Nancy Dean: Astraea Founding Mother

Astraea is deeply saddened to hear of the loss of one of our esteemed founding mothers, Nancy Dean.

Astraea is deeply saddened to hear of the loss of one of our esteemed founding mothers, Nancy Dean.

Dean was a professor at Hunter College, where she taught courses on Chaucer and Medieval Studies, as well as courses on women’s studies and women-centered literature. She has authored an impressive portfolio of plays, including plays that have been produced off-Broadway. In 1995, Sisters on Stage honored Dean with an award for playwriting and support for other lesbian playwrights, which became known as the Nancy Dean Distinguished Playwriting Award.

Learning that women received less than 1 percent of foundation grants, Dean co-founded Astraea in 1977 with the intention of creating a lesbian foundation for all women, especially women of color. “When I told Nancy the dismal numbers,” says her partner, Beva Eastman, “she immediately said ‘we should start our own.'” In a 2008 interview with Kelly Anderson of Smith College, Astraea’s former Executive Director Katherine Acey called Dean “the catalyst” for the founding of Astraea, which became one of the first women’s foundations to emerge during that time period, and which “came out” officially as a lesbian organization in 1990.

Remembering Dean’s legacy feels particularly poignant as we celebrate LGBT History Month and prepare to celebrate Astraea’s 40th Anniversary on November 13. Dean’s foresight and vision birthed what has grown to become a global LGBTQI foundation that provides crucial support to grassroots LGBTQI organizations in the U.S. and around the world. We feel deeply honored to carry on Dean’s vision and legacy as we move into our next 40 years.

Rest in power, Nancy.

Astraea Condemns Recent Reversal of Protections Against Workplace Discrimination

We – women and the entire LGBTQI community – not only deserve better than an administration that has placed a target on our backs, we will resist until our civil liberties are protected.

Image courtesy of Southern Vision Alliance

New York, New York— The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the exclusive funder of LGBTQI organizations and individuals both in the U.S. and around the globe, issued the following statement in response to two recent sets of guidance from the Department of Justice to reverse Obama-era workplace protections policy. The first guidance, announced on Thursday argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not explicitly cover discrimination on the basis of gender identity, thus removing workplace protections for trans individuals. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo protecting “religious liberty,” a widely understood allowance of discrimination against women and members of the LGBTQI community.

“It is reprehensible that this administration seems determined to roll back workplace protections, especially for women and LGBTQI peoples. This exhibits a blatant disregard for their contributions to U.S. society, from public servants to members of the private sector,” said J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director of the Astraea Foundation.

“We – women and the entire LGBTQI community – not only deserve better than an administration that has placed a target on our backs, we will resist until our civil liberties are protected. Astraea will continue our work, fueling the frontlines of LGBTQI justice to combat this administration’s denunciation of equality. No one should be forced to live in fear of losing their job because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We will continue to fight for freedom and justice until each and every one of us can live a life free from harm and discrimination,” concluded Alotta.

About Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice is the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI human rights around the globe. For 40 years, we have been the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI human rights around the globe. We support brilliant and brave grantee partners in the U.S. and internationally who challenge oppression and seed change. We work for racial, economic, social, and gender justice, because everyone deserves to live their lives freely, without fear, and with dignity. Earlier this year, Astraea launched a new fund to help respond to the critical needs within the LGBTQI community in the United States, the Uprising of Love Fund.

Astraea Team Grows

Join us in welcoming a team of people who have justice in their bones.

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to introduce you to new Astraea leadership and our ever-growing team: fierce folks hailing from an amalgam of backgrounds and expertise, with one thing in common—a relentless vision for gender, racial and economic justice.

Cara Page joins us as our new Director of Programs. She is a Black Feminist Queer cultural/memory worker and organizer, and most recently the Executive Director of long-time Astraea grantee partner Audre Lorde Project. Cara’s brilliance, political commitment and movement acumen will no doubt propel Astraea’s 40 years of activist grantmaking precisely where we belong! I’ve been proud to call her my comrade, and thrilled we will now be working together even more intimately and strategically. Her long-time organizing and movement building history in the U.S. South, leadership and expertise are perfectly aligned to guide our programmatic work forward. “I am thrilled to join Astraea’s amazing leadership team to transform, amplify and strengthen resources for our LGBTSTGNCQIA U.S. & global movements towards our collective liberation,” says Cara.

