The Philadelphia skyline flashed on screen during last week’s closing plenary of Creating Change, the annual conference hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force. The 4,000 people who attended this year’s event in Chicago were invited to reunite next year in the City of Brotherly Love.
Creating Change, the largest national gathering for the LGBT movement, will come to Philadelphia in winter 2017. The 29th-annual conference takes place Jan. 18–22.
Philadelphia secured the hosting duty over the summer, thanks in part to the efforts of Bruce Yelk, the gay former head of public relations for Visit Philadelphia, the city’s tourism board.
“We’ve always wanted to bring Creating Change to Philadelphia,” said Russell Roybal, deputy executive director of the Task Force. “There is a lot of great LGBT organizing going on, on the ground, there.”
Roybal added that Philadelphia sits “in an important part of the country.” Pennsylvania has not hosted Creating Chance since 1998, when it came to Pittsburgh.
Task Force representatives will hold a community information meeting in the spring to begin local organizing in Philadelphia and establish a host committee, Roybal said.
Jason Landau Goodman, founding executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, said he looks forward to helping the conference in any way.
“If folks really get involved, we can make the spirit of Philadelphia weave throughout the entire experience,” Landau Goodman said. “There’s a lot of grunt work that takes place with hosting this kind of large-scale conference. But Philadelphia has a unique spunk that should really be shining as an example of how we have civil discourse, how we have really progressive and honest community building.”
That excitement extends to city government.
“For decades, Philadelphia has been on the front lines of LGBT civil rights,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement to PGN, noting that in recent years, “Philadelphia has grown into a city dedicated to inclusion and equality.”
Kenney pointed to the November elections — in which voters supported amending the city charter to make permanent the city Office of LGBT Affairs — as a point of pride for Philadelphia’s national reputation.
“I have been an advocate for equitable policies for our LGBT community for many years now,” Kenney continued, “and look forward to hosting this event.”
Tami Sortman, vice president of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, said Creating Change would showcase the dollar power of the LGBT community in Philadelphia, so it’s considered a “viable market.”
“The best thing about it is it’s now being counted toward LGBT tourism coming into the city,” Sortman told PGN in September.
She said the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which deals with conferences in the city, previously counted LGBT events as “diversity spending,” without breaking down the categories that also included money generated from women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans.
“The more of these types of bigger groups that hold their meetings and conferences here, the better it is for the LGBT community in Philadelphia,” Sortman said. “I see this organization coming in here and bringing us together in a way we haven’t been before.”
PGN attended the 2016 Creating Change conference in Chicago. For full coverage, visit www.epgn.com/special-editions/161-creating-change-2016.