by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
GetEQUAL leaders convened in Washington, DC, January 23-26 to strategize about how to win full LGBTQ equality under the law, officials with the organization announced this week.
Over the course of three days, leaders from 12 states and Washington, DC, talked together about the state of the LGBTQ movement and the work necessary in order to ensure that full legal and social equality is extended to LGBTQ individuals.
The organization announced the hiring of five new staff who, according to officials, will build GetEQUAL's grassroots capacity, including: Jerssay Arredondo (Western Region Field Coordinator), Elle Hearns (Central Region Field Coordinator), Wooten Gough (Eastern Region Organizer), H Kapp-Klote (Communications Coordinator) and Felicia Perez (Digital Coordinator).
Wooten was born in Winston-Salem, NC and grew up in very rural Yadkin County. In high school, Wooten made new friends that he later found out were undocumented. From there he went to UNC and created Students United for Immigrant Equality and ended up joining the Trail of Dreams, walking with them from Richmond, VA to Washington, DC. Wooten was hired by the Latin American Coalition in 2010 and it was then that El Cambio was formed at the annual Fourth of July Festival in downtown Yadkinville. He now focuses building power in rural communities at the intersection of LGBTQ equality and immigrant justice.
Elle Hearns is a black Trans woman who is living unapologetically in her truth. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Elle is a part of the leadership team for Trans Women of Color Collective TWOCC). TWOCC is an organizing movement that works to uplift the narratives, lived experiences, and leadership of Trans people of color. Elle's focus is to make sure these narratives are centered in national conversations of anti-blackness, anti-oppression, and decriminalization. When she is not slaying dragons she enjoys engaging in circles surrounded by love, healing, and restoration.
Jerssay is a self-proclaimed undocumented, unafraid, and unashamed queer Latino immigrant. He was born in Mexico City and raised in Phoenix, AZ. At a very young age Jerssay witnessed the injustices faced by his immigrant, trans, and queer community. Such injustices influenced him to want to do something and change the hearts and minds of people. Jerssay began organizing with the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and pushed for in-state tuition and the federal DREAM ACT, and helped create visibility for the UndocuQueer community throughout Arizona. In 2013 he joined the United We Dream Network and led the network's Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP) as the project's national coordinator, helping the network grow capacity by building and organizing queer trans youth, parents, families and allies around immigrant and LGBTQ issues. In 2014 Jerssay co-founded The Queer Network, a local organization, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, a national LGBTQ Latin@ organization. Also, Jerssay is passionate about food, culture, dance, music and fashion.
Felicia is currently Digital Coordinator with GetEQUAL, an associate/trainer with The Center for Story-Based Strategy, and operator of Reno Space Creators- developers of museum exhibits and web-based graphic design solutions. She most recently served as the United Workers Congress Membership Support & Social Media Coordinator. Her previous organizing & member support experience includes work for The ACLU of Southern California, the California-No on Prop 21 campaign, Californians For Justice, UC Santa Barbara External Vice President of Statewide Affairs, and Chair of the National Queer Students of Color Caucus/board member of the U.S. Student Association (USSA). Felicia is also a published author of History's Mysteries: Solve the Crime of the Time under Interact (publishers of simulations, role plays, cooperative group units and other kinesthetic learning programs). Felicia holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction.
'Black Trans women are disproportionately impacted by structural oppression. It is critical that we increase visibility of black Trans leadership if we are to shift this narrative. I am excited to bring my wealth of knowledge and experience to the team at GetEQUAL,' said new staff member Elle Hearns, Central Region Organizer.
H Kapp-Klote is a writer, organizer, and general media nerd from Kansas. They got into exploring the intersections between media and change-making in high school by running a queer youth radio show. They've written for RH Reality Check, The Toast, In These Times, Feministing, Youngist, and The Chicago Reader, and worked and studied communications strategy for everything from the School of the Americas protest to after-school child nutrition programs. They spend their time thinking about power and pizza in Chicago.
On Monday, GetEQUAL organizers visited Senator Merkeley's office to talk with the Senator's staff about what a comprehensive and inclusive federal LGBTQ equality bill must include. These organizers brought the voices of those who will be most impacted by the bill's language - both positively and negatively - into the room. GetEQUAL leaders spoke about the need for a bill that is fully inclusive of Transgender individuals, does not include religious exemptions, and is based on the needs of those most marginalized in the LGBTQ community, including undocumented immigrants, transgender individuals, and people of color.
GetEQUAL is a national grassroots social justice organization whose mission is to empower the LGBTQ community and allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information, head to: www.getequal.org.
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