Thursday, June 20

UCLA hosts LGBT conference


Students and civil rights activists from universities across the
country gathered at UCLA over the weekend for the first Grassroots
Organizing Weekend, aimed to address issues affecting the lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgendered community.

Drawing more than 40 people from states including Colorado and
Alabama ““ many of whom were student leaders of LGBT
organizations ““ the event’s workshops taught
participants how to build coalitions and campaigns focusing on gay
and lesbian civil rights issues. The weekend was organized by the
United States Student Association, a national student lobbying
organization.

“The Grassroots Organizing Weekend trains students to
effectively make changes in their own life through
empowering,” said Matt Kaczmarek, external vice president of
the Undergraduate Students Association Council and a USSA board
member. The Office of the External Vice President and the UCLA
Queer Alliance were also sponsors of the event.

Workshops ranged from outlining strategies in creating campaigns
to examining recruitment methods.

One workshop that focused on recruitment was the Actions
Role-play, where students were given a scenario and asked to act
out how they would approach the situation. Trainers then critiqued
each performance and offered alternate ways to solve the
problem.

Several participants were from out of state and said the long
trip to UCLA was worthwhile.

“I wanted to learn ways to build up my own organization
and to bring a community feeling to the campus,” said Derreck
Harrington, president of the Gay Alliance at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham.

The idea for the conference was initiated by the United States
Students Association, which holds approximately 20 Grassroots
Organizing Weekends every year.  Kaczmarek suggested holding
the conference at UCLA, and recruited the help of the UCLA Queer
Alliance in organizing the event.

“The conference has been amazing,” said Nicholas
Sakurai, a USSA board member and one of the event trainers.
“It’s been a larger turnout than many of our other
events.”

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