CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nearly 60 community members gathered on Jan. 10 for an in-depth workshop session exploring ways to move the local LGBT community forward, with eyes geared toward collaboration, coalition building, communication and a shared future vision.

The workshop, the final event in a series of three community conversations, was held at the Levine Museum of the New South. Past events have included two panel discussions, tackling issues like racism, privilege, activism, organizational strength and sustainability. This writer was a past panelist and participated as a co-facilitator of a small group discussion on Jan. 10.

Those gathered split up into six small groups during the workshop, each spending about an hour discussing a given prompt or question, including ways community groups and leaders can better communicate, visions for better sharing resources, ways to increase the engagement and involvement of a broader portion of the community and strategies to focus on the future.

A consensus seemed to form as small groups came back together and shared their discussions — with most in agreement that a more formalized or institutionalized means of collaboration and communication was needed. Some suggested that a coalition of LGBT non-profits be started to aid in collaboration. Community groups and leaders have several times in the past, dating as far back as the early 1980s, pulled together to form organizational coalitions or leadership roundtables, but almost all fizzled out — some suggesting such groups lacked a longterm purpose to keep members engaged. To prevent burnout, some suggested such a group needed a collective mission and purpose working toward a shared future goal, something akin to the way in which local governments often create and work toward a 20-year city plan or vision.

Organizers of the discussion series were the Rev. Malu Fairley and Joshua Burford.

Organizations and community businesses represented at the community conversation included: Campus Pride, Charlotte Business Guild, Charlotte Black Gay Pride, Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund, Charlotte Pride, Clayworks, Equality North Carolina, the Freedom Center for Social Justice, Genderlines, Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, Myers Park Baptist Church, One Voice Chorus, PFLAG Charlotte, the PowerHouse Project, PRISM, qnotes, Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, Sacred Souls Community Church, Southern Country Charlotte, Time Out Youth and Visit Gay Charlotte, among others.

The series of community events was held in conjunction with the Levine Museum’s suite of LGBT history exhibits and as a part of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte Multicultural Resource Center’s “North Carolina Activist Series.”

Community meeting notes

The following are notes from the Jan. 10 community meeting, compiled by the Rev. Malu Fairley and Joshua Burford. qnotes is reprinting the notes in an effort to provide wider distribution, including to community members who might not have reliable or regular access to the internet. For more information about the community meeting or questions on getting involved in the effort, email Burford at joshburford@outlook.com. For assistance via telephone, call Matt Comer at 704-531-9988, who can direct you to Burford and other organizations.

A. Communication Between Organizations

1. Creating a viable list of local organizations that includes college groups

2. Creation of a “Coalition of Leaders” organization that would meet quarterly with a common agenda under discussion

3. Selection of a leader for the group that is not currently in a leadership position someplace else, addressing issues related to the community within the group itself

4. Transparency of existing issues between groups in order to foster respect among organizations; commitment to transparency will allow people to deal with problems as they arise and not let them fester

5. Shared commitment to responses in a timely manner from local organizations and a commitment to holding boards accountable

6. Each organization will have a link on their website back to the master list

7. The master list should exist in multiple formats (web based, paper)

8. Creation of more “community conversations” hosted by different groups each time

9. Creation of an “Expo” (outside of the various Pride seasons) hosted by multiple groups to expose the community to resources

B. Issues vs. Framework (or how do we get past dealing with only problems as they arise)

1. “Common Vision; Coordinated Communication; Shared Infrastructure” thinking through how we can create a framework that will allow us to work not just together but smarter together

2. Creation of a framework of shared issues that can be applied to individual organizations; creation of shared goals between groups and not just individual goals for a simple group

3. Creation of a 10/20/30 plan for the community

4. Yearly progress reports from local organizations that we share with the entire community

5. Hiring of a full time communications person that would be shared with multiple organizations (management would include funding sources, resource allocation, and time management)

6. Creation of a list of stakeholders outside the Queer community

C. Expanding the Table

1. Storytelling efforts coordinated by the local community as an opportunity not only to preserve these stories but as a way of engaging multiple constituents (across age groups, socioeconomic groups etc.)

2. Creation of less formal gatherings (not just black tie fundraisers) for people to engage with the community

3. Community Needs Assessment: the current Community Center board is beginning this process so we need to establish buy-in from organizations and community members

4. Space to have conversations about what it means to be an “Ally” both inside & outside the community

D. Intersectional Work

1. Finding ways to connect groups together that are not currently working together

2. A monthly/quarterly education series for people to share knowledge and resources

3. Less formal community events (more like a Meet-Up): Using this as an opportunity to think about who we are inviting to events, and how we are asking people to participate

4. Setting aside shared funding resources to allow groups to work together or plan together

5. Using Visit Gay Charlotte as a means to be the primary welcome site online for the local community

E. Collaboration Between Organizations

1. Creating buy-in and education around collaboration: helping people to understand “why” we should work together and “how” that is accomplished.

2. Each local group will find 3 other groups that will help it fulfill its mission and contacting them about a collaborative project opportunity (thus creating a Ripple Effect)

3. Creating a map of what groups “Don’t” do as well as what the “Actually” do to help people better understand local resources

4. Creation of clear and visible Mission Statements for local organizations : :

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.