Astraea Foundation: Investing, Advocating, Amplifying, and Propelling LGBTQI Voices

Astraea supporters, board members, and grantee partners share why they love Astraea with Tagg Magazine.

Originally published in Tagg Magazine.

Based in New York, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is a public foundation committed to strengthening LGBTQI communities and movements. For 40 years, the organization has been the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI human rights around the globe.

Astraea is known for investing in artists and organizations, advocating and funding for those who need it the most, amplifying voices, and propelling leadership development.

Funds are raised for programs and initiatives led by and for diverse groups with a focus on lesbians and queer women, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, intersex people, and people of color.

The heart of the organization is rooted in their mission “to fuel local and global movements that shift power to LGBTQI people and organizations pursuing social justice and human rights.”

Here are just a few individuals that believe in the organization’s mission and work.

“Giving voice to marginalized communities is difficult and necessary work. Astraea’s path to pursuing social justice and human rights is one that I must join. I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with this network of change agents who will undoubtedly fight until all people belong, no matter the circumstance.” Rebecca D. Crouch-Pelham, President/CEO, Washington Tennis & Education Foundation


limay Ho (left) and Rebecca D. Crouch-Pelham (right) with Regional Development & Engagement Officer of Astraea Foundation Zakiya J. Lord (Photo by Beverlie Lord)

“I am so proud to be a board member for Astraea. Through long-term, intersectional funding, Astraea has been fueling the frontlines of LGBTQ organizing for over 40 years. I owe my ability to thrive as a queer person of color in this world to organizations like Astraea.” –limay Ho, Executive Director of Astraea Resource Generation

Read more on taggmagazine.com.

D.C. Cocktail Reception

Join us in Washington, D.C., for a cocktail birthday party to support LGBTQI movements for justice worldwide!

Join us in Washington, D.C., for a cocktail birthday party to support LGBTQI movements for justice worldwide!

The Astraea Foundation for Justice, is continuing to celebrate our 40th anniversary and this time we are gathering at the home of Karen Dixon and Nan Schaffer, on Thursday, January 25th, 2018, from 5:00-7:30 pm!

Come and share a dessert with us, and raise a glass as we celebrate 40 years; enjoy a performance from our grantee partner Be.Steadwell, and get a quick update from our new Director of Programs, Cara Page.

Light refreshments will be served. Location details will be provided upon registration. 

To attend, please RSVP here.

Host Committee

Urooj Arshad
Shauna Brown
Rebecca & Jacquelyn Crouch-Pelham
Karen Dixon & Nan Schaffer
Julie Gonen & Gaby Richeimer
Iimay Ho
Mia Jacobs
C. Nicole Mason
Samantha Master
Chase & Chris Maggiano
Tamara Wilds-Lawson

Sponsors:

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Thanks to everyone who attended the event! We were grateful to have everyone in the room.

View event photos

Be Steadwell

Be Steadwell is a singer songwriter and filmmaker from Washington DC, whose self-produced albums and films feature her earnest lyricism, proud LGBTQI content and unapologetic silliness.

Be Steadwell is a singer songwriter and filmmaker from Washington DC. In her live performances, Be utilizes loop pedal vocal layering and beat boxing to compose her songs on stage. Be’s self-produced albums and films feature her earnest lyricism, proud LGBTQI content and unapologetic silliness. As she pursued her career in music, she began a career in film. Shooting and editing her own music videos, Be combined her love of music with narrative film. In 2014, Be completed an MFA in film from Howard University. Her most recent film, Vow of Silence (2014) received the Howard University Paul Robeson Award (2015), Best Experimental Short at The Black Star Film Festival (2015), Audience Choice Award at QWOCMAP Festival (2015), and was featured at the NYC Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 2016, Be was selected to be a Strathmore Artist in Residence and the DC Commission on the Arts awarded Be an artist fellowship. In April 2016, Be took her music to the UK in a five-show tour. She has conducted songwriting, loop pedal and film workshops for LGBTQI youth groups internationally. Be currently tours her music and film internationally.

Uprising of Love: J Bob Alotta’s Women’s March Speech

On January 21, 2017, Astraea Executive Director J. Bob Alotta was one of 50 speakers at the Women’s March on Washington rally in Washington, D.C.

On January 21, 2017, Astraea Executive Director J. Bob Alotta was one of 50 speakers at the Women’s March on Washington rally in Washington, D.C. Read a full transcript of her speech below, and view video of the speech here.

