Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Let's Party...You Plan It

photo-Suga Shack by Ernie Barnes

One of the things that irritates me about some of my transpeeps and others in the at-large transgender community is this lack of understanding of the importance of planning.

I hear a lot of complaining in some African-American transgender circles about why we don't have a community infrastructure similar to our white counterparts.

Some of us who can afford to go to an SCC will attend, then while hanging out with each other surrounded by an ocean of white faces wonder why we don't have a similar event like this that reflects our cultural background and discusses our issues.

While the various factions in the African-American transgender community is one factor that has impeded our progress toward building that kind of infrastructure, one of the major reasons why I believe we don't have it is the lack of people willing to commit their time, money and sweat equity into helping organize these events and commit themselves to doing the work necessary to keep them viable.

We all like a good party, pageant, ball, seminar or convention. I'm no exception to that sentiment, but these events just don't materialize out of thin air. As I know all too well, they can take up to a year to plan and cost money to put on and advertise.

The other thing that annoys me is the peeps who criticize every element of the event. They complain about the cost, bitch about why this speaker, seminar topic, or service wasn't available, the food, et cetera but were 'too busy' to help participate in the planning of it.

When we put together the first Transistahs-Transbrothas Conference that took place in Louisville in 2005, we did it in nine months, but really needed a year. It was hurt in the planning phases by many of the peeps who initially committed to help being MIA for various reasons when crunch time came.

I ended up as a one woman ad hoc crisis management committee, airport shuttle service, DJ and emergency seminar presenter. I did more work during the four days I was off from my regular job for the 2005 TSTBC than I did when I returned to my job when the conference was over. It was moderately successful and we had a subsequent one in 2006. I didn't really get a chance to enjoy myself at the history-making first event and was a little unhappy that TSTBC didn't turn out quite the way I envisioned it. The people who attended were pleased, and that gave me the validation I needed to know it was worth it.

The point I'm making is that if the African-American transgender community desires to have these events (and organizations, et cetera) planning is not only a necessary evil, but a critical part of the process.

The who, what, where, when, why and how much will it cost questions get asked and worked out in planning meetings. The outline, theme and scope of the conference gets fleshed out and takes shape during these meetings as well so that the event runs smoothly.

And most importantly, the financial controls are established, accounts set up and monitored so that the organizing committee not only knows to the penny how much money is in those accounts, but where the money is going with the highest standards of ethical behavior. The cost/benefit analysis work is done to ensure we get the most bang for the buck. The nuts and bolts details are also hammered out in these meetings as well.

It sounds boring and tedious, and to be honest, sometimes they are. Sometimes these meetings can get quite animated and contentious when you have opposing views being discussed. But if you want to put your community's best foot forward and create a signature event that will stand the test of time, it has to be done.

Planning meetings aren't necessarily boring affairs. I've helped participate in some SCC planning sessions in 2000 and 2002 along with the TSTBC ones and some preliminary discussions here for a Louisville Black Pride event. Some of them were more fun than the actual conference. I'll tell you TransGriot readers in a future post the story about a 2002 one that happened on my birthday.

While I've discussed conventions, the same rules apply to smaller scale events as well. Even parties, pageants and balls require some level of planning and organization in order for them to run smoothly.

The bottom line is that if we want more SCC style conferences, seminars or similar events in our community, we need COMMITTED and DEDICATED cadres of people doing the behind the scenes grunt work in order to make them a reality.

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