Back in Dixie, Creating Change attracts southerners

Southerners on New Ground to celebrate 20th anniversary during Atlanta conference

by Matt Comer  Editor
Published: January 25, 2013 in News

Southerners on New Ground Co-Director Paulina Helm-Hernandez, of Atlanta, discusses the importance of intersectional work among LGBT and immigrant communities in Georgia.

[Ed. Note -- Our editor, Matt Comer, is covering the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change conference live from Atlanta. Follow updates online at or on Twitter @qnotescarolinas. The conference hashtag on Twitter is #CC13.]

ATLANTA — Nearly 3,000 LGBT activists and organizers from across the country and the world are attending this weekend’s National Conference on LGBT Equality, “Creating Change,” the 25th annual conference presented by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The conference makes its appearance back in Atlanta for the first time since 2000 and has attracted a strong showing of southern activists and organizers.

“There is time now for us to build a southern freedom movement, given the shifting landscape in the South and in the country,” Southerners on New Ground (SONG) Senior Strategist Kai Lumumba Barrow, of Durham, said in a morning session on the South, politics, sex and god. ”

SONG, an Atlanta-based progressive LGBT grassroots organizing group, kicked off their weekend of activities at the conference with their session this morning.

“We work in place — this region, this land, this culture — that has a legacy of both slavery and the most extraordinary civil rights resistance movement,” SONG Senior Strategist Suzanne Pharr told a room of more than 50 session participants. “We live in a place you could say is a place of contradiction, but in some ways it isn’t because both those connect to each other. There are not good or bad guys. This is a complexity we live everyday.”

SONG’s work has been intersectional, addressing connectivities between allied movements. In Georgia, the group has worked in coalition with Latino organizations on immigration issues.

Elsewhere, SONG organizers have worked to address issues of anti-LGBT religious prejudice.

SONG North Carolina Field Organizer Bishop Donagrant McCluney, of the Pentecostal Holiness Church Movement and The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, said LGBT people must bring their “authentic selves” into conversations about faith.

“I respectfully create the conflict,” McCluney said at the session. “When I show up as a my authentic self, I don’t allow preachers to assume everybody agrees with their theology. I do believe in heaven and I do believe in hell, but I also believe God has gay children, loves his gay children and uses his gay children and we don’t have to hide in the closet anymore.

“Evangelical preachers don’t get to tell me what I believe and what I get to believe,” he said. “I, too, am sanctified.”

SONG will celebrate 20 years of service tonight with a special reception for conference attendees. Later in the evening, they will host an anniversary party.

Learn more about SONG at