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My name is J. Bob Alotta. I am the Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. For 40 years Astraea has been on the frontlines supporting LGBTQI activism in the United States & around the world.

But I’m not here to talk to you about 40 years. I’m here to talk to you about today, right now.

We may be here because of someone or something we did not choose. But today, we did choose to show up, to stand up, to march, to gather together. And that is what this time is about – what we are going to choose.

Because in a week from now, a month from now, 4 years from now, we will have been inundated by messaging – not just tweets, but a barrage of policy and public sentiment; images and articles; subtle and overt shifts, in all the ways culture is made – and our values and our choices will be tested. All the ways we want to be in the world will be tested and we will be asked to make choices every single day. In the days, weeks, months and years to come, we will need to become our own collective moral compass. We will need to be our own North Star.

So when you look at our policy statement, when you look around here all day long and are moved by the beauty and diversity and passion of all the folks around you, remember this: we chose to come together in all of our power.

We do not and we will not choose one neighbor over another. We do not and we will not choose to deny our queerness, our lesbian, gay, bi or trans selves in order to be in a march for women or a country for all of us; we do not and we will not deny the beauty and power and joy in our blackness and brownness as if it will make us safer or any more sane in a country that consistently proves otherwise; we will not hide behind our whiteness because of the vestiges of privilege that to this day service a system meant to succeed the will and line the pockets of a few men who’d have us all believe there is superiority in our shade just to keep us from knowing the power of truly being in righteous community and shared humanity (I know that was a mouthful, I am asking you to give up the ghosts of slavery in the year 2017); we will not choose any one person’s notion of God to define every single one of our divine possibilites and surely not our secular and public rules of law; we will not choose some of our rights over all of our rights – we choose to know better, to do better, to be better, to love better.

Let me talk about love. I might be wonderful but I know I got chosen to be up here as the resident homosexual. Or one of them anyway. So what do you need with a big ole queer like me?

I think it is to talk about radical love. To stand here on this stage right now and proclaim my commitment to love in the most radically honest way possible. For you all right now, to commit to doing so. Let me queer our collective notion of love right now, so that every one of us will step past the easy, the scripted, the societally sanctioned, the familiar, the safe notions of love, and let us choose the pathway to not only the greatest possibility but the greatest reward.

We are not a fluke. This is not a singular phenomenon. We are fantastic and fabulous and this is only the beginning. No, this is not a one off. This? Is an Uprising of Love. WE are an uprising of love. Choose it! Everyday!

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Want to help us continue to build an #UprisingofLove and support LGBTQI grassroots organizing in the US and around the world? Join us.

J. Bob Alotta Speaking at the DC Women’s March

Some moments are poised to become turning points in our global and national fight for liberation. The Women’s March taking place on Saturday, January 21st is one of them!

Image credits (clockwise L to R): Jennifer Maravillas, Isabel Castillo Guijarro, Women’s March on Washington

Some moments are poised to become turning points in our global and national fight for liberation. The Women’s March taking place on Saturday, January 21st is one of them!

I’ll be on a stage with some of the fiercest women’s rights advocates, artists and activists in the country, speaking about why Astraea’s vision for gender justice in 2017 and beyond is ever so critical and is the reason behind #WhyIMarch.

In the words of actress and activist Ellen Page and myself: “We march forward because we refuse to take any steps back!” Defending LGBTQI rights secures liberty and justice for all of us. Hear Ellen Page and I share #WhyWeMarch in a new video.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and our website for more details and stay in touch with us throughout this incredible day.

Tell us why YOU March and post at #WhyIMarch this #WomensMarch and find out more details abut the event in Washington, D.C. here.

Joins us. We need your support now more than ever.

In solidarity,

bob signature_transparent

Cydney O. Brown

“I was surprised that I’d never heard of an organization dedicated to doing exactly what I want to do one day–expanding, supporting, and promoting communities dedicated to advancing support in LGBTQ issues. I wanted to find a way to be able to help in any way.”

What did you know about philanthropy before Astraea? 

To be honest, I associated philanthropy with something rich white people did once they had a certain number of digits in their bank accounts in order to have the term “philanthropist” attached to their name as a part of their legend.

Have you ever considered yourself a philanthropist? Why or why not?