Sarah Gunther, who stewarded the Program Team for the last four years with excellence, compassion and systematic rigour, has transitioned to a new role, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships. From this new perch, she will build institutional partnerships with foundations and governments, and leverage Astraea’s leadership in philanthropy to better resource LGBTQI rights and racial, economic and gender justice movements. “I couldn’t be more excited to join up with Cara, everyone at Astraea and our partners in the field to mobilize new and better money for organizers on the frontlines,” says Sarah.

As many of you know, Barbara-Jean Davis joins Astraea as the Director of Development. Barbara Jean has served in leadership roles within the reproductive rights, gender justice and social justice movements. She brings with her a wealth of fundraising expertise and over 15 years of rallying resources to social justice organizations, most recently as the Director of Development at Hetrick-Martin Institute. “I could not be more honored or excited,” says Barbara Jean. “I’m looking forward to elevating Astraea’s fundraising and development efforts to ensure our LGBTQI partners continue to have the support they need to be agents of change.”

Read about all our exciting new team members—Cara Page, Barbara Jean Davis, Sarah Gunther, and Kristin Gardner—in the bio links below. Join me in welcoming a team of people who have justice in their bones—the calling to organize, mobilize, resource, resist and overcome!

With deep solidarity,

J. Bob Alotta

Welcome to Astraea’s new directors!

Cara Page, Director of Programs

Cara Page is a Black Feminist Queer cultural/memory worker & organizer. She comes from a long ancestral legacy of organizers and cultural workers from the Southeast to the Northeast. [Read more]

Barbara Jean Davis, Director of Development

Barbara Jean Davis comes to Astraea with 15 years of strategic development and nonprofit management expertise with a strong emphasis on LGBTQ and women’s rights. [Read more]

Sarah Gunther, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships

Sarah Gunther is the Director of Philanthropic Partnerships at the Astraea Foundation, where she works to influence philanthropy to better resource LGBTQI rights and racial, economic and gender justice movements, and builds institutional partnerships with foundations and governments. [Read more]

Kristin Gardner, Associate Director of Major Gifts

Kristin Gardner serves as Associate Director of Major Gifts. With a diverse background in nonprofit management and a passion for social justice, she’s held development positions at Arthritis Foundation, Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund, and most recently served as Major Gifts Officer at The New York Women’s Foundation. [Read more]


What Astraea’s Been Up To!

Astraea is unrelenting in our commitment to gender, racial and economic justice. Here are a few of Astraea’s highlights from 2017 so far.

Astraea is unrelenting in our commitment to gender, racial and economic justice. As the first philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI rights around the world—we know we are called to build, sustain, resource and celebrate our people and movements. Here are a few of Astraea’s highlights from 2017 so far:

Photo: Radical Queer Affinity Collective, Hungary

Shifted resources to the frontlines

Our funds continue to support ongoing & emerging intersectional LBTQI activism around the world. In the past year, we have made 249 grants in 68 countries with nearly $4 million. This year, we were excited to welcome 42 new grantee partners into our community, all of whom are led by LBQ women and/or trans people. Our new grantee partners represent a deepening of our strategy to increase funding in under-resourced countries/regions, such as West Africa/Francophone Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Brazil and post-Soviet countries in Europe/Central Asia.


Photo: Astraea Executive Director Emerita Katherine Acey and Acey Award honoree Reverend Gale Jones

Launched the Acey Social Justice Feminist Award

Our lesbian and trans forebears paved the way for our current movements. This June, Astraea proudly announced the Acey Social Justice Feminist Award to honor the legacies of those whose activism built the foundations for activism today, and to call attention to the need for LGBTQ elder community support. This year’s inaugural honorees are Reverend Gale Jones, Angela Bowen, Ali Marrero-Calderon and Eleanor Palacios. [Read more about the award and honorees]


Photo: First LBQ project convening at the AWID Forum in Brazil, September 2016

Advocated for more resources for lesbian, bisexual and queer women, and gender non-conforming peoples!

Astraea and Mama Cash completed phase 1 of the groundbreaking Philanthropic Advocacy for LBQ Women’s and LBQ Gender Non-Conforming Peoples’ Activisms project. The project intends to increase support for LBQ activism globally, given the chronic under-resourcing of movement strategies that prioritize and emphasize self-determination, radical imagination and long-term processes of liberation.


