Raquel Garcia-Anderson and Marcos D. Carrillo. The two work together on Michigan United projects. Carrillo is fundraising in order to attend the 26th Annual Creating Change conference taking place in Houston at the end of the month. Photo courtesy of Marcos Carrillo.

Detroit Teen Hopes To Attend Creating Change

By Crystal A. Proxmire

The 26th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change is coming to Houston, Texas this year, and 19-year-old Marcos D. Carrillo is hoping to be among the 3,500 people from all over the county attending.

The New York-based group Fierce identified Carrillo as a youth leader and is helping to send him to Houston. Carrillo is also hoping to raise an additional $500 in order to attend. Here in Michigan he is currently active with Michigan United and Represent.Us. Michigan United works on cultivating leadership. Their goal is "fighting for the dignity and potential of every person." According to the group's website, "We are committed to a participatory democracy at every level, an economy that works for the many, and a society that dismantles racism while uplifting our common humanity. To ignite the power of our communities and shift the balance of power, we cultivate the leadership of those directly affected by injustice, and build popular institutions for the future." They focus on immigration issues, raising the minimum wage, housing discrimination and other issues of inequality.

"As an Estrada Fellow with Michigan United, I helped some of the immigrant community apply for something called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (which grants an undocumented person immunity from deportations, and they can apply for a worker's permit and their driver's license) and naturalization (which is the process a legal permanent resident can go through in order to gain citizenship status in the U.S.), through workshops. I went through several trainings (like leadership, power structure, know your rights). And I worked on getting the voter percentage up for Detroit in 2013. I am currently working on developing the next batch of fellows and helping create a better relationship between Detroit residents and the Detroit Police Department that the police want and the residents need," Carrillo told BTL.

At Represent.Us Carrillo develops LGBT leadership. In the fall he is expected to lead workshops for others about organizing and leadership. Even before adulthood, Carrillo's leadership potential was evident.

"I started organizing in my senior year of high school in Cesar Chavez Academy. I volunteered to direct a Gay-Straight Alliance there that was featured in BTL. My main focus for the GSA was to establish identity and to educate my peers about their capabilities. Different organizations heard about our GSA and asked to partner with us and we said yes. We helped out with workshops, raised money for AIDS and cancer awareness, and volunteered at events with other organizations. The Detroit Hispanic Development Corp. actually gave us an award for community recognition," Carrillo said.

"Through the Cesar Chavez Academy GSA I was able to go to a conference in Maryland called the Student of Color Organizing Summit with GLSEN, which was a breathtaking experience, since it was my first conference. Most importantly, I was able to create a safe and comfortable space for the LGBTQ students back at CCA. We all became amazing friends who empowered each other and to me that's the real accomplishment."

In December the teen went to the National People's Action conference. The focus was to create a 40-year-agenda to make the economy more people-oriented and less corporate-centered. "It blew my mind," he said. "We talked about how it's time to be on the offensive, taking down multiple small policies, power structure and about structural racism. The plan was powerful and I truly believe it can work."

Going to Creating Change would give Carrillo even more tools to be an activist.

"Just like with every other conference I went to, I plan to take all of the things I've learned and incorporate them into my work. I want to get new organizing ideas, learn of effective systems and tools, learn how to make a campaign work and be successful, learn how to take down policies, learn how to take down people who abuse their power, learn how to effectively establish an amazing community that empowers itself. I really like that this conference leans towards the LGBTQ community because I feel like I have to do more for that part of my identity. I plan to be a strong voice for my people. The Creating Change Conference, FIERCE and REPRESENT are all helping me get there."

Those who are interested in helping Carrillo attend the conference can contact Lance Hicks, who is organizing the fundraising, at lance.hicks@gmail.com. Their goal is to raise $500 towards the trip.

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