It was not something I related to myself LGBTQI justice, queeness, or people of color, so I never saw myself as one. Only as a person willing to give wherever it was needed. Astraea’s Regional Development Officer Zakiya Lord invited me to a fundraiser and I appreciated that the only requirement to attend was to ‘bring your queerest self.’ How many spaces can you find that requires just that simple yet radical component? I fell in love.

What made you become a donor at Astraea?

After the event and doing some research on the organization, I was surprised that I’d never heard of an organization dedicated to doing exactly what I want to do one day — expanding, supporting, and promoting communities dedicated to advancing support in LGBTQ issues. I wanted to find a way to be able to help in any way.

What kind of legacy would you like your donation at Astraea to create?

I’m lucky. So so lucky. Most of my peers are struggling just to survive, let alone give their time or money to a cause. I was hired right out of college and can afford to give. Some of my peers aren’t as fortunate and I think it’s unfair of older generations to criticize us when it comes to being donors. Ten dollars may not be much to some people, but to some young people, that’s a meal or transportation fare for the day. They can’t make that kind of sacrifice every month. So I think that we have to change what philanthropy is associated with. It doesn’t have to be about the money. It can be time. A retweet. A shoutout on Facebook. Just showing up and showing out for what we believe in. Because we’ve been doing that. That’s also what I want my donation to do. To remind people that LGBTQI+ youth of color are capable of showing up and doing the work.

Review: Serra Sippel on keeping the fight for women’s rights alive

Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, contributes to #shebuilds the future, assessing the continued need to struggle for women’s rights funding.

 

True innovation for advancing gender equality and development means backing up the women who defend the human rights of women, supporting those who advocate to change discriminatory laws.

To read more, click here: https://www.devex.com/news/shebuilds-the-future-through-policy-advocacy-83209

10 LGBTQI Activist Moments of 2013

At Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the last days of the year are a time to honor brave leaps forward and take stock of political set backs for LGBTQI rights activism in 2013. By no means comprehensive, we offer a brief survey of ten moments of LGBTQI activism around the globe in 2013. Join the conversation online and share more moments with us on facebook and twitter using #LGBTQIActivistMoments!

At Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the last days of the year are a time to honor brave leaps forward and take stock of political set backs for LGBTQI rights activism in 2013. By no means comprehensive, we offer a brief survey of ten moments of LGBTQI activism around the globe in 2013. Join the conversation online and share more moments with us on facebook and twitter using #LGBTQIActivistMoments!

1. Edith Windsor’s win for Marriage Equality: the Defense of Marriage Act is declared unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court. Federal recognition is afforded to same-sex marriages performed under state law. The U.S. becomes one of a handful of countries pushing same-sex marriage forward.

2. In a set back in Colombia, the nation’s same-sex marriage bill failed to pass the Senate and bypass coalition opposition led by the Attorney General. Legal ambiguity remains, however, with constitutional recognition of legal registry in effect. Couples can approach notaries or judges to marry, but their requests remain in the hands of officials who can deny them.

3. Years of policy advocacy, movement building, and direct action by LGBTQI activists of color produced hard-fought victories for immigration rights in California. The city of San Francisco passed an ordinance limiting the Secure Communities program (S-Comm), effectively reducing the threat of deportation to anyone arrested by local police. And the state of California passed the Trust Act, prohibiting local law enforcement agencies from detaining people for deportation if arrested for a minor or non-violent crime and are otherwise eligible to be released from custody.

4. New York City Council passed the Community Safety Act, winning New Yorkers protection from the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Simultaneously, Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a decision declaring stop-and-frisk as practiced by the NYPD unconstitutional. While this ruling was appealed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s administration, Mayor-Elect Bill DeBlasio has pledged to drop this appeal and it remains to be seen exactly how these new protections against police abuse will be enacted.

5. Ugandan LGBTI advocacy groups made collective strides pinpointing American evangelist involvement in anti-gay persecution in Uganda. The U.S. court case “Sexual Minorities Uganda vs. Scott Lively” moved forward while the Ugandan parliament unexpectedly passed its “Kill the Gays” bill.

6. Cuban lawmakers approve a proposal to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

7. LGBTQI activism swelled after India’s Supreme Court upheld a colonial-era law, Section 377 of India’s penal code, and recriminalized same-sex relations. The Court’s decision overruled a previous ruling of 377 as unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court, and severely set back LGBTQI human rights protections in India.

8. LGBTQI human rights activists in Russia witnessed a show of support around the winter Olympic games in Sochi. Activists called for action, reporting heightened LGBTQI violence since the Russian government passed an anti-gay propaganda law and conducted nationwide raids of nongovernmental organizations to identify “foreign agents” earlier in the year. International advocacy efforts include Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, and other gay athletes joining a U.S. delegation to the Olympics.

