2.18 Creating Change Report Back: Leading from a Place of Love and Connection

By Ryan Li Dahlstrom, GIFT Training & Network Coordinator

I just got back from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s 23rd annual Creating Change conference in the brisk Minneapolis, MN winter. It was great to be “home” in the city and state I grew up in, see old friends and family, and be in community and conversation with some of the fiercest organizers and activists working in the LGBTQ movement for racial, economic, and gender justice and liberation.

Each time I leave movement building spaces like these, I feel more connected and re-energized by folks whose vision, values, and work inspire me and give me hope. I find myself longing for more conversations and idea-sharing with folks who are creating new models for mobilizing and sharing resources, community accountability and safety, and healing. I want more opportunities for this kind of dreaming, imagining, and visioning toward what is possible outside of the physical and structural conditions of the nonprofit industrial complex, capitalism, racism, classism, ageism, ableism, and other forms of oppression my communities face on a day-to-day basis.

I found this dreaming space at two of the day-long institutes at the conference: Access(ing) Our Liberated Bodies and The Familiar Made Strange: Integrating Disability Justice Politics into Our Racial, Economic, and Multi-Issue Justice Work. The brilliant facilitators from the First Nations Collective (Coya Artichoker, Paulina Hernández, and Melissa Pope) and the Disability Justice Collective (Eli Clare, Sebastian Margaret, and Mia Mingus) pushed and inspired me to keep leading from a place of love and connection rather than cynicism and critique.

While there are still many questions that remain for me in terms of where the movement is, where it’s heading, and which issues/communities are being most resourced and made most visible, I would like to keep pushing myself to not get stuck in a place of constant critique.

I want to continue to be conscious of who has access and who doesn’t to these kinds of spaces and why, and what it means for me to access this type of space as a paid nonprofit staff member who is not indigenous to this land and is an able-bodied, light-skinned, mixed race Asian American genderqueer person with a lot of passing privileges. I want to continue tapping into my inner hope for something more as I do my work here at GIFT and in my communities.

I challenge all of us to continue to:

• Build a bottom-up movement for justice and liberation that is rooted in principles of self-determination, sovereignty, and access, led by those who are most impacted.
• Make shifts in our movements to eradicate and not replicate oppressive, divisive tactics and conditions.
• Mobilize and share resources to build more interdependent and interconnected communities of care, self-determination, and resiliency.
• Move away from a scarcity-based, competitive model of money and resources to one of collaboration and cooperation.
• Lead from a place of hope, desire, love, and connection, rather than fear, cynicism, anger, and critique. (I know it’s hard some days! Some days we just gotta be angry, outraged, and/ or cynical, but it can’t be the only place we lead from.)

How do we do all this? I don’t know. I do know that we can do it if, inside and outside of these kinds of spaces, we continue to grow toward interconnectedness, interdependence, collective and personal healing and liberation, and transformation.