Former Victory Congressional Intern Levi Bohanan, a Summer 2014 intern for Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., has accepted a full-time position at the Department of Education.
Levi completed his degree at Texas A&M University, where he worked for the Dean of Faculties Office, as well as for the Department of Multicultural Services as an orientation speaker for incoming students. While at Texas A&M, Levi also served as president of the LGBTQA Aggies Student Association. After graduating cum laude with a degree in political science in December 2014, Levi moved to Washington and worked as a canvasser at NARAL Pro-Choice America.
These days, Levi is working as a Confidential Assistant in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the Department of Education. He’s particularly interested in working with education legislation and policy concerning students with disabilities.
“I’ve always wanted to work at the intersection of education and policy,” Levi noted, “which was actually what led me, in part, to the VCI program at Victory.” According to Levi, he could not be at the positon he is in now without his VCI experience. “It helped give me the skills to navigate DC and gain invaluable and hands-on work experience in these particular issue areas.”
Levi hopes to go on to continue to work in education policy, focusing on higher education policy and finance and its effects on low income and minority students.
Former Victory Congressional Interns Romeo Jackson, a Fall 2014 intern for Congresswoman Gwen Moore, and Nowmee Shehab, a Summer 2014 intern for Congressman David Cicilline, have spent their summers as policy interns at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). We caught up with them to hear about their work this summer, what they’ve been up to since their time with Victory, and what’s on their plates as they enter their last year of college.
A senior at Northern Illinois University studying Intersectionality and Social Justice, Romeo Jackson has worked to incorporate their passion for intersectional justice, the empowerment of queer and trans people, and cross-movement coalition building into their professional work.
At NCTE, Jackson was attracted to the opportunity to work on transgender justice through a racial justice framework. The highlights of Jackson’s summer have included working on a non-binary policy resource guide, and learning more about policy through Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, their mentor and NCTE’s Racial and Economic Justice Policy Advisor.
Although Jackson has just wrapped up their internship at NCTE, they have a busy year ahead of them. “I’m doing an Arcus Fellowship in LGBTQ Leadership and Higher Education working to expand Northern Illinois University’s student healthcare to include transition-related medical care as well as starting a gender and name change service” says Jackson.
This year, they were named to the 2014 Young People For (YP4) fellowship class, and developed a black and LGBTQ ally training as part of their fellowship. They also were a founding member of the Trans and Queer POC Committee at the Annual National Conference for Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE), and are currently serving as the President of Campus Pride’s advisory board.
“Interning at the National Center for Transgender Equality was a powerful, path affirming experience,” says Jackson, when reflecting on their summer. “Getting to see groundbreaking policy happen before my eyes was amazing.”
A senior at Emory University, Nowmee Shehab worked on a range of issues during her internship at NCTE. Following her time last summer as a Victory Congressional Intern, Shehab was drawn to a policy internship at NCTE. “After a summer of learning how our national legislature works, I wanted to learn about administrative law and advocacy and understand how federal agencies work,” says Shehab.
For her, the National Center for Transgender Equality was the perfect fit. “I was particularly drawn to NCTE because they are invested in doing this administrative advocacy through a racial and economic justice lens,” says Shehab. “NCTE has a big policy portfolio ranging from immigration to healthcare policy to state level non-discrimination; the most challenging and the most rewarding part has been working my way through all of these issues and getting a depth of understanding for each of them.”
This summer, Shehab has been involved in advocacy surrounding transgender immigrants in detention, and her piece on the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines for detaining transgender immigrants was published by the Center for American Progress this week.
Shehab has made her mark this summer beyond her work at NCTE. She was recently featured as a #MakingHistory young LGBTQ activist by Generation Progress, completed a fellowship through The National LGBTQ Task Force’s Transgender Leadership Exchange, and had a conversation with a friend about their shared experiences as queer Muslim South-Asian immigrants to the United States featured by StoryCorps Atlanta.
Reflecting on the coalition-building she has been involved with at NCTE, Shehab says, “it has been really exciting to see this collaboration happen on pressing LGBTQ issues.” In her last year of college, she plans to continue organizing with Freedom at Emory, a coalition that seeks to advance higher education access for undocumented students in Georgia, despite statewide laws that limit financial aid for these students. Shehab also is excited to develop her thesis, which will be “centered around the experiences of South Asian immigrant women,” and to continue to work on social justice policy after graduation.
