If I’m to be completely honest (and vulnerable), this reflection has not been an easy one to write. After seven years, I have decided it’s time to leave Astraea Foundation and my role as Deputy Executive Director.
At the very core of all that I am proud to have achieved at Astraea — and even the choice I have made to leave – is this: reimagination. The audacity to believe that we could build a partnership with governments without compromising our values and integrity, the seismic shifts in our operations and culture, and a deepened investment in our people. Looking back, I’m sure I couldn’t have even imagined what we would do together so many years ago.
In truth, reimagination has been at the very foundation of Astraea. Our Founding Mothers had to envision a world where feminists, lesbians, queer folks of color would dare to raise the resources we needed to support each other, to trust each other, and to believe that we could indeed make the world a more just place for us to thrive.
45 years later, Astraea is still committed to that world. In all my roles — as a staff member, executive leader, space-holder, Black queer immigrant cis-woman — I have borne witness to an organization grappling with how to remain accountable to and aligned with its feminist values, staff, peers, grantee partners, and to the LGBTQI movements that we serve.
The work we do is hard, uncomfortable and, at times, messy. How could it not be if what we aim to do is step outside of systems and ways of being that no longer serve us? You see, reimagination isn’t always about rainbows and unicorns — to do it well also involves having the most difficult conversations, holding curiosity, grief, sadness, and anger as we release what we have been in service of what we could be and emerge on the other side renewed.
This is the cycle of reimagination and, as I move towards my own sabbatical of rest and renewal, I know that the Astraea I leave today is far sturdier than the one I joined in 2015. Over the last few months especially, I sense a new horizon of hope that — while tenuous and precious — comes with dreaming about what might now be possible for Astraea and each of us finding our own place in that possibility. We are finding courage in our vulnerability, balance in our boundaries, and learning how to meaningfully build community across distance and difference.
There is much more to be done to get to where we want to be, but the path Astraea is charting to do it is more sure-footed, strategic, and overall stronger. I’m truly excited about what’s yet to come.
And so, I’d like to thank all our staff (past and present), grantee partners and supporters for sharing in my last reflection, and I hope if you remember nothing else, it is this: we are imagining a world where we can all thrive and the work we do to create that world is like planting trees under whose shade we may never sit.
Until we meet again,
Kerry-Jo Ford Lyn
Deputy Executive Director