Despite the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the first day of UNITY 2012 in Las Vegas was too special and important to not share.

The opening program was hosted by Juju Chang of ABC News and Mark Whitaker, EVP and Managing Editor of CNN Worldwide.  The program included comments by the alliance presidents and Unity president Joanna Hernandez, as well as an award to Unity founder Will Sutton, who encouraged Unity and NABJ to continue to seek reunification efforts.

For NLGJA, the immediate feeling I had is “we are part of us.” Any concerns about tension regarding NLGJA’s presence immediately melted away as the spirit of diversity and unity became evident from the very beginning. As the drummers representing the spirit of Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans filled the ballroom (and yes, we need to find an LGBT drumming spirit somewhere), the sense of community was clear.

The opening plenary featured Whitaker hosting a panel focused on “A Difficult Conversation” and the tensions that often exist among racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as LGBT people. The panelists included LZ Granderson, Helen Zia, Ray Suarez and Marley Shebala. After the panelists introduced themselves–including LZ and Helen talking about their identities as being both LGBT and people of color–Whitaker immediately plunged into the difficult question of NLGJA joining Unity after the departure of NABJ and whether that prevented NABJ from halting reunification efforts.  It was an enlightening and tough conversation that also explored the Trayvon Martin case and immigration and laid the framework for convention attendees to really ask the hard questions and explore what brings us together as journalists and what often separates us as different organizations representing different constituencies.

That spirit carried into the opening reception, where I was immediately struck by how diverse and unique this gathering is. Seeing journalists of color mingling with each other and with white journalists, LGBT journalists mingling with straight journalists, old friends greet each other as they make new friends reminds me why I believed it was so important for NLGJA become part of the alliance. I also see a special sense of pride in LGBT journalists of color who have long been active in their own alliances–as well as NLGJA–realizing that “we’ve arrived” and they can take special pride in both being LGBT and journalists of color.

On a personal note, I’m pleased to become the president of NLGJA after this convention. While my writing on the blog may take a less provocative tone, I hope to continue to blog and continue our conversation about the fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues and the important role of LGBT journalists.