by Lisa Cisneros, Esq., NCLR Proyecto Poderoso Director
On Saturday, January 24th, over 120 people gathered for the Orgullo y Poder Latino conference—a first of its kind leadership event for LGBT people and allies in the heart of California’s Central Valley. The conference program was fully bilingual in Spanish and English. Attendees arrived from all corners of California’s Bible Belt: the Central Valley, Central Coast, Imperial, and Coachella Valleys.
Even as the federal case against Proposition 8 unfolds, conference goers recognized that they continue to play a key role in the fight for equal dignity and respect. Participants agreed that as a movement we must work both inside and outside of courtrooms to dismantle the fear and ignorance that have led so many to believe that LGBT people are inferior.
The conference program centered on the theme: Your Voice Is Your Power. Throughout the day, speeches, workshops, and an on-site art gallery inspired and trained leaders to share their stories with various audiences—our families, our neighbors, even the media. Together we learned the many ways our unique voices can be a tool for change. By telling our story in conversations, art, video, online, and even by filling out the census survey, we can do our part to transform the world. At the very least, particularly in rural areas, we can stop our communities from denying our existence and our right to belong.
The conference was hosted by Proyecto Poderoso, a joint project of NCLR and California Rural Legal Assistance to improve legal services and advocacy for low-income LGBT people in rural California. Several other local agencies, civil rights groups, and Latino organizations provided critical support: Bienestar, Equality California, Gay Central Valley, Gente Latina de Ambiente (GELAAM), Somos Familia, Somos LGBT, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz, the GSA Network, the Immigration Legal Resource Network, the Transgender Law Center, and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. Conference attendees convened at the First Congressional Church of Fresno for a day packed with inspiration, critical knowledge, and many new friends from across the state.