Photo: Intersex Fund grantee partner Pidgeon Pagonis on Intersex Awareness Day, October 2016

Made our largest cycle of grants to support Intersex Human Rights

We completed our Intersex Human Rights Fund’s third cycle of grants after receiving the highest number of eligible new intersex-led applicants to date—and we made $280,000 in grants to 37 groups! Astraea remains the only institutional funder for nearly all intersex groups working at the national level. The intersex movement is rapidly growing yet remainds deeply underfunded. Our support has helped intersex organizations sustain, strengthen and expand their work.


Photo: Intersex activists at the 4th Intersex Forum in April 2017

Convened Activists and Donors at the Intersex Forum

In April, we organized a dialogue between activists and donors at the 4th International Intersex Forum in Amsterdam, which represented the first time that donors have been invited to join a portion of this intersex-only space. The donor-activist dialogue was a learning space for both parties, with many activists gaining an introduction to grantmaking, and donors a stronger understanding of the movement.


Photo: Astraea staff and grantee partners at a healing justice strategy session, June 2017

Paved the way for long-term Healing Justice support

This June in Detroit, Astraea brought together grantee partners Southerners on New GroundFamilia TQLMAudre Lorde ProjectMijente and Freedom Inc to learn about the best ways to support Healing Justice work as a long-term strategy. The meeting created a space to identify, explore and build movement-based ways of collaboratively addressing trauma, grief, crisis, healing and wellness. Folks shared how needed and timely it was for them to be able to connect, most of them meeting for the first time. It is crucial to collectively heal in order to continue to fight.


Photo: Southern Vision Alliance, USA

Forged Partnerships – The Racial Justice Fund provides $850,000+ to Southern Multi-Issue Organizing

Philanthropic partnerships have the potential to galvanize support for the most vulnerable areas of our movements. The LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund, housed at Astraea, champions intersectional social-change work with a focus on movement-building in the U.S. South. This year they made more than $850,000 in grants to organizations in ten Southern states. [Read more]


Photo: Executive Director J. Bob Alotta and Patrisse Cullors
Photographer: Dawn Kirkpatrick

Celebrated with purpose at the Fueling the Frontlines Awards in Los Angeles

Nearly 300 guests raised over $100,000 at our 2017 Fueling the Frontlines Awards in Los Angeles. The Gala began with a moving performance from Octavia E. Butler’s “Parable of the Sower: The Concert Version” by Toshi Reagon and friends, and we celebrated the resistance leadership of Patrisse Cullors, Jennicet Gutiérrez, Bruce Cohen, Jorge Ramos and Paola Ramos, as well as Acey Award honoree Angela Bowen.

Join us as we continue to support LGBTQI people and social justice in the coming months and beyond!

Announcing Astraea’s 2016 Annual Report

In 2016, we funded over $3.5 million in grants to 190 organizations in 62 countries!

Make no mistake: we are building power. Our movements are being taken extremely seriously. Here in the United States, this hostility came to a head in November with the ushering in of a presidential administration intent on denying us––as queer people, as women, as migrants, as black and brown people––our right to exist free of persecution.

In Turkey and Honduras, trans activist Hande Kader and indigenous organizer Berta Cáceres, two powerful women who placed their bodies on the line for their communities, were murdered. In Latin America, religious fundamentalists organized stronger than ever to protest the feminist and LGBTI movements that our grantee partners are leading.

We were made for this moment. Astraea was founded in and for times precisely like this one.

From our first cycle of grants in 1980, we’ve existed to retaliate and to expand the very spaces that white supremacy, capitalism, xenophobia, economic injustice, and sexism seek to shutter. Because attacks on our bodies, our rights, and our freedoms have been perpetrated against us since the founding of this country, we know how to respond: we listen, we partner up, and we support each other.

In 2016, we funded over $3.5 million in grants to 190 organizations in 62 countries. We expanded our Intersex Human Rights Fund, engaging new donors and growing a cohort of groups funded for the first time; we exceeded the $20 million goal for Fueling the Frontlines; we held two CommsLabs gatherings, first in Kenya and later in South Africa, where we began prioritizing healing justice. We welcomed new organizations into our fierce network of activists and we continued to support those who’ve been fighting with a vengeance. In Sri Lanka, Venasa Transgender Network works to reduce the number of human rights violations faced by transmasculine people. In New York, Audre Lorde Project builds leadership and political strategies for LGBTQ people of color.

In our 2016 Annual Report’s pages, we’ve shared how we have and will continue to power forward. Thanks to the unwavering support from donors, artists, and activists like yourself, Astraea has continued to exist in order to resist.

