Equality Forum Expected to Draw Thousands to Philadelphia
Thousands of LGBT activists and allies from across the country will descend upon the City of Brotherly Love for the 19th annual Equality Forum. But Malcolm Lazin, who founded the organization and serves as its executive director, may hang up his hat for good if he wins a seat on Philadelphia’s City Council at-Large.
Just three weeks before the May 17 primary, Lazin admits that organizing one of the nation’s largest LGBT summits and campaigning for an at-Large seat has been like "running two marathons simultaneously." His attention to the week-long event doesn’t show signs of distraction, however, as this year’s program boasts over 40 events-from dance parties to art exhibits.
The guest list has drawn national attention too: with Lt. Dan Choi; Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Daniel Hernandez Jr., who helped save Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ in January, scheduled to attend.
"[Hernandez] will be at the center of the universe on Friday," he said. "[President Obama] and Congresswoman Giffords have asked him to join them in Florida for the launch of the space shuttle. That will be one of the leading national stories."
While Hernandez attends the shuttle launch in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Friday, April 29; gay activist Jamie Nabozny will be screening his documentary "Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History" at the University of the Arts. The film chronicles Nabozny’s journey from being bullied and beaten in high school to becoming the first student to successfully sue a school district for its failure to protect a student from harassment.
"[Nabozny] is a gay pioneer in terms of the youth movement," said Lazin, noting Nabozny will hold a question and answer session after the screening. "He was the first youth to step forward and assert his rights. All LGBT students thereafter stand on his shoulders."
Two major stage productions are featured at this year’s Equality Forum-Temple University’s "Que(e)ry" and the Zane Booker Dance Tribute. "Que(e)ry", directed by Peter Reynolds, was researched, written, and developed by 21 Temple students to address the issues of youth struggling with queerness and gender identity. University of the Arts students will perform the Zane Booker Dance Tribute-Booker is a master lecturer at the school.
Equality Forum’s 12th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit will feature the photography of Connie Imboden and Lorenzo Triburgo. Lazin said the photographers’ images provoke viewers to rethink their understanding of gender and the human body.
"It’s a significant part of the LGBT culture," he added. "Equality Forum tries to celebrate the diversity of our contributions, and this art exhibit is literally the longest standing annual gay and lesbian art exhibit in the nation-I don’t think many people realize that."
Equality Forum will hold a panel on April 28 to explore the challenges and victories facing LGBT activists in Latin America. Panelists include Michael Guest, the country’s first openly gay ambassador, and York College political science professor Javier Aguayo. Other panel topics include the next steps in repealing "don’t ask, don’t tell", the ongoing legal battle over the Boy Scouts of America’s Philadelphia headquarters and transgender rights.
Equality forum will wrap up with SundayOUT! at the Piazza on Sunday, May 1. More than 150 artists, vendors and community organizations are expected to set up booths, while KID AKIMBO and Jonathan Bascope are scheduled to perform. A free shuttle will provide transportation between Center City and the Piazza.
With what may be his last year serving at the helm of Equality Forum, Lazin said the feeling is bittersweet.
"It’s 19 years and I’m very proud of what’s been accomplished," he said. "I think every organization is well served with new leadership. I’m looking forward to attending Equality Forum 2012, which will be our 20th anniversary."