Click here for more information on the Victory Congressional Internship.
LGBT candidates were big winners Tuesday in Utah, with lesbian candidate Jackie Biskupski the top vote-getter in the Salt Lake City mayoral primary. Biskupski (pictured), a former state legislator, took 46% of the vote, while incumbent Mayor Ralph Becker only managed to win 31% in the crowded contest. Biskupski and Becker will face each other again in the general election in November. "I'm excited for sure," Biskupski told the Salt Lake Tribune. "All that hard work paid off."
The Salt Lake City Council could gain an openly gay member after Derek Kitchen easily advanced to the general election in the District 4 primary. Kitchen gained notoriety when he won the case that legalized marriage for same-sex couples in Utah.
"We're excited about these results," said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. "Electing LGBT candidates is so important to changing politics and giving hope to folks in places like Utah, where it's still hard to be out and honest about who you love or how you identify. That's why over the next 83 days we're going to work hard to make sure these candidates have the support they need to win."
After local elections yesterday, LGBT residents of Nashville will finally have representation on the 40-member Nashville Metro Council, but whether there will be one, two or three out council members depends on the outcome of runoff elections to be held September 10.
In the District 8 race, Victory Fund-endorsed candidate Nancy VanReece (pictured) was the top vote-getter, advancing to the runoff election. In District 17, Paula Foster, another Victory endorsee, also earned a spot in the runoff.
"This is a big step toward changing the game in Nashville," said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. "Nancy and Paula are fighters who will have a powerful impact on local politics and policy if we can help them win in September."
Brett Withers, an openly gay East Nashville community activist, ousted an incumbent council member outright on Thursday night, winning more than 60 percent of the vote to take the District 6 seat.
The Nashville Metro Council has not had an openly LGBT member since Keith Durbin won the District 18 seat in 2007. He resigned the seat in 2009 to take a position within the Metro government.
Municipal elections throughout Colombia this year will see a huge uptick in openly LGBT candidates, the result of a joint project between the Victory Institute and Caribe Afirmativo to train out leaders on best practices in building political campaigns.
Since 2013, Victory has been working to train and collaborate with a diverse group of LGBT leaders in Colombia. Taking into account the unique political climate, candidates are trained on effectively utilizing resources and strategies to create a successful campaign that will allow them to take part in their governments as elected and appointed officials. A diverse pool of trainees from all over the country learned necessary skills by attending one of the 4 trainings we organized during these past months, through presentations, workshops, and engaging in realistic campaign situations. These trainings have also provided the opportunity to hear from and meet other out publically elected officials, such as Angélica Lozano, the first openly LGBT candidate elected to the Colombian Congress.
Victory and its local partner, Caribe Afirmativo, have also collaborated to organize multiple electoral debates throughout the region. The ultimate goal for these debates is to create public awareness around LBGT candidates and encourage informed decisions during the elections.
In order for people to stay informed about the ongoing efforts and success, Victory and its local partner created the “Observatorio de la Participación Política de las Personas LGBTI en Colombia” (Initiative for the Political Participation of LGBTI people in Colombia). Through the Observatorio website, we are able to display important candidate information, events, research, and news surrounding the LGBT political realm.
So, why is this work important?
It is essential that each government represent the people it serves. Training future LGBT leaders is crucial in bringing about a more inclusive democratic society. Not only does our work in Colombia provide vital resources to qualified and motivated leaders, it also raises public awareness surrounding the LGBT movement.
In fact, trainees in Colombia reported that they had significantly improved their skillset, better preparing them to hold public office positions. Out of nearly 100 LGBT people who attended trainings in Colombia, at least 23 will be running for local elections in October. Victory and Caribe Afirmativo are currently continuing our training with these candidates to advise them on fundraising and campaign strategies as they work to add their voices to local governments.
We're proud to report this success in Colombia, and we’re excited to continue our work throughout the region. Read more about Victory's international work here, or check out our video highlighting Victory's first training in Bogotá, Colombia in May 2013.
The Victory Fund and Institute this week congratulated Phillipe Cunningham on his appointment as Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges’s senior policy aide for education and youth success.
As a senior policy aide, the mayor’s office has said that Cunningham will address, "racial disparities and closing the achievement gap for youth in Minneapolis.” Additionally, he will work on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, a program launched by the White House to address opportunity gaps faced by boys and men of color in education, employment, and interactions with the criminal legal system.
