LGBTQ Friends and Community is excited to welcome Judy Shepard to Chautauqua Institution and sponsor her lecture and conversation with James Fallows.
Shepard’s conversation with Fallows will take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 2 in the Hall of Philosophy. After a collective fundraising effort, the organization was able to provide underwriting support for the lecture and bring Shepard, founding president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation board of directors, to Chautauqua.
“We’re interested in LGBTQ topics, so a couple of years ago I approached the Foundation and said ‘If we’ve got speakers that we would be interested in sponsoring, we’d be interested in doing fundraising,’ ” said Bob Jeffrey, a member of LGBTQ Friends and Community and Institution trustee. “Part of our mission is to really raise consciousness about our community.”
The organization holds many events throughout the season to provide a welcoming presence and raise awareness about the LGBTQ community. Hosting events allows them to reach more people and spread more knowledge.
“We have social events, meet and greets; things like that where we can show ourselves as welcoming and welcome those that are coming to the community for the first time and to also build that presence here,” Jeffrey said. “It’s important to do that — (and) to have speakers here as well. They can talk about various topics that help people understand a little bit more about our community.”
LGBTQ Friends and Community’s mission statement is to increase diversity within the greater Chautauqua community. The organization strives to create a sense of welcome and shared community for LGBTQ people and educating family, friends, allies, teachers, pastors and others about LGBTQ people and their experiences.
“A big part of our mission is to really be part of the whole diversity effort that Chautauqua’s undertaking,” said Barbara Britton, LGBTQ and Friends Community member. “The LGBTQ and Friends group really takes that seriously, not just for diversity and accepting our organization, but it’s that whole phenomena when you have anybody who’s lived their life as the ‘other’ and knows what it’s like not to be accepted by society.”
Once Britton caught wind that Shepard was a potential speaker, she immediately took action to raise the necessary funds. LGBTQ Friends and Community were excited for the opportunity because of Shepard’s impact in the community.
“We really believe in the mission of what Chautauqua’s doing,” Britton said. “So over the winter, when they let us know that Judy Shepard was a potential speaker, we got really excited because of course, in our community, everybody knows about Matthew Shepard.”
During the month of June, New York State hosted a Pride Celebration to honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and a half-century of the LGBTQ rights movement. Chautauqua is an official part of the state’s Stonwall50/World Pride 2019 celebration.
Britton is confident that with such a strong advocate like Shepard, the event will spread awareness and is very much worth supporting.
“Judy Shepard has been just fearlessly fighting for our rights — LGBTQ rights,” Britton said. “She’s known worldwide as an advocate and a fighter. It was really special to raise money for someone like that (to come to Chautauqua).”
Shepard is the founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and president of its board of directors. After losing her son, Matthew Shepard, to a murder fueled by anti-gay hate in 1998, she now travels the nation speaking to audiences and communities about what they can do to make the world a better and more accepting place for everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity and expression or sexual orientation. Shepard has written a memoir, The Meaning of Matthew, which describes the family’s journey through the prosecution of Matthew’s attackers and their continued work to fight for progressive civil rights.
For more information on program underwriting opportunities, contact Karen Blozie, senior major gifts officer at the Chautauqua Foundation, at 716-357-6244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.