Thursday, November 28, 2013

Road To Creating Change 2014 Houston Diary- Emotional Rollercoaster

As you TransGriot readers know I'm co-chair of the Racial Diversity Committee, one of the subcommittees that's part of the organizing process for our upcoming Creating Change Conference that will be talking place in Houston January 29-February 2.

I've been documenting since May what it's like to have a ringside seat for and be part of the team of people doing the organizing work in the host city to put together a major national conference like Creating Change.

Well, in this edition of my Creating Change 2014 Diary me and my fellow Host Committee have been riding a rollercoaster ride of emotions.   We see our convention date is rapidly approaching, we're excited about that, but realize that we still have a lot of work ahead of us before it happens.

But first up was a night to have some fun.  On October 19 we kicked up our heels, cowboy boots and other fashion forward footwear at the Creating Change Pre-Convention Celebration event that was held at Neon Boots, a large GLBT country western bar on the northwest side of town.   It was a Creating Change 2014 local promotion event open to all volunteers, guests and people wanting to know more about this conference that is mere weeks away at this writing from happening.

When planning a major conference, there are some elements of it that are out of your local control.   There are aspects of it that Creating Change National decides such as who our plenary keynote speakers are going to be and which seminar proposals get accepted.  We have no idea or control over what the weather is going to be like for those days we have scheduled for the conference.  But as an FYI for you Creating Change conference attendees, Houston's average temperature in January ranges from 43-64 degrees F.

Don't want to jinx us by mentioning what our average rainfall number is for January.

The other major thing we didn't have a whole lot of control over as a Host Committee besides us voting in it was our mayoral election.   One reason Creating Change is here is because with 2.2 million people in it, Houston (the fourth largest city in the US) is the largest city in the United States and in the state of Texas run by a gay mayor.  

But Mayor Annise Parker was going to have to run for her third and final term during the fall while we were planning this conference.  Our worst nightmare as the Host Committee that nagged at us through the summer and fall was she not getting reelected and having someone in that chair taking the oath of office at the Wortham Center on January 1, 2014 that was hostile to our community.

It turned out our fears were well founded.  Although we knew that Mayor Parker had done an excellent job leading our city, elections can be unpredictable at times.  We had Ben Hall, one of Mayor Parker's major challengers deciding to pander to the anti-gay haters late in the campaign in a desperate bid to make up the double digit deficit he was facing.  It also pissed us off because when he was trying to get the Houston GLBT Caucus mayoral endorsement, Hall said he supported adding sexual orientation and gender identity to our city's non-discrimination ordinance, then did a 180 on that.

Fortunately for us Hall did his Mitt Romney impression while early voting was still transpiring, so we had time to handle our electoral business as a community and punish him at the polls.  But we still had to hold our breath until Election Day arrived on November 5.

We got to exhale and celebrate as Annise won with 57% of ours and our fellow Houstonian's votes to win without a runoff.   It ensured that when you show up in H-town for Creating Change, our city will still be run by Mayor Parker, a former attendee of Creating Change.  We're working on getting her to come by the Hilton Americas to say hello to y'all.   I'm hoping she'll be doing so since she made it clear when we were bidding for the conference she wanted it here.   

There was finite disappointment handed to the Houston trans community in this election cycle.  Jenifer Rene Pool missed getting into the runoff for the at-large Position 3 City Council seat she was running for by an agonizing 1,125 votes. 

That unfortunately ended her second bid to become the first out trans person ever elected to Houston City Council, but she's already let us know that she's going to make another run at it in 2015.    

So when we gathered at the Montrose Center for our November 10 Host Committee meeting, we were relieved that one of our nagging planning headaches was off our checklist and gleefully celebrating the fact that Annise would be our mayor until January 1, 2016.

As we waited for the Host Committee meeting to start, a transformer in the area blew out, subsequently knocking out power in the neighborhood and the Montrose Center building that hosts our meetings for almost two hours.   I joked when it happened that we probably wouldn't get power back until after the meeting was over and that's exactly what happened.   

As the Montrose Center building staff scrambled into action to provide us and the other community organizations hosting meetings in the darkened building at the time mini lights to give us some semblance of illumination, we soldiered on with our Host Committee business, issued subcommittee reports and greeted CC National's Russell Roybal.   

Overseeing Creating Change is one of his supervisory responsibilities and he was in H-town along with the IT director to not only convey to us what Sue Hyde told us last month in terms of H-town setting the CC organizing bar to unprecedented levels and congratulate us for our hard work, he also let us know who one of our keynote speakers would be and the folks who would be receiving awards at our event. The awards part I have to keep quiet about for now, but I can talk about who one of the keynote speakers will be. 

And peeps, I get to see my homegirl Laverne Cox again.  I met her during the National Black Justice Coalition's 2012 OUT on the Hill conference when I was part of the trans feminine panel discussion she moderated before she blew up in Orange Is The New Black    So I'm looking forward to along with the rest of the Houston Host Committee in welcoming her to my hometown and hearing her keynote speech. 

We're also trying to get another major Texas political speaker here for you besides our mayor. 

Russell also advised us that Task Force ED Rea Carey's State of the Movement speech would be carried live on C-SPAN.  He also let us know that people would begin to be notified about whether their panel discussions they submitted would be accepted or rejected, and I was part of two proposals.   One was accepted, the other was rejected.  I will be doing a panel discussion at CC14, and when they set the schedule I'll let y'all know which one and what time.

Our subcommittees were busy submitting our budgets proposals before the hard 6 PM CST November 15 submission deadline.  We also discovered the subcommittees were only getting $500 to spend, so we had to revise our plans to do what we'd wanted to do in our suites to fit that budgetary hard number.   I got to sit in on the Trans* and Gender Diversity subcommittee meeting November 14 and watch them go through the process, then had to get with my Racial Diversity subcommittee Chair Melissa Meadows the next morning and do the same thing for our committee.

We're still wanting to have barbecue in our Racial Diversity Suite, but because of the lower than expected hard budget number it'll be for one night instead of the two we'd originally planned.

We have just two Creating Change Houston Host Committee planning meetings left on December 3 and January 7 and we are now mere weeks away from rolling out the rainbow carpet and welcoming y'all to Creating Change Houston 2014.   

And I and my fellow Host Committee members can't wait to see y'all at the Hilton Americas.

Now if we can get that Chamber of Commerce weather we're wanting, sunny, cool 50-60 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, we'll be happy. 

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