Astraea Names Mai Kiang Director of Programs

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is pleased to name Mai Kiang as its Director of Programs. This past year, Kiang served as Associate Director of Grantmaking and has been a part of Astraea for over 16 years as a community funding panel member, a board member, a committed donor, and a grantee partner.

“Astraea is a symbol and an actualization of hope and vision for me, where transformation can emerge, and where collective power can amass.”

–Mai Kiang

Katherine Acey, Executive Director said, “After a rigorous search process, the Astraea staff and board are delighted to have found our next Director of Programs in our midst. The depth and breadth of Mai’s knowledge of the Foundation and the landscape of LGBTI struggles worldwide have already been a vital part of Astraea’s grantmaking, and will play an even greater role as we continue to expand our programmatic scope and impact.”

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is the world’s only foundation solely dedicated to supporting LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) organizations globally. Last year, Astraea issued more than $2.2 million in grants to organizations and individuals in 120 cities and 47 countries around the world working for the empowerment and human rights of all sexual minorities.

“Astraea is a symbol and an actualization of hope and vision for me, where transformation can emerge and where collective power can amass,” said Kiang, “I am humbled by the tasks ahead and the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with the brilliant, courageous and devoted partners of change at Astraea and around the would.”

Born and raised in Taiwan, Kiang arrived in New York in 1991 to join the staff of Women Make Movies, an independent feminist film distributor, and helped bring about feminist film exhibitions and productions locally and internationally. Later she joined Impact Visuals, a photo cooperative where she was elected to multiple terms as the chief steward to the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers’ Union. Kiang was also a part of the management team that administered an archive of nearly a million social-issue photographs by over nine hundred photojournalists worldwide. Prior to joining Astraea’s staff in late 2007, she was the Special Events Manager at New York University.

Kiang is the co-founder and co-chair of the Institute for Tongzhi Studies, a New York-based group that supports queer artists and scholars in Chinese communities worldwide. She is also the co-convener of the 2007 Lala Camp, the first multi-region Mandarin-speaking LBT leadership institute held in mainland China.


The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice works for social, racial, and economic justice in the U.S. and internationally. Our grantmaking and philanthropic advocacy programs help lesbians and allied communities challenge oppression and claim their human rights.

Media Contact:
Melissa Hoskins, Communications Associate

Phone: 212.529.8021 x26 Email:

Astraea hosts funders’ briefing for Palestinian Gay Women (ASWAT) and Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)

Astraea Hosts Funders’ Briefing for Palestinian Gay Women (ASWAT) and Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)

Please join Astraea in welcoming and honoring four inspiring leaders from two of our grantee partner organizations: Palestinian Gay Women (ASWAT) and Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ).

ASWAT and GALZ exist in countries facing similar situations of violence, harassment and persecution. Where the LGBTQI communities are treated with unequal human rights and in a lot of cases no human rights whatsoever. The queer communities in both countries exist under daily threat of judgment and brutality.

As a part of their four-country, seven-city tour together, ASWAT and GALZ have partnered with international communities to build momentum and support for their joint efforts.

Friday, September 12
11am – 12:30pm
Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
116 East 16th Street, 7th Floor
To RSVP, please contact Mai Kiang
or call 212-529-8021 x20

Astraea Mourns Leader and Friend Del Martin

The LGBTI and progressive movements lost a powerful and tireless leader, visionary, and mentor when Del Martin, 87, passed away on August 27th in a San Francisco hospice. Del was surrounded by family, friends, and her life partner, Phyllis Lyon, whom she legally wed in June under California Law.

We join in mourning with so many others whose lives were touched by Del. Longtime friends and supporters of Astraea, Del and Phyllis were remarkable not just in their love partnership of over 50 years, but in their political partnership.

Del will be sorely missed—as a feminist leader who stood up tirelessly across many issues and for many communities. From lesbian rights to ending domestic violence, Del had a tremendous impact. With Phyllis, she was instrumental in building the movement that we continue today, in the U.S. and around the world.

Astraea extends our deepest condolences to Phyllis and the rest of Del’s family. We hold them in our hearts as we continue our work with the unflagging spirit and conviction that guided Del’s life and that inspires ours.

In peace,

Katherine Acey
Executive Director

eThreads—exciting videos, updates and galleries online now

Welcome to eThreads, Astraea’s online newsletter spotlighting LGBTI activism around the world.

Welcome to eThreads, Astraea’s online newsletter spotlighting LGBTI activism around the world. Each quarter, we’ll bring you exciting videos, updates and galleries highlighting Astraea’s inspiring community of grantees and donors. Connecting communities is at the core of our work and we hope that eThreads will strengthen—even further—our connection with you!