9. In a unanimous 9-0 ruling, Canada’s Supreme Court decriminalized sex work offering constitutional protections to sex workers’ health and safety.

10. Guyana courts upheld a partial ban on cross-dressing deeming it illegal if done for “improper purposes.” LGBTQI rights groups in Guyana including Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination rallied to appeal the judgment to protect transgender people from being persecuted by 120-year-old law.

JUST GIVING CONFERENCE 2013

Join us at three events during EDGE Funders Alliance’s Just Giving Conference 2013 as we tackle the questions: What is to be done? And how do we do it?

2013 Just Giving Conference

Join us at three events during EDGE Funders Alliance’s Just Giving Conference 2013 as we tackle the questions: What is to be done? And how do we do it?

JUST GIVING CONFERENCE 2013
May 21 – 23, 2013
Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue NE | Washington, DC 20002
Click here to register

Inequities, Identities, and Power
Tuesday, May 21 | 8:30am – 10:45am
How do identity and power impact the contexts in which we operate as grant makers? How does privilege play out in our work? How can addressing institutional power imbalances contribute to deeper transformation? In progressive grant making circles, the power that is inherent in being a funder is often fraught with ambivalence. Many engaged in social change come to the work from a personal experience with the oppressive use of power. As such, building and expanding popular democratic power to actualize an inclusive and democratic global society is a central, if not explicit, goal of our work. Unfortunately, this does not mean that we – or our institutions – don’t (inadvertently) reproduce systems of oppression in how we operate. Through a series of exercises, interactive activities and group discussions, this institute will help us think about ”identities” and their intersections, around disability, sexuality, gender, race and ethnicity, class and age to name a few, in ways that can deepen our grantmaking practice. Participants will work together to identify the types of questions, interventions and collaborations that have the potential to change systems of inequity. Join us as we explore questions of identity and power in the context of philanthropy, consider how power and privilege play out in our work as grant makers, and discuss organizational and institutional practices to address power imbalances as integral to our work of social, political and economic transformation. With: Constance Cagampang Heller, Co-founder, Linked Fate Fund for Justice; Monica Enriquez-Enriquez, Program Officer, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; Diana Samarasan, Executive Director, Disability Rights Fund, Inc.

Sex Work is Work: Exploring creative strategies for promoting the economic rights of sex workers
Wednesday, May 22 | 11:15am to 1:00pm
Globally, sex workers face stigma, violence and discrimination with severe consequences for their health, economic status and human rights. Sex worker activists are often ostracized from mainstream human rights movements and funding for their organizations is extremely limited. As grantmakers interested in self-determination and autonomy, we have yet to come together to create a well-coordinated global case for sex work as an economic right and, therefore, a human right. In this session, we will hear from activists and funders about effective strategies focusing on core economic rights issues, such as the recognition of sex work as work, the decriminalization of sex work, alternative employment strategies, and the economic empowerment and social inclusion of sex workers. With: Svati Shah, New York University; Anna Kirey, Urgent Action Fund Advisor; Andrea Ritchie, Streetwise and Safe; Liz Coplen, Red Umbrella Fund.

Laws or Lives?: The Road from Legal Rights to Justice
Thursday, May 23rd | 9:30am to 11:15am
Foundations often fund advocacy to support systemic changes that will yield equity, safety, and health for marginalized communities. While this work is crucial, social movements have argued that it is not enough – feeling the constraint of the politically winnable against a backdrop of daily threats against their lives. In this session, we will use examples within the LGBT movement to explore the tensions between legal protections, implementation and the ability to thrive. We will examine two country specific case studies – Ecuador and South Africa – for insight about opportunities for moving from formal equality to lived experiences of justice. With: Andrew Park, Director of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Program at Wellspring Advisors; Mia Herndon, Global Philanthropy Project, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

May Grantee News

This month, we are featuring stories of movement building from several groups of grantee partners: Colombia Diversa, Taller de Comunicacion Mujer, and Aireana bringing visibility to lesbian human rights in the Americas; and Streetwise and Safe, Audre Lorde Project, and FIERCE challenging stop and frisk in New York City. We also report on El/La Para TransLatinas’ rally in the wake of ongoing violence in the Mission District of San Francisco.

