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Get in the PIPELINE!

When the very cool Jamie Martin first got in touch with me about the Pipeline Project, I was shocked there was something going on I hadn’t heard about. Especially because it was something that sounded like SUCH a great idea. But it turns out that Pipeline is a group that stays mostly behind the scenes, helping others shine. Well, I think it’s THEIR turn in the limelight. So…what exactly IS Pipeline?

The Pipeline Project is a recruitment, retention, and leadership advancement initiative. The initiative’s goals are to produce programs and engage in activities that together represent a long-term effort to increase the number of people of color working within the nation’s LGBT rights, service and advocacy sector, and ultimately increase the level of diversity in the leadership of our movement.

So basically they are a group for people trying to help the LGBT persons of Color community. They train the trainers – teach them how to be heard, how to organize and how to get work done in the government, business and nonprofit sectors, among others. Their goal is to see more LEADERS from minority communities in the LGBT movement. After all, aren’t we all about wanting the lesser heard voices to have a seat at the table?

The Pipeline Project has some awesome programs…like the The 21st Century Fellows Program. It is a year-long program for LGBT people of color managers currently working at human rights, service and advocacy organizations, with an emphasis on those working at LGBT organizations. By working with specific individuals, the provision of leadership development support for people of color managers within LGBT organizations coupled with opportunities for those managers lets them connect with and learn from each other. Then there is the Organizational Change work.

The Pipeline Project works with organizations using individually-tailored processes in the style of strategic planning to assist managers, Executive Directors and Boards in understanding the historical and contextual reasons their organizations have had difficulty attracting and retaining people of color staff and Board members.

They even have a careers in the LGBT community website with jobs from across the nation!

I couldn’t be more excited to have Jamie and the team working here with several Pennsylvania organizations and I love being able to present them as a resource for businesses, LGBT community leaders and people seeing careers in the field of LGBT service and advocacy. Then them out at

http://www.lgbtpipeline.org/.

Happy Voter Registration Day!

October 5, 2015 is the last day to register before the November 3rd election. Today, September 22nd, is National Voter Registration Day however. It’s now easier than ever to register to vote – you can do it on-line, right from the comfort of your own home! Just go here:

https://www.pavoterservices.state.pa.us/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx

Less than a month ago, Governor Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortés launched an online voter registration system, making Pennsylvania the 23rd state in the nation to do so. The new system makes it so easy to register to vote, there is no reason not to do it. Please, if you are not registered to vote and are reading this post, register today, on National Voter Registration Day. If you are already registered, help get a friend or family member registered to vote. the deadline to vote in this November’s election is November 3. And last, but perhaps most important of all, vote this November.

November 3 will determine York County’s next slate of County Commissioners, Judges, School Board members, and many other elected officials whose work directly impacts your day-to-day lives. This November will also determine the next slate of Judges for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court…and those are the people who will be hearing cases and making final decisions about issues like what groups of people are protected by non-discrimination laws and protecting marriage equality against challenge.

Please, be involved. Register to vote today.

Keeping Connected in LGBT York!

The LGBT community have been masters of social media since its earliest days. Remember message boards? AOL and dial-up? Chat lines? Well, social media of the new millennium is still a great way to keep connected with what’s happening in the southcentral PA community. In person connections still feel more, well, personal to some. You have those options too! Here are a few easy ways to get and stay connected if you have the love, but are lacking in or want to know more about, the community. Just wanted to make sure as many people as possible know about the cool stuff waiting for you in and around York.

The nearly 400 person Facebook group, PA LGBT events is a fun and positive place for event posting and promotion. Lots of the events are from this area and the moderated format keeps it on topic. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1431152210447639/

Want a slightly more adventurous take on the LGBT community? Try that Facebook group LGBT nightlife in Pennsylvania. It can be Philly heavy, but there are still plenty of closer events worth checking out when you’re up for some fun.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1385022511797461/

Another, even more locally focused, option is LGBT in York. LGBT in York was founded in 2010 as a group for people in York, PA who identify as LGBT to network and build community. Commonly referred to as “Gay Club”, the group meets every 1st and 3rd Thursday at First Capitol Dispensing Co. (57 N Pershing Ave., York) at 7 PM. Additionally, group members often hold holiday get-togethers and volunteer with other community-centered events. All LGBT in York meetings and events are open to anyone who identifies as part of the LGBT community. They also have a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lgbtinyork or you can email lgbtinyork@gmail.com. There are about 10 members involved regularly plus plenty of others float in and out and newcomers are always welcome with open arms. It’s about 60/40 men to women and ages range anywhere from about 30 – 60 years old. Make sure to check them out!

Looking for a woman only social experience? MeetUp is still a happening place. There isn’t a York group yet (who wants to start one???) so as a result, the Harrisburg Lesbian MeetUp group has plenty of York representation. Basically, this is a group for southcentral PA area lesbians and those who love them. It’s a chance to get out, meet like minded ladies, have some fun, make some friends, explore the area, laugh a little or a lot, and get off the couch or out of the office for a bit. They try to have a relaxed atmosphere in this group, and make a point to welcome women who are lesbian, bisexual and pansexual and have strict policies prohibiting bullying of any kind. This isn’t a dating group, just good old fashioned networking and getting a chance to meet new people.
http://www.meetup.com/OUT-and-About-Harrisburg-Area-Lesbians/

This is just a sampling of the buffet of possibility, community and connection out there. Happy friendship-ing! I’ll do what I can to keep the resources coming and hey, if you know a great faith community, social gathering or activity, festival or service that I haven’t profiled yet feel free to email me at poemsugar@gmail.com and I’ll post it!

Equality Activists Spread Love Overseas!