Click here to go to ethreads.

eThreads—exciting videos, updates and galleries online now

Welcome to eThreads, Astraea’s online newsletter spotlighting LGBTI activism around the world. Each quarter, we’ll bring you exciting videos, updates and galleries highlighting Astraea’’s inspiring community of grantees and donors. Connecting communities is at the core of our work and we hope that eThreads will strengthen–—even further—–our connection with you!

Click here to go to ethreads.

Celebrate Astraea’s 30 Years and Honor Joan Watts

Join Us in Celebrating 30 Years of Funding LGBTI Justice! Honoring: JOAN WATTS, Astraea Founding Mother and Santa Fe Artist

Featuring Astraea’s Executive Director, Katherine Acey

Sunday June 15, 2008, 3:00 – 6:00 pm

Event held at a private home in La Mariposa;

detailed directions available upon online RSVP by June 10

or via phone 505.424.8180

Click here to find out more about this event.

Gay City News Highlights FIERCE!, Astraea’s 30th Celebration

“We’re more likely to be remembered by the presence of monuments than by the presence of our people.” Rickke Mananzala, the executive director of FIERCE, shared those words from his colleague Glo Ross, the group’s lead organizer, as the two sat with a reporter late one evening this week in their West 24th Street offices.

Click here to read this article on

In Feting FIERCE, Astraea Bolsters a New Generation

“We’re more likely to be remembered by the presence of monuments than by the presence of our people.”

Rickke Mananzala, the executive director of FIERCE, shared those words from his colleague Glo Ross, the group’s lead organizer, as the two sat with a reporter late one evening this week in their West 24th Street offices.

FIERCE, the Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals For Community Empowerment, since 2000 has advocated for LGBT, two-spirit, and questioning youth of color, 13-24, for whom the West Village remains a valued public space, one that is safe and offers them the freedom and social interactions often missing from the neighborhoods where they live. This past Saturday, May 17, FIERCE was among three honorees at the 30th anniversary dinner of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, held at Midtown’s Prince George Ballroom.

Astraea fills a unique niche in the world of queer philanthropy and social action. It is the only foundation solely dedicated to support the social justice activities of LGBT organizations, as well as those serving intersex people, both domestically and abroad. Its mission statement charts the group’s aims as including “social, racial, and economic justice” – a scope often given lip service by the organized LGBT community, but less frequently backed up by dollars.

In fact, Astraea points to findings from the group Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues to quantify the big picture. In a study released this past January, that group reported that the total share of US foundation support going to LGBT issues in 2006 remained constant at its recent levels – only 0.1 percent of the total. Of that dollar amount, which is roughly $65 million, less than nine percent expressly targeted communities of color.

In the developing world, also known as the Global South and East, Astraea funds more LGBT groups than any other foundation and is the second largest dollar contributor to such organizations.

Given Astraea’s mission and record, FIERCE’s co-honorees Saturday evening were appropriate – the Johannesburg-based Coalition of African Lesbians, the first group to bring together organizations working on behalf of queer women in 11 nations on that continent, and Marta Drury, a lesbian philanthropist in California who works on issues facing women and children and has served as an advisor to Astraea.

According to Mananzala, Astraea has been a funder of FIERCE for five of its eight years of existence; in each of three of the last five it has given the group $50,000, making it one of the group’s largest supporters of a budget that now stands at $535,000. Mananzala explained that much of its foundation support comes from youth-focused funders; LGBT and people of color-oriented foundations each often conclude that FIERCE’s work falls more into the other’s bailiwick.

“It sounds like a cliché,” he said, “but Astraea gets it.”

FIERCE gained notice early in its life as an adamant and spirited defender of LGBTQ youth of color, consistently backed in public by dozens, sometimes hundreds drawn from that constituency. During the past eight years, long-simmering tensions between the increasingly gentrified West Village population and queer youth who for decades saw the neighborhood and the riverfront as home came to a boil. Neighborhood groups, often made up of cranky, even hostile residents added to the pressure on youths who already felt put upon by law enforcement’s heavy hand.

FIERCE turned out large crowds demanding their right to public space, and the group was unafraid to be vocal in criticizing abuse at the hands of police.

But it soon proved itself shrewd and adept at working the maze of governmental bodies that have a hand in governing the policing of public space, and the Hudson River Park in particular. By 2006, as Community Board 2 and the Hudson River Park Trust finalized plans regarding closing times for the pier at Christopher Street, FIERCE was very much a player.