Here is the story of our––and your––uprising!

Read it now here.

J. Bob Alotta on countering the gaslighting of America

“We have a very real opportunity, to create this country, in its own image, for all of us, for the first time.”

Note: this opinion column, written by J. Bob Alotta, originally appeared in the digital pages of The Huffington Post in February 2017

What does it mean to stand in righteous community? During the first month of this new administration, it has meant standing with signs that read “you are welcome here,” marching alongside strangers while calling in unison “show me what democracy looks like,” and together responding, “this is what democracy looks like.” It’s getting and staying woke to the reality that democracy ― and it’s promise of governing by “we, the people,” is a practice. It is a practice taking the form of marching, chanting, voting, litigating, bearing witness, showing up, staying woke, and insisting that representative government be neither passive in its actual representation, nor aggressive in its undermining of the equality it is meant to unrelentingly instill and impart. It is a practice that doesn’t allow us to choose some of our rights, over all of our rights. And it is a practice that will succeed and thrive if it stands steadfast in the radical notion of love.

As a collective, we are resisting, not for spite or hate of this current administration; but instead because we choose to know better, to do better, to be better and love better than the barrage of policies coming down trying to divide us and deny our collective humanity.

The sweeping changes in conduct and content, policy and practice, all with considerable implication for our daily lives, is overwhelming. Each Executive Order, the onslaught of tweets aimed at targets as wide as our entire judiciary, or as oddly specific as Nordstrom, the constant calling out of any media critique as fake – requires us to be ever mindful of this purposeful chaos. The scrutiny required to discern the accuracy of this information, and the voracity with which “common sense” has been gaslighted and become untethered, requires daily vigilance.

And yet not only must we persist, we do. We are. All kinds of people are showing up in record number and taking a public stand on so many issues at once. People are asking how we are going to beat this, to get “our country back,” to win.

First, I don’t think we are going to get our country back. Just like I rebuke making it great again. I do think, we have a very real opportunity, to create this country, in its own image, for all of us, for the first time.  We have an opportunity to move from rhetoric to reality – to heal some of the very real ills that have been plaguing the United States since its inception because of the contradictions upon which it was built.

We are a country that was built on the backs and bloodshed of Native people and enslaved Africans. While our history books continue to erase this reality by minimizing the brutal effects of democracy-built-on-slavery, we know better. Standing in this truth and owning it, means loving truth however horrific, however contradictory.  Denying our national truths have only served to foster perpetual systemic oppression and violence.  We must not only heal as a nation but design a future and governance that needn’t strip any of us of our humanity or equality in order to continually veil us from the truth.  What will make it possible?  It will not be any policy that requires the ugliness of race hatred, an extreme wealth gap, turning corporations into people, or legalizing some of our bodies while criminalizing others.

The only thing that will allow us to make this critical course correction as a nation is: Love.  Love as resistance. Love as actionable honesty. In order for us to succeed, we must be able to stand together in our differences, learn from each other, build trust, and synchronize strategies. Practicing these components of love, is the only way we will ensure the best outcome for this democratic experiment we call America.

We would not march in the streets and at airports or have walkouts from schools if we weren’t stepping out with love and belief in the tenets of democracy. Resistance is an act of love. The willingness to place our bodies in line with our values to stand against oppression by any means necessary—whether taking water cannons to the face to protect all of our right to clean water; or suffering the bruises of batons and tear gas to protect our right to exist black and free, or love who we love, or have autonomy over our own body, or ensure our children can access a free and excellent education regardless of their zip code— we do so to truly enact our greatest participatory democratic possibility.  This love resistance posture is the alignment of our collective hope.

Activist, author and all-around badass Angela Davis once said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept.”  Some of us have had to fight for our rights for quite a long time.  Some of us are just being called to action.  But whatever day you come into your consciousness, it is a good day.

We do not need a more urgent moment than now for an unabashed and radical form of love like the display we saw at the Women’s March or countless protests over the past few weeks all over the globe —this persistent vigilance and unrelenting belief in the formation of a better and more reflective union is how we will continue to resist, organize and stand in our truth. This is our moment to seize; this is our uprising of love.

Save the Date for Astraea’s 40th Gala in NYC!

This is what forty years of lesbian feminist activism looks like!

