By Joey Lopez
Looking Back on the Year as a Tzedek Resident
This time last year I was just beginning to settle in to Asheville. It is crazy to think that just over a year ago I moved from Detroit back to North Carolina to begin working at the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) through the Tzedek Social Justice Residency.
Barely a month into my residency, the freedom to marry came to the fourth circuit – Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina (Maryland being the only state in the circuit to already have the freedom to marry). About a month later, CSE filed a lawsuit in Mississippi to extend the freedom to marry deeper within the South. Fast forward a few months, CSE brought together almost 500 activists and leaders from across the South to the second annual LGBT* in the South conference. In June the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling granting the freedom to marry to the entire country. What a year to be back home in the South working toward lived equality for LGBT folks.
During my time at CSE, I witnessed the dedication and resiliency of LGBT Southerners. Folks like Rev. David, Carolyn, and Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Madison County, North Carolina who brought together their community to shed light on the lives of LGBT people living there by hosting an ice cream social. I listened to the stories of my new friend Hannah organizing their community in West Virginia to be safer for LGBT people, particularly youth. Finally, reading all of the applications for the Southern Equality Fund speak to the amazing work folks are doing for their communities, for example Suzy organizing for the rights and wellbeing of the latin@ community in Henderson, NC. The work and capacity for change in the South has and continues to inspire me and shows me what incredible work can be accomplished in a climate with limited national support and resources.
Next steps for Joey Lopez
Though my time with CSE has come to an end, I am not leaving Asheville or the movement. I am excited to start two new adventures. At Just Economics I will work closely with employers in Western NC to pay a living wage and create a more just and sustainable economy as the Living Wage Program Coordinator. At More Light Presbyterians, I will organize faith leaders across the country to stand against anti-LGBT legislation and create a stronger network of welcoming and affirming clergy. While short, I will carry with me the strong commitment to build relationships fostered in my time at CSE.
Introduction of New Tzedek Resident at CSE
Remembering my time at CSE and looking forward to new opportunities only makes me more excited to introduce the incoming Tzedek Resident and Community Organizer – Felicia Blow. Felicia is a North Carolina native who has been living in Asheville for the past few years. She is passionate about the work of lived equality for LGBT people in the South and approaches the work understanding the plurality of identities within the LGBT community. I am really excited to see how she will impact CSE and the larger movement.
Posted Originally for the Campaign for Southern Equality website, on September 1st, 2015