Though the group did not achieve its goal of keeping the pier open until 4 a.m., rather than 1 a.m., it forestalled a proposal that youth exiting the park after a certain hour be required to travel up to 14th Street. Some residents had pressed for that change to keep young LGBT people out of the neighborhood’s residential heart late at night. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also brokered a deal to have the Door, a youth services agency, provide an outreach worker on the pier seven days a week to offer youths referrals for housing or jobs counseling.

More recently, FIERCE was a key component of the Pier 40 Working Group that successfully beat back a proposal for a massive commercial development on the much larger pier several blocks south of Christopher Street, between Leroy and Charlton. Dubbed “Vegas on the Hudson” by critics, the plan was to be anchored by a permanent home for Cirque du Soleil. Soccer moms and other residents quickly voiced outrage at the loss of valuable recreational and other community space.

For FIERCE, several issues drew them to the fight. Ross said that early in the public debate on the proposal, one official warned her, “You know the first thing they’re going to do if they build Vegas on the Hudson.” The answer, the group concluded, was that the developer would put pressure once again on the youth congregating up at Christopher Street, with the aim of making sure that they steered clear of Pier 40.

More fundamental, however, was FIERCE’s philosophy about public space in the city.

“Social infrastructure is under attack,” Mananzala explained, noting that FIERCE is perhaps the only LGBT youth organization in the country fighting against “gentrification and displacement” and on behalf of “the cultural preservation of our people.” That last term Mananzala uses in a geographical sense – the right of people to remain in the public spaces that have cultural meaning in their lives.

For FIERCE, Vegas on the Hudson was one more encroachment of gentrification and private ownership over open spaces in the city. And the pier also presented an opportunity – for carving out a corner for an LGBT center serving the health, artistic, economic, and political needs of the youth who migrate to the Hudson River, one that could potentially stay open 24 hours a day. Plans for such a facility were endorsed by the Pier 40 Working Group.

“It was amazing to be standing at this huge rally and have a Little Leaguer’s father saying that we need to create space for an LGBT center and have the crowd cheer,” Mananzala recalled, and then, referring to the defeated proposal, added, “The project was a scary prospect, but it allowed us to form unlikely alliances. Now we are feeling more a part of the fabric of the community.”

But FIERCE’s story cannot be framed solely as a journey from the streets to the table. The group remains committed to fundamental social change, one based in challenging the powers that be. It has been present at anti-war rallies during the past five years, including the massive outpouring at the Republican National Convention in 2004, and it was part of recent protests over the acquittal of police officers charged in the shooting death of Sean Bell in Queens.

FIERCE was also outspoken in defense of seven young lesbians from Newark convicted last year for assault in a 2006 brawl in front of IFC Film Center with a man they said came on to them in a hostile, abusive, and aggressive way. The four women who did not plead guilty could face more than ten years in prison.

Even before the jury came back, the women had been convicted in the press – the Post termed them “killer lesbians” and even the Times used the menacing phrase “avowed lesbians” in describing them. Amidst a public climate that quickly turned against the women, FIERCE has stood with them, helping their families plan appeals.

Does the group fear that mainstream LGBT groups might be put off by perceptions that FIERCE is too radical?

“I would just flip it and say we’re trying to be seen as responsive,” Mananzala said. “We’re less concerned with being seen as radical than how we’re seen by our community.” He noted that the impetus for founding FIERCE came out of the protests against the 1999 police killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, in a hail of bullets in the Bronx.

FIERCE’s responsiveness to its community is seen nowhere more than in its commitment to leadership development. The group runs an internship program that provides five-week trainings to youths interested in learning the ropes of community organizing. With a stipend for the interns, in-house meals while they’re in the office, and subway fare, the group commits $30,000 annually to the effort, which currently boasts its largest class – 16 young people

John Blasco, a gay 19-year-old who lives on the Lower East Side with his mother and is finishing up high school this August, has been involved in FIERCE for the past year, and is one of the current interns. He works as an HIV peer educator at the Ryan-NENA Community Health Center in his neighborhood and was eager to enter the internship program. He sees the internship as a way to build his “skills,” but also to engage his new-found passion for “organizing” – both in his health work and on the core issues FIERCE tackles.

Blasco’s ties to FIERCE are multi-dimensional. At the Thursday “Let’s Politic” meetings, he first encountered the concept of transphobia and is also able to talk to others about the West Village woman who repeatedly harangues him for encouraging more gay kids to go to the piers with his HIV outreach work. FIERCE Fridays have been occasions for a Halloween party and for a karaoke night. On one Friday evening, Blasco brought 15 of his friends.

The internship program Blasco is now completing is no simple classroom exercise.

