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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13



Chicago's LGBTQ+ Advisory Council sets a new course
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 12668 times since Mon Mar 18, 2024
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Chicago's LGBTQ+ Advisory Council held its first meeting of the calendar year on Feb. 28 at City Hall in the Loop under the leadership of the recently appointed chair Jin-Soo Huh.

The LGBTQ+ Advisory Council is currently one of five councils established under the Chicago Commission on Human Relations's (CCHR) Enabling Ordinance. Other Advisory Councils focus on Equity, New Americans, Veterans Affairs and Women.

Huh, who has been on the advisory council since it was reestablished in early 2020 under then Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration, told Windy City Times he decided to join because "I am a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and love that I have the privilege of calling Chicago home. The advisory council is a way that I can make Chicago an even more inclusive place and to make sure the voice of the LGBTQ+ community is heard and recognized while the City makes policy decisions."

Late last year, Huh took on the role of chair because he wanted "to continue to make Chicago a more inclusive place. I was heartened by then Mayor-elect Johnson's LGBTQ+ policy positions and the naming of the advisory council as a key partner in his transition report."

The meeting began with Huh noting that the council will be modernizing how it operates including a revamped website with more information about its work available to the public. Huh also said each meeting will have consultancy, community connection, committee and council updates and public comment sections.

The consultancy objective is to "advise a city agency, the Mayor's team or other city body on specific questions that pertain to the LGBTQ+ community" while the community connection has three objectives; "aim to hear from a diverse set of organizations, help the advisory council better engage with the community and form partnerships with organizations that serve the LGBTQ+ community and build advisory council's awareness of resources and services that organizations provide to support our work."

This quarterly meeting's consultancy focused on supporting LGBTQ+ migrants and featured a presentation by Chicago Office of Immigrant, Migrant and Refugee Rights First Deputy Rey Wences. In addition to the general information on the migrants who have come to Chicago, Wences also said that there will be improvements in support for the LGBTQ+ migrants including a more inclusive intake questionnaire upon migrants arrival "affirming signage at the Illinois Department of Public Health's intake center and coordinating connections to resources outside of the shelters."

The community connection portion of the meeting featured a presentation by Center on Halsted's CEO Joli Robinson (who took on this role in early December 2023). Robinson spoke about her background in Dallas working to help the unhoused population there and that this is also one of the focuses of the Center. She shared the other things the Center has to offer and said, "We are going to focus on being strategic and intentional about our programming and services. [So] that when people walk through the doors of the Center or engage with anyone at the Center, [you] feel affirmed for who you are and are celebrated."

Additionally, Communications and Outreach Chair Anna DeShawn, Community Safety Chairs Maliyah Arnold and Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Equity and Inclusion Chairs Dr. Pamela Lightsey and Stephanie Skora and Health and Human Services Chair Miguel Blancarte, Jr. shared each of their committee's priorities and future plans.

Arnold added that she took on one of the community safety committee chairperson roles because, "As an openly transgender person and a woman of color, witnessing the detrimental impact of policy rollbacks on transgender rights across the United States under the Trump administration was a reality check for me. While it was heartbreaking, it made me aware that despite the progressive momentum of our country over the last several decades, the loss of this progress was always just one bad election cycle away. As negative as it seems, the harm that this administration affected in my community… on my friends and chosen family… inspired me to get more involved in political leadership. I've realized the urgent need for informed, empathetic leadership that can advocate for the rights and dignity of all LGBTQ people across the city."

DeShawn told Windy City Times she wanted to join the council and also become the Communications and Outreach Chair "because so often the information doesn't get back to the people. It's not that work isn't being done, it's that it doesn't get communicated. I want to be part of the reason people in our LGBTQ+ community as well as our comrades know what is going on and are thoughtfully informed."

The advisory council also includes among its membership Don Abram, Dr. Nick Alder, Dr. Chris Balthazar, Don Bell, Robert Castillo, Stefanie Clark, Starr De Los Santos, Kim Hunt, Kristen Kaza, Cornelius Lee, Sanjeev Singh, Eric Wilkerson and Vic Wynter.

The LGBTQ+ Advisory Council was originally called the Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues (ACGLI) and has been in existence since 1985 when then Mayor Harold Washington created it. Since that time, the council has gone through different iterations and focuses.

Huh told Windy City Times that he hopes this new version of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council "becomes a body that effectively advocates for policies that protect and invest in the LGBTQ+ community. To do this, I want to make sure we meaningfully engage LGBTQ+ Chicagoans and organizations throughout the city to hear about their experiences and find ways that we can collaborate. We have taken the first steps by setting our priorities for this year and we look forward to working with the community and reporting out the progress on these priorities."

See . To sign up for the newsletter, visit and to contact the council visit, .

This article shared 12668 times since Mon Mar 18, 2024
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