The space feels energized, dynamic and full of possibility. The first day was spent locating ourselves in the region. In particular, we learned about and honored the indigenous people who were removed from this land. First Nations Two-Spirit leaders, including a Minneapolis City Councilmember, led us to share a traditional feast together. We then, as a group, named our intentions for the gathering and enjoyed performances by local LGBTQI artists. The bulk of the program is yet to come.
The gathering is hosted by eight LGBTQI Funders as part of a Racial Equity Initiative. The Racial Equity Initiative was launched to create inclusive practices within grant-making institutions to strengthen LGBTQI people of color leadership and organizations which have been underresourced in relation to more mainstream sectors of the LGBT movement. Astraea has had a major role in funding and supporting many of the groups here with multi-year financial support and technical assistance through its Movement-Building Initiative. Astraea has also been centrally involved in organizing the convening, as has Funders for LGBTQ Issues, and locally based PFund of Minneapolis.
This convening reflects years of movement building work such as multi-year funding, grantee support, conference calls, local and national organizing. And it is what Astraea’s funding is about. There are many reasons why the gathering has incredible political significance. I could write about the statistics and analysis that show how and why homophobia disproportionately impacts the lives of LGBTQI people of color. But I want to write about how this convening feels important.
During our group conversation about our intentions, people talked about what they wanted to take away from the gathering. A common thread was hope that participation will strengthen organizing work in communities when participants return home. As I watched the performances, I thought about what this really means. The terms mentorship, political education, leadership development swirled in my head. Performances by LGBTQI people of color from Minnesota awoke buried feelings and memories. I thought about how my identity developed as an Asian American queer woman with privilege, how I am still on the journey to integrate the many parts of myself so that I can be all of who I am. I was supported, challenged, mentored by others and now I can help others figure out how to bring the many parts of who they are to the world. I found myself thinking about similarities and differences with others in the room and making connections. I thought about context and consequences. The LGBTQI people of color community is learning, evolving and changing in response to multiple oppressions and external challenges and continued investment in it matters. The leaders here work in their communities, building relationships and supporting others so we can have the kind of world that we need–a world in which no one is left behind, one that supports all people to be who they are.
I feel strengthened, challenged and awake to possibilities for the kind of national LGBTQI movement we can have, one that honors difference rather than erasing it. It takes a lot of challenging work to build an inclusive movement but I know its worth it. As the recent passing of California’s marriage ban Proposition 8 shows, LGBTQI liberation for all will not take place if we do not develop leadership and organizational infrastructure in communities of color. Working across difference in underresourced communities is hard, exciting, mind-expanding, heart-filled courageous work. And it builds the foundation on which the LGBTQI movement is strong. Funding and supporting this work is precisely what Astraea is, and has been, about for 34 years. And it is why I support Astraea.
Theo Yang Copley