"I learned many things but I think what I will most take away from here is how much we can do to help stop oppression."
"This is so extremely important. I have met so many queer and ally people of color activists who have inspired me to do this work in so many ways."
"The workshops are intense at times but thoroughly fun. I've learned new, creative techniques to delve into our topics."
These are a few of the comments from the twenty-one student of color organizers from across the country that participated in the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) 2004 Student of Color Organizers' (SOCO) Retreat in Durham, NC during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend (January 16-19). With GLSEN staff and allies from American Friends Service Committee, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Gill Foundation. Students and adult allies planned and facilitated workshops with information and skills building. The weekend also provided opportunities for students and adult allies to network with one another. This was the second annual SOCO Retreat organized by GLSEN for high school student of color organizers who are working on safe schools issues in their local communities.
Each student, representing diverse communities from every part of the country and ten different states, came to the retreat with an idea for a project which would combine safe schools organizing and communities of color and/or students of color. By the weekend’s end, each student had an action plan; using new information on networking and skill building learned from the SOCO Retreat to make their projects come to life!
Partnering in the local community with El Centro Hispano (Hispanic Center), North Carolina Lambda Youth Network (NCLYN) and Southerners on New Ground (SONG) also gave GLSEN and the student organizers an opportunity to learn about the local community and their organizing efforts.
Highlights of the weekend included learning about interviewing and media representation of LGBT people of color, addressing personal and group identity, which included a panel and session on transgender people of color issues. Additionally included was a film screening of the documentary of Bayard Rustin's life, the openly gay, black man who was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Students and adults also participated with SONG in the Durham Dr. MLK, Jr. March & Rally on the Monday holiday.
GLSEN is excited about the major impact the weekend will have on the individuals that participated. New relationships and skill-building, short-term results of planned projects for communities and students of color and long-term results that student of color organizers will have in their communities on not only safe school organizing but social justice organizing are a few examples of the impact that is occurring.
“This is such a critical element to the work of GLSEN, our commitment to communities of color and our recognition of the growing leadership of these young people,” says Christopher Ramírez, GLSEN’s Student Organizing Director.
To learn more about safe schools organizing in communities of color or for more information about the retreat, please contact GLSEN at firstname.lastname@example.org.