IACHR

A Historic Hearing on Lesbian Human Rights


Colombia Diversa, Taller de Comunicacion Mujer, and Aireana spoke at a historic hearing, the 147th Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on March 15th. The three Astraea grantee partners presented on the “Situation of the Human Rights of Lesbians in the Americas.” This marks a milestone for the groups who, respectively from Colombia, Ecuador, and Paraguay, have been advocating for five years to address regional lesbian human rights issues.

The organizations conducted policy advocacy work at the Organization of American States (OAS), which spearheads the IACHR, as part of the Coalition of LGBTTTI Organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean, criticizing the heteronormative framework of women rights in the OAS and calling for inclusivity and visibility of lesbian rights within women’s rights. They also made the case for children’s rights to include lesbian girls and youth.

The groups shed important light on the disproportionate violence against lesbians, calling for specific attention to the needs of the lesbian community. They refuted the assumption that lesbians experience less violence within LGBTTTI communities. Instead, they pointed to evidence that lesbians are “invisible in all aspects,” due in large part to lack of overall reporting and documentation of violence, as well as high levels of domestic violence.

In the hearing, the three organizations highlighted institutional violence, demanding the definition of torture be broadened to include torture of LBTI people in the hands of state agents, the military and other armed forces, the police, and civilians including specific attention to the horrific practice of “corrective rape” perpetuated by the police, the military, and civilians. In addition, the groups advocated for lesbianism to no longer be considered a legitimate cause for the conviction of a crime. They also demanded lesbians have rights to motherhood free from prejudice and legal obstacles to adoption.

In response to the extraordinary human rights violations of so-called “Lesbian Torture Clinics” or “rehabilitation clinics,” they demanded action to monitor and ultimately close all clinics, and called for government monitoring and accountability. Qualifying lesbianism as an addiction or a disorder, these centers subject women to torture, enforced “feminine” dress codes, electric shock, verbal harassment, forced sexual relationships with other patients of opposite sex, and cold water showers at night. Testimonies offered reports of being chained, receiving threats, experiencing sexual harassment, and being threatened with rape by health professionals. The groups pointed to the need for intervention by the OAS since women are afraid to denounce these treatments and are often forced to sign the admission contract, or are forced into “clinics” by families that sign contracts for them. Watch the groundbreaking hearing in Spanish.

FIERCEFIERCE member Lee speaks at CPR rally

New York Grantees Call for Police Reform

“Floyd vs. the City of New York,” an historic trial challenging discriminatory police practices is currently underway in New York. Communities United for Police Reform, which includes Astraea grantee partners Streetwise and Safe, Audre Lorde Project, and FIERCE, has organized a large-scale community mobilization effort around the trial. Each day, different members of the coalition pack the court to show support and monitor the trial, and organize press conferences to highlight how police misconduct affects the lives of people living in New York City. The trial painstakingly reveals how the stop and frisk policy is maintained not by hard evidence of crime prevention but by veiled NYPD “performance goals” and racial discrimination.

On March 28th, with a room packed with LGBTQI supporters, the court was forced to open a large overflow room for more community members to bear witness to the proceedings. The subsequent “Fabulous & United” press conference included powerful testimonies from trans immigrant women who have been profiled as sex workers simply for carrying condoms, queer youth of color who have been harassed, and a black gay male survivor of violence who had been stopped and frisked so often that he was unable to go to the police for help when he was assaulted. You can watch the press conference and read recent NY Times coverage of the issue. Astraea is an official organizational endorser of Communities United for Police Reform and their campaign to pass the NYC Community Safety Act.

grantee-ellaparatransActivists rally to bring awareness of transphobic violence in the Mission

El/La Para TransLatinas Speaks Out Against Violence in the Mission

In the wake of ongoing violence in the Mission District of San Francisco targeting the transgender community, El/La Para TransLatinas organized a rally on March 28th to raise awareness. The action drew public attention to transphobic and homophobic attacks in the Mission. At the rally, the group called for solidarity and support from the city, inviting the public to “come and know more about your sisters and brothers in your LGBTQQ community.”

The action received attention from city officials, local media sources including the San Francisco Examiner and the Bay Area Reporter, as well as the San Francisco Police Department. In attendance were two San Francisco Supervisors and representatives from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

El/La Para TransLatinas is an HIV prevention and human rights program for transgender Latinas, providing safe space, health education counseling, and anti-violence and harm reduction support in the Mission District of San Francisco.