Thursday, July 10, 2014

Moni's In The Middle Of The WH LGBT Innovation Summit

It's been an amazing year so far for me and it still has five more months left in it before we flip the calendar page to 2015.

Another blessing came my way with an invitation courtesy of Dr Kortney Ryan Ziegler and Trans*H4CK to attend the first ever White House LGBT Innovation Summit.   You know as a history buff I love being at groundbreaking events, and definitely wanted to be in DC for this inaugural July 7 one.

So once again I found myself on a jet plane winging my way to DC via the ATL to be there.  

Since it was post-4th of July weekend, it was an interesting route to get there.  Normally I like going in and out of DCA (I refuse to call it Reagan National) because it's on the WMATA Metrorail Yellow and Blue lines.   But on this trip I was routed to go into BWI on Sunday and leave out of DCA on Tuesday.  In addition I had 3 hour layovers in Atlanta on both legs.  But hey, I'm still getting my frequent flyer miles.    

I got up at 4 AM CDT to head over to Hobby for my 7 AM departure to the ATL.  After Dee Dee Watters dropped me off, I'm thinking "Who is going to be traveling at 6 AM on Sunday to go somewhere?" as I entered the airport terminal..  But after I picked up my boarding passes in front of the Delta ticket counter and saw the line at TSA security I was jarred back into the reality I was traveling on the back side of the holiday weekend, as my 15 minute wait to clear security attested to. For once I didn't get some hands on attention from our TSA friends after I went through the body scanner .

It's a gorgeous flying weather day and I get to the ATL with no issues.  I've already eaten breakfast, I'm chilling at my BWI gate with my laptop playing my fave tunes from the 70s-90's on my Spotify account as I settle in to kill my three hours of Hartsfield-Jackson airport sit time.  I'm watching the world and the Delta flight personnel walk by and thinking about how much I miss the airline biz when I heard the announcement that my flight has gate changed due to a mechanical problem with my just arrived inbound aircraft.

We ended up leaving 20 minutes late on the ATL-BWI leg but my captain made up the time and we pulled into my BWI gate at 3:47 PM EDT, three minutes earlier than scheduled.    Samantha Master grabbed me a few minutes later and off we went in the direction of Washington DC and my Dupont Circle area hotel.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, because I know so many people in the DC area who would love to spend quality time with me (and it's a nice problem to have), they know to get it they have to grab me either when I land inside I-495 or on my way out of town back to DCA.  

So Samantha made sure she got first dibs on me before Ruby Corado did.
After taking me to lunch, doing a little shopping and discussing the current state of the movement, we eventually ended up at the Carlyle Suites hotel on New Hampshire Ave NW.   I noticed along with Samantha the Delta Sigma Theta Way sign underneath it as we turned onto New Hampshire Ave.  I discovered I would be staying less that two doors down from DST national headquarters which made me chuckle as a child of a proud AKA. 

That area also has many embassies, and the Grenadian embassy was on the corner of New Hampshire Ave and R St.  I also noticed something else in addition to the embassies sprinkled throughout the tree shaded neighborhood, a 7-Eleven.   That meant I was going to be able to destroy some Slurpees on this trip.    

I checked into my 7th floor art-deco style suite, made some calls, walked around the corner to that 7-Eleven to get my first Slurpee (lemonade) since my PTHC trip and after returning to the hotel settled in to get some rest for the big day.

Monday July 7 was another warm but beautiful clear weather day in which I debated when I woke up at 8 AM whether to go to Capitol Hill and see Yesenia Chavez or just head to the White House area for the Summit which was starting at 1 PM. 

I was anxious to see who was going to be in attendance for the Summit, and started walking toward the Dupont Circle Metro station.   I discovered during that walk the embassies of Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Argentina were also in the vicinity along with the headquarters of the American Library Association.   That made me smile and think about my homegirl BiblioDiva, AKA Melissa Meadows as I made the turn onto Q St. near the Argentinian embassy and headed toward the station.  

When I arrived there I got my first pleasant surprise of the day when I tapped my WMATA SmarTrip card and discovered I had $9.60 on it.  That was more than enough to get me down there and back from Dupont Circle, so I added another $7 to it to cover any other Metrorail trips I would possibly do here before jumping onto my Red Line train to head to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.        
After changing to a Orange Line train at Metro Center Station I get off at Farragut West and realize I didn't burn as much time as I thought I would and I'm way early.   Fortunately I spot a Mickey D's and decided to burn up an hour and grab lunch there before heading to the designated WH security gate since I knew it was going to be at least 4 hours before I'd get an opportunity to eat something.

I arrive at the security checkpoint outside of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at 11:40 AM and I'm met by a female intern ironically from Dallas who is waiting to escort another party into the WH complex.   After we exchanged Lone Star pleasantries a few minutes later I start seeing the peeps arriving for the Summit.   Michael David Battle arrives with his mom, then Geena Rocero, and Krys and Kin Folkz from Oakland who I'd met during the first Trans*H4CK 

We all start catching up on what has been transpiring in our lives as the clock ticks toward 12 noon and the point that security personnel are ready to begin checking our ID for the first stage of clearing the WH security gauntlet

After arriving in the auditorium I begin to see more familiar people like Kimberley McLeod from Elixher, Angelica Ross, Lourdes Hunter, Katrina Goodlett, and the man of the hour in Dr. KRZ complete with his patriotic flag pattern tie.  Introductions are coming fast and furiously, business cards are being exchanged and pictures and selfies are being snapped as the time ticks down toward the 1 PM start of the event. 