This is what forty years of lesbian feminist activism looks like! On Monday, November 13, 2017, we will celebrate Astraea’s big 4-0 with an evening of art, cinema, music, food, and righteous community in New York City!

The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts
172 Norfolk Street
New York, NY 10002
*After party to follow

Mark November 13th in your calendars today.

Click here to purchase a ticket!

PS – Host committee memberships and sponsorships for Astraea’s 40th are available. For more information, contact Astraea’s Development Officer for Special Events, Sally Troncoso, at or by phone at 212-810-4183.

What Will Be Different: A Conversation on LGBTQ Activism in a Changing America

Join us on April 30, 2017, for a powerful free forum on how LGBTQ activism will respond to an era of sweeping political change, moderated by Astraea Executive Director J. Bob Alotta.

Join us on April 30, 2017, for a powerful free forum on how LGBTQ activism will respond to an era of sweeping political change, moderated by Astraea Executive Director J. Bob Alotta.

Despite celebrated and hard-won advances in equality, the deeply diverse LGBTQ community has always been targeted by bias and hate. In recent months that antagonism has flared, along with other forms of intolerance.

Now, as people who openly disparage LGBTQ rights fill key posts within the U.S. Government, and an old, anti-Other sentiment gains new legitimacy, what are the challenges and goals of LGBTQ activism today? What is the historical context for this battle, and what guides those at its front lines? How do we organize across communities to build a future where our differences are prized and human justice is available to all, regardless of gender identity or gender preference?

Join us for a conversation with Apphia Kumar, Chair, SALGA-NYC; Bashar Makhay, Founder, Tarab NYC; Cara Page, Executive Director, Audre Lorde Project; and Mustafa Sullivan, Executive Director, Fierce. Moderated by J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.
Pre-talk performance by Angel Nafis, Author, BlackGirl Mansion.
Held at The Park Avenue Christian Church, one of the most progressive communities of faith in New York City.
Presented by the Astraea Foundation, The Park Avenue Christian Church, and The Tate Group.
Curated by Brian Tate.


This International Women’s Day, we rise up!

International Women’s Day is a moment to recognize and remember the efforts of our community members, organizers, and cultural workers who’ve fought and continue to fight for our right to not simply exist but thrive in all our beauty, dignity, and autonomy.

Left to right: Berta Cáceres, Marsha P. Johnson, and Audre Lorde

Today, Astraea celebrates the formidable efforts of women around the world who are rising up in incredible numbers to combat the growing tides of misogyny, xenophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia and white supremacy. International Women’s Day is a moment to recognize and remember the efforts of our community members, organizers, and cultural workers who’ve fought and continue to fight for our right to not simply exist but thrive in all our beauty, dignity, and autonomy.

We honor all the ways you may be activated today: striking, wearing red in solidarity with A Day Without Women, phoning elected officials, taking to the streets, or supporting your favorite Lesbian Foundation for Justice (!) because must use all available tools to resist and rise up.


Left to right: Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group, and BreakOUT!

Lifting up the visions of lesbian, queer, and trans women, Astraea grantee partners are building the world in which they want to live:

  • Colectiva Mujer y Salud produced the first-ever document to exclusively address the priorities and demands of lesbian, bisexual, and queer women in the Dominican Republic. Titled “The LesBiAgenda,” the text was created through a national process that included rural and small cities.
  • Thanks to the advocacy of Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG), the Supreme Court of Georgia found Levan Kochlashvili guilty of the murder of Sabi Beriani, a transgender woman, in December 2016. WISG has been accompanying Sabi’s mother to court since the murder two years ago and has been working to raise visibility of the growing violent backlash against trans women in Georgia.
  • In response to growing anti-trans violence in the United States, BreakOUT! issued a call to action to create sanctuary for young trans women and gender non-conforming people of color in New Orleans. They are also developing new strategies for community safety.

Astraea is proud of our four decade history of gender justice activism that supports the leadership of women, trans folks, youth, and people of color. Our lives depend on activists who are linking LGBTQI and women’s rights movements together, rising up, and resisting violence and discrimination that specifically affects lesbian, queer, and trans women. Today and all year round, we strive to find hard to reach groups in often-isolated areas and resource them to fight for justice in their own local contexts.

This International Women’s Day, we welcome you to join the uprising! Connect with the activists behind our movements through our Facebook feed, view and share our video on what 40 years of queer organizing looks like, or donate to the Uprising of Love Fund to support activists working against increased discrimination in the United States.