Second Annual LGBTQ+ Symposium

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By Carole Keily

The Second Annual LGBTQ+ Symposium hosted by Casa BruMar Foundation will be held on Sept. 9 at the George Mason University Science and Technology Campus from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is part of Casa BruMar Foundation’s mission to connect services and resources to the LGBTQ+ community, and to help the larger community understand the LGBTQ+ community throughout the Commonwealth.

Prince William Living spoke with Evelyn BruMar, Executive Director of Casa BruMar Foundation, who said that the “key objectives of the Symposium are to community-build, network, and educate.”

Four breakout session periods will each feature four different classes and a panel discussion. Attendees can select which classes or discussions to attend that will best fit their unique interests and needs.

The Symposium begins with a networking coffee hour, and then moves to the Verizon Auditorium for an introduction to help manage expectations and to inform the community about new collective needs. At lunch, networking will continue from coffee hour. At the end of the event, attendees will gather again in the auditorium to talk about what has been learned.

There will be opportunities to win gift baskets from local businesses and raffle items throughout the event.

What to Expect at the Symposium

The focus of this year’s Symposium is legal rights, protections, social services, and best practices. FBI representatives will be in attendance to talk about the increase in hate crimes and other trends they are seeing throughout the country. A self-defense class will be available to help those who feel unsafe. A human rights lawyer will explain rights in the Commonwealth because so many do not realize SOGI is a protected class now. Mental health providers will be there to discuss the need for resources and best practices.

Delegate Danica Roem will provide a legislative update discussing which bills in the General Assembly are stalled or being worked on. A substance abuse class that includes Naloxone training will be available because many members of the community self-medicate and self-harm to deal with the trauma and abuse they suffer.

In addition, the Clerk of the Circuit Court Jacqueline Smith will discuss services offered through her office.  Prince William Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Terry Fearnley will speak about resources and services the department offers, and the Prince William Office of Equity and Inclusion Officer Maria Burgos will speak about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within Prince William County.

A panel discussion about public schools will be held with the former Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and School Board Member (Woodbridge) Loree Williams. In addition, there will be a panel discussion featuring regional LGBTQ+ leaders about building a community needs assessment survey for the entire Commonwealth.

The Symposium is part of Casa BruMar Foundation’s mandate of existence. Throughout the year, the group reaches out to different services and organizations that do and/or should be serving our community. These organizations are invited at no cost to present and have their information made public so that those who do not attend the Symposium will still have access to the information. “The people that participate in the Symposium get added to the Resources page on our website and throughout the year become utilized when I conduct training and outreach throughout the whole Commonwealth,” said Evelyn BruMar.

The Symposium’s Impact

“We know that education provided at our last Symposium and via the education and training our I provide has brought change in how certain organizations interact with the LGBTQ+ community,” said BruMar. “We work with the Sheriff’s Department and police departments to change and elevate some of their in-house policies to make them more efficient when serving our community. We also work with Juvenile Court Services so our young people who are practicing survival behavior not only get a second chance, but one that is more feasible. We work with the public school system so that our youth who have dropped out of the system can continue getting their education so they can be productive members of society. We help the parents of children who are suffering from bullying, assault, and unsafe environments in school advocate for protection and help them learn what their legal options are. And we help those who are looking for a community find it with us and through our partners.”

Insights and Connections

BruMar discussed the takeaways and resources participants might expect: “First they have an opportunity to be a part of an active, engaging community, while understanding there is a difference between hearing and knowing and a difference between thinking and seeing.

“Second, the Symposium gives people first-hand experience in strengthening their knowledge and community support as well as helping those serving our community become more proficient. It is one thing to say you are an ally and inclusive and it is a totally different thing to show it and have people know it.”

BruMar said that every time the organization holds a public event, they get a second tier of contacts. “The Symposium allows us to expand the second tier because we are working with everybody all at once, in one location, instead of going to one event in one booth, or going to one organization and doing one training. People might not remember everyone they spoke to at a Pride festival, but they remember the Pride festival name and location. Here, we are making sure they remember our name and our services so that if they can’t remember who they interacted with, in the future when they need them, at least they know us and know we can get them connected.”

Accessibility and Representation

A podcaster will be recording personal stories from attendees, panelists, exhibitors, and breakout hosts. The recordings will then be transcribed and translated into audio and digital documents posted on Casa BruMar Foundation’s website to make sure English as a Second Language (ESL) community members have access to the information. “This will also ensure anyone who did not come to the event gets access to the same information,” said BruMar.

For More Information and Symposium Registration

Go to the Casa BruMar Foundation website and click the Contact Us button to sign up for monthly email updates. Follow Casa BruMar on Facebook, Instagram and Threads (@CasaBruMar).

“We will soon be hosting one-on-one conferences in our new office space in Manassas,” said BruMar. “Specifically for the Symposium, they can visit our website and click the banner on the top to buy tickets, or they can go straight to the ticket purchase page.”

Carole Keily is Prince William Living‘s Online Editor.



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