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Fifth annual Unity Conference returns to Chapel Hill
Organizers expect to attract hundreds to three-day event

Q-Notes staff

Among the notable artists and activists in attendance for the Unity Conference are Alix Olson (above) and Andy Marra (right).
CHAPEL HILL — The fifth annual Unity Conference will take place March 30-April 1 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Last year well over 300 people from 10 different states attended. This year organizers expect that number to rise and are excited to offer a weekend of workshops, performances and dance-parties.

This year’s theme, “Outlawing Orgasm: Sex, Disease, and the Policing of Pleasure,” seeks to examine the movements for sexual rights and sexual pleasure — that is, the right to determine if, when, with whom and under what conditions one decides to enjoy sexual experiences. Issues slated to be addressed range from gender bending to bigotry, pornography to sexual politics, HIV to sex toys and everything else between.

To that end, organizers have invited a broad range of educating and entertaining spoken word artists and human rights advocates from diverse backgrounds to lead workshops and address the full conference.

Among the notable artists taking part in this year’s presentation is Alix Olson, an internationally touring folk poet and progressive queer artist-activist. Olson’s innumerable stage, broadcast, radio and print appearances include twice headlining HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” and an inclusion in Utne Magazine’s InRadio compilation. Since winning 1998’s National Poetry Slam with her New York City team and 1999’s OutWrite LGBT Slam, Olson has co-authored “Burning Down the House” (Soft Skull Press), published two books of poetry, produced two spoken word CDs and produced an award-winning documentary.

Also on hand will be Sarwat Rumi, a bilingual Bengali-American Muslim. Rumi has a B.A. in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. She works toward social justice as a vigilante poet, teaching artist and performance activist.

As well, attendees can learn from transgender media specialist Andy Marra. An Asian-Pacific Islander (API) media manager for GLAAD, she is at the helm of tracking and analyzing the media covering the API LGBT community and ensuring visibility of this community in the media. Additionally, she works to build the capacity of API LGBT organizations and advocates in telling their stories and sharing their images with the media.

In addition, Unity 2007 will also feature comedian Robin Tyler, allied-organizer Loretta Ross and writer Patrick Califia.

Unity is free for UNC participants and $10-$40 sliding scale for everyone else. The fee covers two meals as well as accommodation on Friday and Saturday nights. Sliding scale means you decide how much you can afford to pay within the specified range. Registration is online and can be completed at the website. 

Online, interested parties will find a more detailed explanation of the event’s theme, a preliminary schedule and information about workshops.

For more information, contact the Unity Conference board at unity2007@gmail.com.
info: www.unc.edu/glbtsa/unity

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