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November 2, 2007

Hate crime conference solidifies LGBT inclusion

Columbus--A hate crime conference for students last weekend included sexual orientation, although a mass e-mail sent days earlier implied that it wouldn’t.

The Youth Hate Crimes Prevention Conference was held at Fort Hayes High School by the Columbus chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, a relatively new branch of the national organization.

However, when they sought other community groups to sign on as co-sponsors for the October 27 event, they neglected to contact any LGBT ones.

The Multicultural Center at Ohio State University, which includes the Office of GLBT Student Services, was listed as a sponsor. But others in the community said that the center had minimal involvement.

Stonewall Columbus, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization and Kaleidoscope Youth Coalition, all groups that deal with the LGBT community, were not invited to attend until LGBT community activist Jeff Doner sent out a mass email pointing out the omission, less than a week before the event.

According to BRAVO executive director Gloria McCauley and president emeritus Chris Cozad, the email brought about positive results, although not necessarily in the way Doner expected.

McCauley said that the problem was not malice or homophobia on the part of the OCA chapter, but rather their newness to the community.

She indicated that once the group was contacted, they were extremely eager to partner with community groups they did not previously know about.

She also pointed out that the hate crime prevention book that was handed out at the event, produced by the national organization, repeatedly referred to sexual orientation. It also included the LGBT-specific National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in its resource list.

“Once we made contact with them, they were very open and welcoming,” Cozad said.

She was invited to give the opening speech for the conference and stayed to view the rest of the presentations, most produced by students. Cozad indicated that many of those youth-created presentations also included sexual orientation.

“The kids were fabulous,” she said.

Cozad also absolved the Columbus chapter of the OCA of much of the blame for not including queer organizations earlier.

“For an organization that was just starting on hate crime work, I don’t think they were purposely not inclusive,” she said. “It was just a matter of them learning the ropes.”

She believes, however, that two of the sponsoring organizations, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the City of Columbus Community Relations Commission, should have guided the OCA in the proper direction.

“Certainly some of those folks should have noticed the lack of inclusion and raised the issue,” Cozad said.

She and McCauley, however, are not concerned about a minor slight, and instead are looking to the future. Both expressed a desire to work with OCA on upcoming programs, and mentioned that talks are already underway to accomplish that goal.




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