January 20, 2009
When Barack Obama's "Change is Coming" campaign made a national call to action, rallying communities to inform the new administration's transition team on the most pressing, in-need-of change issues facing Americans today, Aaron Bowen, Lawrence Perea and Anthony Martinez (pictured left to right) decided to oblige from a pinker point of view. With a mission of channeling LGBT priorities into the Obama camp, and within only a few weeks, the three founded lgbtchange.org, mustered a panel of 25 local government and social figures-—including Illinois state representatives, health center CEOs, school officials and legal experts—-and facilitated a forum to bring the most pressing, in-need-of-change gay issues to the president's floor. The grassroots discussion was held at the Center on Halsted, December 13, 2008, and over 80 people attended; the forum needed to be moved to a larger space than what was originally reserved.
For these three founders of lgbtchange.org, activism and action isn't uncommon ground. Both Bowen and Perea are members of the mayor's advisory council for LGBT issues. Martinez volunteers for various Chicago AIDS organizations, recently serving on the host committee for the AIDS Foundation's World of Chocolate gala. Their experiential input likely aided the efficient execution of their program because what could have been a cluster fuck of hot-headed homos and politicos, all fighting to hear the sound of their own voice, actually yielded an organized and enlightening result.
"Marriage equality is at the forefront of [public awareness]," notes Martinez, "but [the forum showed] that there are a lot of other pressing concerns for the community right now, like AIDS, homelessness, care for gay elderly and safer schools. There is a huge, but lesser known, drive to protect LGBTQA students from harassment and attack."
Though the official discussion has since ended, the initiative isn't over. As of press time, the meeting's minutes are being compiled, the video of the event is being digitized, feedback is still being solicited and the original agenda is being revisited and revamped, correlating the forum's outcomes as the boys work to decide what would be the best succeeding course of action.
"We want to keep the conversation going and keep the community engaged," Perea informs. "With Obama entering office, there are choices to make and things to consider, and we need to get our input in or he'll never know what our issues are."
And the conversation keeps going at www.lgbtchange.org.