“We integrate our internship program into our work, into our outreach,” Ross explained. “They are leading our Pier 40 effort. Internships make us effective and sustainable.”

It was only by doing, in fact, that Ross and Mananzala grew into the skills they employ to run FIERCE.

“I learned how to raise funds and about financial management,” Mananzala explained. “And about organizing. We have built a culture around leadership development.”

When Joo-Hyun Kang – an activist who has worked with Astraea and was the first executive director of the Audre Lorde Project, Brooklyn’s community center for queer people of color – presented FIERCE with its award Saturday evening, the group’s commitment to developing leaders for the movement was the first strength she mentioned.

FIERCE’s effectiveness was not far behind in Kang’s praise.

Katherine Acey, who last fall celebrated 20 years at Astraea’s helm, reflected at the evening’s conclusion about the excellence, the effectiveness her group looks for in it grantees.

“You are the people who will not accommodate an unjust reality,” she said.

Advocate Article Spotlights FIERCE!/Astraea

In 2006 less than 9% of total funding for LGBT issues went to groups that work with blacks, Latinos, and other people of color. Conn Corrigan finds out why — and what’s being done to resolve the imbalance.

Click here to read this article on

Digging for Dollars

The Christopher Street pier is a favorite hangout for many gay youths of color in New York City — a place they can “truly be themselves,” as the narrator of the documentary Fenced Out puts it. The film, produced in 2001 by a small LGBT nonprofit called FIERCE, is a major part of the group’s campaign to save the pier from Manhattan’s relentless redevelopment. Another FIERCE initiative? Training LGBT kids of color to be strong advocates for their rights through workshops on political education and activism.

But FIERCE’’s work requires money, and securing funding is “challenging,” says its executive director, Rickke Mananzala. “Some philanthropic foundations choose not to support us because we don’t neatly fit into an LGBT issue or people-of-color issue,” he says. Many of the larger grant makers are “invite-only,” and FIERCE is “very much outside of their scope.”

According to a new report, that’’s often the case for groups that help gay people of color. In its “report card” on race released this month, the philanthropic research organization Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues reveals that only 8.8% of all funding for LGBT causes in 2006 went to groups targeting people of color like FIERCE — even though blacks, Latinos, biracial people, and other minorities make up at least one quarter of the U.S. population, according to the 2006 Census. Out of 19 prominent foundations reviewed — whether LGBT-specific ones like the David Geffen Foundation or ones with broader missions such as the David Bohnett Foundation, which finances social activism in general — only nine awarded grants for race-related issues in 2006. Of the 10 who didn’’t award a single grant to people-of-color groups that year, four hadn’’t awarded any grants at all to these groups in the preceding five years.

Svati Shah, a specialist in race, sexuality, and gender at New York University, says the report should be a “wake-up call” for foundations. ““Many of them need to realize that the groups they are funding may be predominantly white,”” says Shah, who has been an adviser to Funders.

The stark funding imbalance is partially due to many foundations’ preference for giving grants to organizations with a national presence — and groups focused on people of color tend to be small community-based outfits. “”Before an application process can even begin, many organizations are immediately ineligible for support,”” says Mananzala of FIERCE.

But the disproportionate grant allocation can also be chalked up to the overwhelmingly white leadership at most foundations. Of the 19 grant makers represented in the Funders’ survey, 80% have white men as board chairs or cochairs. “That makes for a certain “one-dimensional” funding approach,” says Robert Espinoza, the report’s author, who is director of research and communications at Funders. “”Everybody agreed that issues such as diversity and inclusivity are really important, yet it’s not happening,” Espinoza says of the decision makers he spoke with.

Though neither he nor his report would name names, Espinoza has some advice for the foundations showing little or no financial interest in minority gays and lesbians: They need “to figure out how to bring people of color into their leadership positions.” It’s the only way to achieve racial parity, he says.

Of course, some of the funders in the report already do that, such as the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. A FIERCE funder, Astraea gave 42 grants in 2006 supporting LGBT people-of-color organizations and projects in the U.S. — more than any of the foundations assessed—for a total of $716,250. By its own mandate, at least 50% of its board must be people of color, according to executive director Katherine Acey.

Though Funders has been around since 1982, the group is raising its profile this year with this report and others, part of its new “Racial Equity Campaign.” The aim? To increase giving to such groups to at least 15% of total LGBT funding by 2011.

Meanwhile, the work of FIERCE and other groups like it goes on, despite the difficulty obtaining resources. As Mananzala says: “Our communities don’t have the option to separate LGBT issues and people-of-color issues in their day-to-day life.”