Local poet and spoken word artist, Dustin Nispel, and his fiancee, performance poet, Jessica Flynn, have been selected as a dynamic duo to attend the annual Ditet e Naimit International Albanian Poetry Festival in Tetova, Macedonia. Why is this so amazing? Because in addition to being incredible performers, they were highlights at Equality Fest for 2 years in a row and because Dustin and Jess are a powerful set of community activists for Equality in all it’s shapes and forms. It’s amazing to know that two York born-and-bred Equality activists are being recognized on an international stage. York has talent that is just THAT good!

With appreciative love given to photographer, Daniel Walczyk. All rights reserved.
With appreciative love given to photographer, Daniel Walczyk. All rights reserved.

Dustin and Jessica were recommended for the honor by former Berks County Poet Laureate, and United States nominating committee chair, Craig Czury, who says this of the couple; “They perform their poems together and separately, and are a total power force of poetry.”

“We hope to represent our culture and our country.” Dustin said to me. “We want the world to know what York, and what the U.S. urban culture, has to offer.”

Dustin, the winner of the 2014 Capital City Slam Competition among tons of other competitions is the author of The Tower from local printing house, PoemSugar Press/Community Arts Ink (www.communityartsink.com). Jessica is the author of the forthcoming book, Through The Cracks, also from PoemSugar Press. They make up two-thirds of the ownership of local gallery and retail space, The Rooted, fast becoming a creative anchor in the emerging “WeCo” (West of the Codorus, for the uninitiated) community on York’s west side, where they hold poetry readings as well as art openings. The Rooted has also been integral in bringing art to the community by being a partner in the 2015 Creekfire festival series and partners with local charities such as St. Jude’s Children Hospital and The York Rescue Mission and many others in efforts to raise donations and drum up local interest and support.

I was curious, how does a poet, the kind of person who often falls outside of the more political or technical aspect of things, become so passionately involved in working with marginalized communities – ones who doesn’t even belong to. Dustin said this; “Poets are often held in higher regard in other cultures because of their empathy and emotional insights. For example, it was the custom of ancient Middle Eastern rulers to consult the court poet before going to war or taking other important actions. It is imperative that we support our community as they have supported us for all of these years. It is important that we use our voices to lead and motivate positive change.”

Dustin and Jessica, have been writing and performing since high school and serve as frequent mentors and speakers at local schools and community organizations. They consider themselves primarily spoken-word artists. Unlike more traditional poets, they focus more on drama and delivery than form or guideline structure. And their often rapid-fire delivery and raw emotion stand in contrast to the more formal contemporary poetry style popular in Europe.

Jessica – who began writing poems secretly at 13 as a way to cope with a tough adolescence – also wants to start workshops for people to use poetry as an outlet for emotional pain and a vehicle for personal growth.
“If they could just pull out whatever is inside of them and find their passion, poetry can change their lives,” she said. “That’s what it did for me.”

Readings hosted by the Rooted occur every 2nd and 4th Friday at the Rooted, at 101 N. Newberry St. Dustin and Jessica are also seeking sponsors to make their trip to Macedonia possible. They have set up a GoFundMe at gofundme.com/DustinandJessica. Individuals or organizations seeking more information can contact the duo at dnispel@gmail.com or at therootedart@gmail.com. Learn more about Dustin and see some cool performance footage at http://www.denpoetry.com/

US

Life Lessons from Veronica Lush!

In my last blog I introduced you to Yorker turned Baltimore title holding drag performer, Veronica Lush, also known as V-Ron. Miss Charm City Triple Threat 2015 gave me a great primer into just SOME of what it takes to be an award winning queen, but it turns out she has learned a lot along the way about how to be an amazing person and mentor as well as a performer. I thought those lessons were just as important to pass on, especially because there are still young people now going through the trials Veronica did.

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When we talk about Baltimore, in my personal experience, I’ve had mostly positive times. I don’t mean to attack anyone, but York was not very friendly to me when I had come out. There was a lot of bullying, to say the least. I’ve never had that happen to me here in Baltimore though. The mayor is a great supporter of the LGBT community. There is also a huge yearly pride event which takes place an entire weekend.

When I was in high school I wish I would have had someone to help stop and prevent the bullying. I was not the only gay person, and definitely not the only one bullied…It was a huge problem and had a lot to do with my dislike of going to school. When I performed at Equality Fest in august, I met some kids that had similar experiences going on in their school. I’m glad that I got to be there to show them that it happens, and it does get better. They told me they reclaimed the word “Freak” as their own, which is what I also consider myself and my drag. Being normal is boring, #Freakzilla. It would have been nice to have someone like that, or just to have someone tell me its okay not to be ‘normal’ while I was growing up.

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I wish I could say this is the first time I have heard an LGBT or minority or differently-able beautiful young person mention that, even in today’s supposedly more liberal climate, bullying and discrimination are still very real things. I wondered that seeing a more accepting alternative community was part of the drag world’s appeal. Don’t we all need a place where we can feel safe just being ourselves and having fun with that?

I didn’t really expect to find this kind of community. I’ve been accustomed to being kind of an outsider but I was fortunate enough to find the right people as soon as I started here. It’s become a form of a second family. I am lucky enough to have my entire [nuclear] family support my drag, and now they even welcome a lot of my drag family as their own too. It’s not what I expected at all, but I’m very lucky to have found it. It’s been one of the biggest driving forces to keep me going and trying to go bigger and more bad ass every time.

But what initially drew me in – being able to have an outlet for creativity. I can have a transformation. A complete mind, and body change. I can be whatever I want to be, and be as goofy as I want.

Well sweetie – be however you want to be…and have a great time with it. You’ve earned it!

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