Previously, Cunningham served on the City of Minneapolis’ Youth Violence Prevention Executive Committee and taught special education in Chicago Public Schools for three years as a member of the Chicago Teachers Union.
"I know that to achieve our goal of improving life outcomes for the city’s youth, we need the very brightest and most dedicated people,” said Hodges in a statement to The MinnPost. “I am thankful that Angela and Phillipe have chosen to be a part of my team and know that their contributions will benefit all of Minneapolis."
Cunningham is a member of the inaugural 2015 class of the Victory Empowerment Fellowship. The fellowship sends emerging LGBT leaders of color and transgender leaders to Victory’s Candidate and Campaign Training and International LGBT Leadership Conference, and connects alumni to ongoing opportunities for leadership development.
Click here for more information about the Victory Empowerment Fellowship.
The International LGBT Leadership Conference is the world’s largest meeting place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elected officials, appointed officials, and advocates from around the world. The conference has been going strong for 31 years, and Jaan Williams, Victory’s Director of Domestic Programs, has been planning it for the past three years. Williams took the time to talk about last year’s conference and outlined why you should be excited about LGBT Leaders 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada from November 19 to 21.
"The conference is three days of skills building, relationship building, connections, thinking about how to be really excellent public servants, no matter what field people are coming from,” says Williams. This past year, at the 30th annual LGBT Leaders conference in Washington, D.C., there were people in attendance from 40 different countries, including the United States. “About 30 percent of the attendees were elected or appointed officials, which is incredible,” he says.
LGBT Leaders has a history of bringing together LGBT public officials and other thought leaders from all over the world. From panels to networking events, the conference allows attendees to connect and strategize. “We recognize that people not only need to get into office, but they need to do a good job when they get there so they can stay in office and be effective legislators,” says Williams.
Each year, the conference has a unique selection of panels and speakers that cover a wide range of topics. “Last year, one of my favorites panels was led by Houston Mayor Annise Parker about women parliamentarians from around the world,” says Williams. “It was a conversation about both what it takes to be a parliamentarian and a good legislator, but also what it means to be a woman in all of these different countries, and an LGBT woman advocating on behalf of the community.”
In Washington, a panel on international issues featured Claire Byarugaba, an activist from Uganda. “The panel shed light on the work that she was doing in Uganda,” says Williams. "She was a dynamic speaker."
This year’s conference is not one to miss. Victory’s organizers are in the process planning programming, and they hope to have some big name speakers attend—last year’s opening reception in Washington included a speech from out lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin.
What else awaits you in November? “The conference is made for anybody who cares about LGBT politics or advocacy, elected officials. It's really an excellent place to build connections and find out what's happening at the city level, at the state level, and at places around the country and outside of the U.S. as well,” says Williams. “We cover everything from planning infrastructure, to LGBT homelessness, to how to do good fundraising for your campaigns. And it's really that kind of marriage of all of those skills that makes the Victory conference unique.”
Daye Pope begins work as trans-rights organizer at Equality PA
Daye Pope has been busy since her Victory Congressional Internship in the Office of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the spring of 2014.
As someone who grew up in a working-class family in small town Iowa, “interning in the nation's capital never seemed like a possibility,” says Pope.
Following her congressional internship, Pope built on her experiences to make waves as an organizer outside of Washington. She has organized in various formal and informal roles for several years, most recently as a field organizer with the Iowa Democratic Party during the 2014 midterm election cycle.
“I love working with others to find solutions to common problems, and there's no better way to do that than through grassroots organizing,” says Pope. This year, when she heard that Equality Pennsylvania was starting a transgender organizing program, she “jumped at the chance” to bring her energy to the position.
Although Pope is just beginning her work as Equality Pennsylvania’s transgender rights organizer, she has already developed a statewide Transgender Listening Tour, where she will travel across the state to discuss what issues are most affecting transgender Pennsylvanians.
“I think it is so important for the often marginalized voices of the transgender community to be heard and for change to be lead by the perspectives of everyday transgender people,” says Pope.
This week, Pope spoke to Philadelphia Gay News about the wide range of issues she is hoping to tackle as the new transgender rights organizer at Equality Pennsylvania. In the article, Pope named some of the pressing issues that have been highlighted by transgender Pennsylvanians on her statewide listening tour—they include employment discrimination, the need for a comprehensive safe schools law, and access to competent and inclusive healthcare.