I even got an opportunity to talk to Tim Gill about politics and a few issues.    

One of the biggest questions I got asked once I revealed I'd come to the event from Houston is 'What's happening with the HERO?'   So yeah peeps, the world is watching H-town. 

Finally the program starts with the SRO crowd settling in for the welcome from WH Office of Public Engagement advisor Gautam Raghavan.

Following his remarks, the first armchair conversation with Google [x] VP Megan Smith moderated by Lesbians Who Tech founder Leanne Pittsford to start the four hour program begins.   

That conversation focused on women in the tech field and dropped the interesting historical note that the Duchess of Cambridge's (AKA Kate Middleton)  grandmother was one of the Bletchley Park duty officers that helped decode German military messages encrypted on the German Enigma coding machine for Allied use.  It moved to discussing other diversity issues before that conversation concluded with audience Q&A.

Before the next segment of the program happened, we were given the opportunity to line up at the two mikes on either side of the room and give a 30 second elevator  pitch discussing our innovative work on behalf of the community, ask for help or resources, or share your Big Idea.

Once the time allotted for the first round of elevator pitches expired, we moved to a panel discussion entitled Challenges And Opportunities Facing LGBT Communities.   The panel was comprised of USDA Special Assistant Ashlee Davis, WH National AIDS policy Director Douglas Brooks, Out2Enroll's Katie Keith and UCLA Williams Institute Senior Counsel Adam Romero.

After discussing HIV/AIDS and the problematic inclusion of transpeople in the MSM category, the problems of rural LGBT people, and the lack of inclusion of transpeople and especially transpeople of color in Gay Inc leadership ranks and organizations with the Black transfolks in attendance leading much of the conversation in that auditorium on many of those issues, it was time for the next round of elevator pitches.

When those concluded it was time for our sis Geena Rocero to take the stage. 

Taryn Miller-Stevens introduced her and Geena gracefully strode to the podium to talk about how the power of stories fused with technology is empowering trans people, helping us change lives and influencing public policy changes.  She also talked about the motivating reason why she founded GenderProud

I received an unexpected shoutout during her speech, along with Dr Z and some of the other trans POC leaders who have been pushing for systemic human rights change on behalf of our community.  

When she concluded her speech to a standing ovation, she and Taryn had an armchair conversation to answer more audience questions driven by her remarks before they stepped aside to make way for the next portion of the program. 

The Presidential Innovation section of the program was an interview conducted by Senior Advisor to the US Chief Technology Officer Erie Meyer with 18F Creative Director Hillary Hartley.

After their interview and Q&A, we took a short break before we heard Tim Gill's Call to Action speech to conclude the LGBT Innovation Summit. 

After some closing thoughts and next steps from Gautam, we moved to the Indian Treaty Room on the 4th floor for a Gill Foundation hosted reception that concluded a little after 6:30 PM to end our day on the White House grounds.

Some of us decided to continue the conversations at the nearby W Hotel and its patio bar with a gorgeous view of  the White House complex, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument and The Mall.   We were joined there by Kylar Broadus, Ruby Corado and Joanna Cifredo and engaged in debriefing conversations about what had just transpired on this historic day and discussed the lobby day taking place next week.  

We then took those conversations from that spot to another locale that lasted well into the wee hours of the morning before I had to bounce to my hotel and pack for my departure in a few hours.   

I woke up at 8 AM to another gorgeous but hot DC summer day.   Since my flight to Houston via Atlanta wasn't leaving until 3 PM, I decided before I had to check out of my room at 12 noon and because I didn't want to be schlepping my laptop and bag through Capitol Hill security, to bounce to Capitol Hill and attempt to keep my promise of seeing Yesenia before I left the Washington DC area.  

When I got to Rep Raul Grijalva's (D-AZ) office on the fifth floor of the Longworth Building a little before 10 AM, one of her coworkers advised me she'd just left for a training session and wasn't due back in until after 11 AM.  I decided after a few minutes of enjoying their hospitality to kill time by going to see my own congressmember. 

After accomplishing that mission, I headed back to Longworth to see if Yesenia was back. She wasn't and because it was now 11:10 AM I had to head back to the Capitol South station to begin my journey back to the Dupont Circle area and check out of the hotel.   I discovered later when I checked my phone at DCA after I cleared TSA security and arrived at my departure gate I just missed Yesenia by five minutes. 

Oh well, I'll catch her next time. 

Ruby showed up a little after 12 to pick me up from the Carlyle Suites and hang out at Casa Ruby for a moment before we headed off in the direction of DCA to drop me off to start my return trip home. 

So once again I got to spend a little time inside the beltway, see some old friends, meet some new ones, talk about the Trans Revolution Will Not Be Televised business with my trans peeps and get my learn on at the same time.

The evaluation for this inaugural White House LGBT Innovation Summit should be hitting my e-mail soon, but so glad I had an opportunity to be in the house for the inaugural event.   

Hope next year's is even better.   

And for those of you who missed me on this latest trip inside I-495, I'll probably be back before the year is out, so just get ready to try to get me at DCA before Ruby or Samantha do.

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