6th Annual LGBT Conference in Fresno

February 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
An Oscar-nominated movie played a big role as hundreds of gay, straight and bi-sexual students met in Central Fresno Saturday.Students from Stockton to Bakersfield made this trip to this 6th annual conference. Students had a special guest activist helping them find solutions to end violence and increase understanding.

Three hundred students and adults cheered for human rights activist Cleve Jones as they packed into this Central Fresno church. Jones relived the moment he found out Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man voted into office, was assassinated November of 1978. "I'd lost my father-figure. I'd lost our leader."

Jones's story not only reached this audience but millions who have already seen the film "Milk", now out in theatres. The title role is played by Oscar-winner Sean Penn.

Jones said the movie and the recent defeat of gay marriage as stated in Proposition 8 have reaffirmed the fight for civil rights. Jones said, "We lost this last one and it's energized the community and the film has energized the community so I want these kids you know to be prepared to fight for their rights."

That's why these kids said they are here on a Saturday morning to fight prejudice and injustice.

Christopher Martinez of Fresno said, "What we need to do is educate them. Teach them how to fight for themselves."

Students will attend three one hour long workshops where they will learn about conflict resolution, issues affecting their community and their legal rights.

Frankie Alfaro of Fresno said, "You just got to learn to ignore them and they know that they have somewhere to go and that's great for somebody."

Students here say there has already been too much loss. One year ago openly gay 15-year old Lawrence King of Oxnard was shot to death by a fellow student.

Gay-Straight Alliance spokesperson Robin Mcgehee said this conference promotes safety for all students. "It empowers them by seeing that this is something they can do in the community to give back and develops their skills as leaders.

Jones said he will continue to visit areas like Fresno spreading his message, "Every one of us is needed in this fight and we don't want anyone excluded."

The conference runs until 9:30 pm Saturday night. Students got in free and will be served dinner and celebrate with a dance before the night is over.

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