“It was an amazing opportunity, to work with my own community and apply my political organizing skills to a really important struggle here in Pennsylvania,” Pope told Philadelphia Gay News.
Allison Turner begins Campus Pride fellowship
Allison Turner, a former Victory Congressional Intern, has taken on an exciting new role as she continues her work organizing for LGBTQ rights. In May, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s of Arts in both Journalism and Mass Communication and Women’s and Gender Studies.
Following her graduation, Turner began a fellowship at Campus Pride, the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. Allison joins fall 2014 VCI Romeo Jackson, who serves on Campus Pride’s Board of Directors.
Last summer, Turner’s press internship in Office of Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, and Turner was able to attend with her office, in addition to drafting statements on her representative’s behalf for these events.
“I was honored to write statements on the representative's behalf on these events, which allowed me to reflect on the social justice work that has been done over the past 50 years, and the important need to continue this work,” says Turner.
The civil rights commemoration in Congress connected with one of Victory’s program enrichment seminars, which taught the summer’s Congressional Interns about LGBTQ activists, including Bayard Rustin, the black gay organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.
“Being able to make these connections continued my journey of becoming more and more intersectional,” says Turner. She has continued her work to build an inclusive LGBTQ movement through her work as a fellow with Campus Pride. “Working with Campus Pride has been an amazing experience,” says Turner.
This past week, she was busy at her fellowship organizing Campus Pride’s Camp Pride, a week-long camp in Charlotte, North Carolina that gives campus student and faculty leaders the tools they need to continue making their campuses more LGBTQ-friendly. “I was so excited to use both the press and leadership development skills I learned through VCI to assist in making this year's camp great!” says Turner.
LGBT and allied members of Congress today introduced the Equality Act, which would expand federal legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), an openly gay member of Congress, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are the lead sponsors of the bill. The bill has a wide range of Democratic cosponsors in both the House and the Senate, including all of the openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual co-chairs of the LGBT Equality Caucus: Rep. Cicilline, Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. Mark Takano, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.
"Every day, millions of LGBT Americans face the danger of real discrimination and sometimes even violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Cicilline wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter to other legislators. "In most states, a same-sex couple can get married on Saturday, post pictures on Facebook on Sunday, and then risk being fired from their job or kicked out of their apartment on Monday."
The bill would explicitly ban LGBT discrimination in all areas of civil rights law, including credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service and public accommodations.
Unlike the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an employment non-discrimination standalone bill that has repeatedly failed to pass in multiple sessions of Congress, the Equality Act would amend existing civil rights laws including Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Jury Selection and Service Act.
In short, the Equality Act would guarantee that LGBT Americans cannot be fired, evicted, or denied service on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Although passage in this Congress is said to be unlikely, the Equality Act sets an aggressive new standard for LGBT non-discrimination efforts at the federal level.
Earlier this month, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s anti-LGBT executive order made it clear that although the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, there is a lot of work left to do to support LGBT people across the country. States like Kansas are enacting policies that give businesses the license to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, showing that LGBT representation in government is more vital than ever. As LGBT people in the Kansas City region continue to fight for their rights, the Victory Institute is excited to announce the first Victory Leadership Summit will be held there this October.
The Kansas City Victory Leadership Summit will help trainees develop the skills needed to take next steps in public service. This day-long intensive training for LGBT leaders in Kansas City and the surrounding areas will be open to LGBT individuals who want to learn to make a difference in their communities through public service.
For more than two decades, Victory has trained thousands of LGBT leaders, including Kansas City Councilwoman-elect Jolie Justus. This free summit is designed for established and emerging LGBT leaders in Kansas and Missouri who are looking to take their skills to the next level.
Tailored specifically to the political climate faced by LGBT community leaders in the Midwest, trainees will engage on a range of topics, including:
- Political campaigns and running for office
- Messaging and organizing
- Serving on boards and commissions
- Obtaining public service appointments on the local, state, and federal level
The training will include the opportunity to learn how to become more involved in public service from local elected and appointed officials, Victory’s experts on appointed positions and running for public office, and organizations working for LGBT equality in Kansas and Missouri.
Apply today for the chance to join us at our Kansas City training Saturday, October 10th here.