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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
Southeast Regional Atheist Meet (SERAM) Report
The SERAM took place from January 28th to January 30th in Huntsville, Alabama at the Holiday Inn Downtown. January 28th was pre-registration and a night in the bar for “meet & greet.” January 29th & 30th were full days of speeches, workshops, panels, and entertainment.
The SERAM would not have gone as smoothly as it did without a bunch of volunteers in the background helping man tables, registration, and running errands. It is with enormous gratitude and appreciate that I personally thank (in alphabetical order) Allison Bohlman, Nicole Boquette, Justin Edwards, Nikeela Fields, Rion Gregory, Nick Haines, Tom Hand, Cathy Miller, Chuck Miller, Steve Moore, Venkat Raghavan, Scott Savage, Yvonne Scott, Brandon Stiefel, Christie Swords, Stepher Walker and Steve Walker. I hope I did not miss anybody!
This event would also not have been possible without the great speakers that agreed to do this event without speaking fees: Sean Faircloth, Richard Haynes, Edwin Kagin, Paul Provenza, Darrel Ray and David Silverman.
I would also like to thank our amazing panelists who participated in the Attendee’s Choice, College Groups, and 501(c)3 panels. Our panelists were Stuart Bechman, Matthew Blendermann, Amye Broyles, Ed Buckner, Enrique Delgado, Rebecca Godwin, Heath Holden, Derek Johnson, Lyz Liddell, Gordon Maples, Meredith Milewicz, Steve Moore, Mary Posey, Venkat Raghavan, Jonathan Smith and Christie Swords.
I would also like to thank the vendors that came out and offered products and services to the SERAM attendees: American Atheists, Atlanta Freethought Society, Bob Collins, Dr. Darrel Ray, Florida Atheists & Secular Humanists (FLASH), Gary Whittenberger, North Alabama Freethought Association (NAFA) and the Secular Student Alliance.
But most of all I want to thank the attendees for coming out and making the SERAM happen: for inspiring yourselves and others to become more involved and come out of the closet. Without you the movement and cause would be going nowhere. It is through you that the tide rises and as David Silverman said, “This tide comes in… but it doesn’t go out!”
The SERAM was an amazing success! We got tons of press coverage from the Huntsville Times, Christian Post, WAFF, WHNT, WAAY, WERC, WZDX and the billboard that kicked off the SERAM was covered on CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and became a meme after the O’Reilly Show which caused appearances or mentions on Colbert Report, Keith Olberman, and Real Time with Bill Maher!
The North Alabama Freethought Association (NAFA), a local Affiliate of American Atheists, was boosted and promoted through the SERAM and the local group increased in membership by 38 after the SERAM billboard went up and after news coverage. NAFA has let me know that they’re excited to see how the SERAM event itself impacts their membership. NAFA also received donations at the SERAM to help increase their treasury.
Friday night we had pre-registration to allow attendees to check in early and avoid lines on Saturday morning. We hung out in the hotel bar and had the opportunity to meet new people and socialize before the main event started. This was an important part of the event because it allowed people to get to know each other without having to force that in during breaks. The relaxed atmosphere helped people network.
On Saturday the sale of tickets at the door lead to SERAM being sold out. We actually sold more tickets than seats, but since a couple of people were no-shows, we had seats for everyone.
Events on the first day, January 29th, were Blair Scott (Local Activism & You!), Edwin Kagin (Legal Philosophy: When to Sue and Not to Sue), Paul Provenza (¡Satiristas!), Sean Faircloth (Sex! Law! Morality! Women!), Dr. Darrel Ray (Leadership in the Secular Community),College Groups panel discussion and Richard Haynes (Don’t Reinvent the Wheel).
Edwin Kagin (National Legal Director) signs copies of his book Baubles of Blasphemy, printed by American Atheist Press.
Later that evening we held our 25-seat fund-raising dinner with tickets costing $100 (included meal). American Atheists raised $10,000 dollars at the fund-raising dinner, which will be matched by the Uhl-Mitzman challenge, giving American Atheists $20,000 toward our new Legal Fund!
Events on the second day, January 30th, were Attendee’s Choice panel discussion, 501(c)3 panel discussion, live recording of the Critical Eye Podcast, Sean Faircloth workshop on state level Secular Coalitions, stand-up routine by Paul Provenza with an opening act by local comedian Justin Ledlow, Dave Silverman (Future of American Atheists) and the Speakers Panel.
The SERAM was a resounding success! Attendees learned and were entertained. Attendees networked with each other and found out that they were NOT alone!
This SERAM has provided a sort of template to move forward with for additional regional conventions throughout the year. The success of the SERAM has shown the need for a roving regional convention in addition to the annual National Convention (to be held this year over Easter weekend in Des Moines, IA).