We invited our co-chair, Susana Fried, to share some reflections on our founding mothers for this year’s Mother’s Day. Motherhood takes all shapes, from chosen family, to raising children, to starting impactful movements, motherhood is grounded in care, love, and freedom.
This Mother’s Day, I would like to honor, respect, and celebrate The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice’s 45-year history, our founding mothers, and all those who created, continue to nurture, and grow the Astraea Foundation of today.
Because of the foresight of a small group of spirited and determined women, we can support queer movements around the world with flexible, unrestricted funds. These women made clear their dedication to ensuring that women’s movements prioritize the needs of lesbians and women of color by declaring that “if it is going to exist, we will need to fund it ourselves.” This groundwork now enables us to support queer, feminist, anti-racist movements worldwide. Indeed, we are proud to be one of the first women’s funds in the world and the only one wholly devoted to advancing the rights of LGBTQI+ people globally. When we, as a community, consider the steps that come after this one, it is vital to be anchored in our history in order to plan for our future. Today, when we think about the next steps, we are thinking about the Astraea Foundation’s founding mothers.
This work is urgent – now more than ever. With anti-rights/anti-gender movements increasingly well-financed and globally networked, we’re seeing a proliferation of discriminatory laws, policies, and practices that normalize and advance criminalization and violence against LGBTQI+ communities and restrict reproductive rights and health. The growth of authoritarian, conservative forces especially target structurally excluded women, girls, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, and reinforces the most restrictive and punitive structures of power and privilege. In this context, the Astraea Foundation’s work and the work of our grantee partners is critical.
Today, we especially remember Achebe (betty) Powell. Achebe was one of the spirited and determined women who, sitting around a kitchen table in 1977, brought the Astraea Foundation into being. We very recently lost Achebe to COVID-19, which serves as a harsh reminder that COVID-19 is still killing us – and that it is killing some communities more than others. Achebe was formidable: she was the first Black lesbian to serve on the board of directors of the National Gay Task Force and was co-chair of that board for several years. She attended the historic meeting of lesbian and gay leaders at the Carter White House in 1977. She was a highly sought-after trainer on diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism in the United States. And she was also “a pioneer in connecting United States work on intersectionality, inclusion, and diversity to transnational conversations on gender, race, class, and culture.” https://www.middlechurch.org/honoring-achebe-powell/
With her roots in the civil rights movement, Achebe was full of insight, love, critical awareness, and keen humor. She had a profound passion for nurturing vibrant, inclusive, queer, anti-racist feminist groups that operate with an intersectional perspective. For me, Achebe was not just a close friend but also an integral member of my chosen family. It is still difficult for me to imagine life without her, so whenever I think about her, I envision a bright new star emerging in the night sky. It is a privilege for me to serve as a co-chair, with Bookda Gheisar, on the Astraea Foundation’s board of directors, and I do it in her honor and loving memory.
Achebe was also fluent in French; I’ll pay tribute to her vision and commitment by closing with, “la lutte continue.”
Susana Fried, Board Co-Chair