays, Lesbians, and particularly transgender persons had an extremely visible presence on the panels and presentations.
The best workshop I attended was “Race and Class: Why an Intersectional Approach Is Critical in Undoing Structural Racism.” We were given handouts and then walked through a couple of the exercises. I liked the discussion on whiteness and white supremacy. We were advised to “complicate the conversation” in order to unpack layers of racism bigotry.
Sally reminded me of the excellent opening stretching session and the riveting and illuminating performance by four women in full burka of “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic.”
Facing Race was a welcoming and impressive gathering of activists and organizers. I’d be happy to go again next year.
Creating Change, 2013
By Ruth Debra, 1944, and Jan Griesinger, 1942
Creating Change is the annual conference of the National Gay/Lesbian Task Force. Attending from OLOC (along with 3,000 others) in January in Atlanta were Ruth Debra, Bonnie Wagner, Sally Tatnall, and Jan Griesinger. We did a workshop titled “Old Is Not a Four Letter Word: Ageism through the Ages.” We also held a “Lesbians 60 and Over” caucus. Ageism has never been addressed in a plenary, and we continue to lobby for this with no success. The next conference will be January 28–February 2, 2014 in Houston. Registration is free for those 65 and over.
The all-day institute on Racial Justice gave us some tools to analyze our progress and will be very useful to OLOC. We all attended the Lesbian Caucus and were very clear that we want the Task Force to have much more emphasis on Lesbians. Dr. Glenda Russell, an OLOC member from Colorado, presented an excellent workshop on the effects of anti-LGBT campaigns and attitudes. A workshop on and by out undocumented LGBT youth was also excellent. There was a great deal of emphasis on immigration and the imperative for the LGBT communities to join in this struggle.
Vera Martin (OLOC co-founder who died last year) was mentioned in the memorial slides and from the stage, and many people asked about her. Vera left a lasting impression on all whose paths she crossed and will be greatly missed.
Silver Threads, 2013
By Bonnie Wagner, 1942
Attending Silver Threads as a representative of OLOC was a new experience for me. I enjoyed meeting new people and discussing OLOC’s work. Silver Threads is primarily a social organization. The OLOC workshop had the most substance. Many women approached me to say how much they enjoyed our presentation. A presenter at one of the other workshops referred to workers in nursing homes as the bottom of the food chain. We took issue with this comment and tried to educate the workshop participants about ageism and classism in her comments. I felt that the presence of OLOC members gave a nice reminder on what it means to be an Old Lesbian. We offered suggestions about how future workshops might have more substance and relevance.