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This blog series will focus on the Baton Rouge community and issues we, as a young professional organization, can make an impact or start a discussion on.


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Top tags: baton rouge  community  diversity  inclusion  mental health  voting 

Proud to Progress

Posted By Angela Schifani, Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Since the New York Stonewall Riots in 1969, activists, advocates and allies have been fighting to improve inclusion, protection and equal treatment of LGBTQ people in the U.S. While those initial protests began in the Big Apple, activities such as Pride Month, occur in cities across the country—even in our very own Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana, a conservative state. Politics aside, conservative ideals have been historically associated with a delay in accepting the LGBTQ community. As expected, Louisiana does not necessarily have a reputation of being particularly “gay-friendly.” Since Forum 35 works to improve the city of Baton Rouge for all of its residents, we hosted a Pride Month survey! For this survey, we polled our members and other locals on their thoughts regarding how our city treats the LGBTQ community.


Disclaimer: we only received 31 responses to our survey, so we won't dive deep into the numbers. But we will take a look at a few statements given in the comments section, because I think they could shed some light on why Forum 35 felt the need to create the survey in the first place.


“We have many great progressive community organizations and events like BR Pride to create this culture of inclusiveness. However, city policies to actually protect citizens and thereby attract economic opportunities are greatly lacking.” -Anonymous survey respondent


We know that times change. New discoveries, ideas and technology move us forward through social and biological evolution. We as people have to change too in order to fit in the growing landscape around us. Much of Forum 35’s efforts focus on Baton Rouge’s ability to attract and maintain residents who can help keep the city relevant and progressing. In order to compete with other cities, we need to consider changing some of our “old fashioned” ideologies, practices and legislation.


“I think many business leaders and younger generations realize the importance of inclusivity and want to preserve it. Our elected officials are the ones that seem to have a harder time coming out in favor.” -Anonymous survey respondent


We keep saying that children are the future. We don’t have to develop existential dread right now, but we have to face the facts: as we age, we get closer to not being around anymore. So, quite literally, youth are the future. If younger generations are focusing on inclusivity, the rest of us should probably listen.


So what does that mean? We, the residents of Baton Rouge, should examine our landscape! What types of public events do we host for each other? Which venues and spaces are welcoming to everyone who lives in Baton Rouge? What laws do we have in place that protect or hurt our neighbors? Which services and resources could be helpful to those that are disenfranchised?


We want to hear from you! We want to know what Baton Rouge is doing right, and what we could improve, in terms of being inclusive to our LGBTQ residents. Forum 35 will start the conversation by providing a list of local groups that serve those who identify as LGBTQ, as well as other resources that have LGBTQ-informed services. This list may not be comprehensive, so please feel free to add to it in the comments below!


Advocacy Organizations

Baton Rouge Pride Fest

Capital City Alliance

Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) of Baton Rouge

Pride 1

Progressive Social Network


Student Groups

First Contact at Louisiana State University

Gay Alliance for Legal Equality (GALE) at Southern University

OUTlaw at Louisiana State University

Spectrum at Louisiana State University

The Student Equality Project at Louisiana State University


Health Services

HIV/Aids Alliance Region II (HAART)

Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center (STAR)

The Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center


Self Defense & Safety

Operation Blazing Sword


Recreation & Social

George’s Place

Red Stick Roller Derby

Splash Nightclub


Tags:  diversity  inclusion 

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A Courageous Conversation: Building an Inclusive Community

Posted By Monique Harris & Chelsea Borruano, Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I don’t see color.” This statement is often said in an attempt to showcase an appreciation for diversity and acceptance of those that may be different from one’s self, but by the end of this blog post I hope you’ll think twice before using it again.

At this year’s Diversity Summit, Building an Inclusive Community, the panelists tackled inclusion’s role as the second wave of diversity and its importance.

About 15 minutes into the panel discussion, I regretted not being able to record it. The dialogue between our esteemed panelists was so authentic, vulnerable and insightful, both Chelsea and I knew we had to somehow capture the takeaways. So, we did that by getting together on a beautiful afternoon and having a real talk about diversity and ultimately, inclusion in our community.

I could dedicate this post to simply recapping who said what, but instead I’d like to share the insights that all seem to hinge on a central theme: diversity is being invited to the a party, inclusion is getting asked to dance.

One of our panelists shared a story in which he and his best friends were on their annual guys trip when his friend said, “man I don’t see you as black.” The panelist replied to his friend that there wasn’t a day that he didn’t know his friend was white. He injected that for someone to be colorblind means that you can’t fully see another because who you are is a direct result of your experience, and part of that experience is a result of your culture, your background.

The panel echoed this sentiment, and suggested that we grow together and we grow as a community when we give people the space to be themselves, their whole selves. Not having to check part of their identity at the door; that is what inclusivity is.

This matters to our community because, when there is a brain drain of people leaving for other places they feel more accepted, we all lose. We lose talented people, we lose prospective jobs, we lose solutions, and we lose community enrichment. For our city to continue to blossom, it is imperative we become inclusive to all of our residents.

Through multiple examples, the panelists shared ways in which they leaned into difficult conversations with an open mind, and simply kept asking questions without judgement.

How do you create inclusivity? You ask questions. You seek to gain more understanding of someone else’s experience. The starting place is acknowledging someone’s story without judgement; listening to seek to understand, not to offer a rebuttal. “I can't hear you when you’re screaming.” The core is being vulnerable to one another’s humanity. This challenge is what they left us with.

And now I’d like to challenge all of us to do the same. I hope that in your daily conversations you’ll lean into what can sometimes be the discomfort to learn more about someone else. I hope that you won’t work to be colorblind (or gender blind or any other type of blind), but rather work to see people as they are and as they share themselves to be. I too, am working on this daily. When I hear someone offer an opinion varying from mine, instead of immediately rebutting, I default on asking them follow up questions on why they hold that belief. In the short few weeks of practicing this, I’ve found myself growing to understand those around me on a deeper level than I expected.

We should all be having these conversations, with our peers, and with people who are culturally different from us. If you’re interested in learning more about this initiative and continuing the discussion, let us know by emailing  

Tags:  baton rouge  community  diversity  inclusion 

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