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By Imani Williams
DETROIT – Following the first HTJ! Community Planning Meeting for 2006 emails containing messages like, “It was nice meeting everyone and I’m excited about being involved,” are flowing back and forth on the HTJ! Yahoo listserv. One email after another had a message of community and the sense of “a fresh new feeling” associated with becoming involved in the event.
Just over 30 people came out to the meeting held earlier this month at the Hilton Gardens Hotel in Downtown Detroit. Most in attendance had never worked with Black Pride Society in the pride preparation, which generally starts in February and gets more involved as the month of July gets closer.
The meeting, titled “I’m Coming Out, Eyes Wide Open,” was facilitated by Hank Millbourne, BPS President, and HTJ! Co-founder/Director Johnny Jenkins. The meeting also included a presentation by National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Senior Field Organizers Jason Cooper and Dave Fleischer. The Task Force came from New York to raise awareness about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, the anti-affirmative action measure slated to be on the November ballot to make affirmative action illegal in Michigan.
Cooper and Fleischer told the gathering that NGLTF is holding a power summit April 7-9 in Milwaukee, Wisc. and is seeking people from Detroit’s community to get involved. Ideally they would like a cadre of people from the area to attend, get trained and come back home to organize so that voters in Michigan understand the far-reaching ramifications of the anti-affirmative action measure.
As Cooper explained, “It isn’t just a black, white, male or female, gay or straight thing, this type of ballot measure hurts everyone in the long run.” He stressed the importance of knowing the issue and how to generate conversations around the issue so that people understand how to correctly interpret the language that is misleading.
Attendees signed up to get more information and to be part of the caravan that will leave Detroit and come back empowered to engage the community on the impact that the ballot measure will have if it isn’t defeated.
In addition to learning about the Task Force and their mission, the meeting included information on the various ways that people can become involved as individuals and organizations in HTJ! There are opportunities to volunteer throughout the HTJ! celebration, which runs July 26-30. Committees include: Communications, Entertainment, Genesis Summit, Hospitality, Palmer Park, and Partner Development.
Many people at the meeting were entrepreneurs and party givers who were there for a chance to become part of the community process by becoming HTJ! Partners. There are several levels of involvement ranging from vending opportunities at the picnic and other official events to promoting parties to becoming part of the Genesis Summit and imparting much needed educational information that affects the community.
The idea, said Millbourne, “Is to give everyone an opportunity to get involved and become part of the process.”
“HTJ! is as grand as the people make it,” said Jenkins, who stressed that he strongly supports community participation at the table from the beginning and throughout pride festivities.
“This is the best community planning meeting that I’ve seen over the years,” said BPS Director Charlene Roseborough.
The group will convene again next month to initiate committee assignments. For more information go to http://www.hotterthanjuly.com.
Those interested in becoming involved in the NGLTF Wisc. trip, contact Jason Cooper at jcooper@TheTaskForce.org or 616-358-1451. Scholarship assistance is available to help defray the $100 conference fee. NGLTF doesn’t want anyone shut out of participation because they lack financial resources.