Grantee Partner QWOCMAP (Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project) Hosts 3rd Annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival

QWOCMAP’s (Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project) 3rd annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival was a rousing success. Over 1600 people attended the weekend festival, held at the Brava Theater in San Francisco.  Despite doubling the seating capacity of last year’s festival, the event sold out every night. Over 200 people had to be turned away.

“We’re really trying to convey the whole spectrum of experiences of queer women of color,” says Madeline Lim, Executive Director. “Some of these films are funny; some of them are really tender. The whole mission of the festival is to showcase a diverse range of experiences, break down stereotypes and to make our stories visible.”

Festival attendees came from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Oregon, Atlanta, Florida, Philadelphia and New York.  Visitors also came from as far away as Canada, Mexico and Europe.  California Legislature Assemblyman Mark Leno personally presented QWOCMAP with a Certificate of Recognition, and the San Francisco Mayor’s office proclaimed the weekend Queer Women of Color Film Festival Weekend.

QWOCMAP promotes the creation, exhibition and distribution of new films and videos that increase the visibility of queer women of color, authentically reflect their life stories, and address the vital social justice issues that concern their communities.  32 of the 40 films of the weekend were produced though their training program. QWOCMAP offers free workshops to queer women of color in filmmaking that reflect our lives and our experiences.

June 13, 2007—: Women’s A Rallying Call for Social Change Through Film

June 7, 2007—The Examiner Women of Color Come to the Big Screen

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.

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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.

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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.”

Astraea featured in San Francisco Gate

On a recent Thursday morning, Joseph Rosenthal, 77, drove from his barn-red, four-story house on Buena Vista Terrace to a lawyer’s office in the Castro, where he quietly transferred a substantial part of his estate to the endowment fund of the Horizons Foundation, a grant-giving organization for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

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Philanthropists ensure gay community’s future

“I have almost no family living at this time,” said Rosenthal, a retired librarian. “Certainly, not having children prompts one to consider other options, such as supporting charitable organizations in the area of my particular interest.”

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement has traditionally depended on smaller, grassroots donations for specific causes. But more aging philanthropists like Rosenthal, whose generation was the first to be “out,” are making end-of-life gifts to help secure the future of the community.

“If I had died in 1980, I would have had no idea that the HIV epidemic was around the corner,” said retired venture capitalist David Gleba, 45, who has contributed more than $250,000 to the Horizons Foundation. “After I am gone, I would like to see the part of my estate continue to work in succeeding the younger generation.”

In the past three decades, gay philanthropies such as Horizons Foundation, Pride Foundation and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice have helped shape today’s lesbian and gay community, funneling millions of dollars into numerous HIV/AIDS treatment services, and civil rights, social advocacy and political campaigns. According to a group that advises grantmakers, New York-based Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues, grants made to gay organizations nationwide have more than doubled from under $30 million in 2002 to $65.5 million in 2006.

“People feel more security that we are here to stay and we are fulfilling a purpose, so more are thinking of LGBT foundations as places to leave their bequests,” said Katherine Acey, executive director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, a New York-based organization that supports groups in more than 40 countries. “I see the beginning of a trend.”

A new record for bequests was set earlier this month, when former Microsoft employee Ric Weiland, who died in 2006, left $65 million to the Pride Foundation and several other organizations, said to be the largest gift ever made to the gay community in the United States.

While few would be able to match Weiland’s generosity, many gay and lesbian donors, who usually don’t have children, are likely to consider end-of-life gifts, philanthropy experts say.

“In the past two years, we have seen a huge upswing” in estate donations, said Zan McColloch-Lussier, spokesman for the Pride Foundation, which estimates that each year about 30 donors include the organization in their wills. “And we know that we only hear about the small percent of those who are actually planning to do it.”

According to a survey of 1,300 donors conducted by the Horizons Foundation, for example, about 52 percent said they are “very likely” to make estate gifts to the gay and lesbian movement, while 87 percent think it is “important” and “very important” to them to “help future generations.” The foundation estimates it will receive at least $35 million in future estate gifts to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender endowment fund.

“The success of this vision does not depend on any assumption that LGBT people are richer than the non-LGBT population,” said Roger Doughty, the executive director of the foundation. “All our projections are based on assumptions that we are ‘average,’ except that fewer of us have children and the lives of many reaching their ‘planned giving years’ have been deeply touched by the growth, struggles, and triumphs of the LGBT movement.”

Jeff Lewy, 65, who said he is a substantial donor to the gay community, became active in political fundraising and philanthropy during the failed Briggs Initiative of 1978, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California’s public schools.

Thirty years later, despite major changes in the society, Lewy said the gay movement still faces opposition from conservative groups and needs financial support to help fight for its civil rights.

“Given the political situation we have been in the last 10 years, we have more to gain through the courts than through the other outlets,” said Lewy, who came out to his friends more than 40 years ago. Donating to endowments “is an important way to change the situation in the longer term.”

Many gay and lesbian philanthropies nationwide are vying to tap the lucrative market of an aging gay population. Horizons Foundation, which wants to raise its endowment to $100 million over 25 years, collaborates with professional financial advisers and estate-planning attorneys, sponsoring seminars around planned giving. Astraea foundation has created the Women’s Will Circle, a program that helps publicize donors who have included the foundation in their estates. The OutGiving campaign of the Gill Foundation, created by Tim Gill, the inventor of Quark software, recruits philanthropists to secure large-scale and long-term financial support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

“As a society, we are more open talking about bequests than we were before,” said Liz Livingston Howard, an associate director of the Center for Nonprofit Management at Northwestern University. “It speaks of the sophistication of nonprofit organizations being more focused on long-term sustainability and insuring their future.”

Astraea featured in Chronicle of Philanthropy

More philanthropists are making substantial bequests to help support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender causes, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Donations to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Causes Increase

More philanthropists are making substantial bequests to help support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender causes, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Over the last 30 years, gay nonprofit groups like the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Horizon Foundation, and the Pride Foundation have funneled millions of dollars into numerous HIV/AIDS treatment services, and civil-rights, social-advocacy and political campaigns. Such organizations have traditionally relied on large numbers of small donations, but that trend is changing.

According to Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues, a New York group that advises grant makers, charitable donations made by donors in New York to gay organizations nationwide increased from less than $30-million in 2002 to $65.5-million in 2006.

And according to a survey of 1,300 donors conducted by the Horizon Foundation, about 52 percent said they are “very likely” to make estate gifts to gay causes, and 87 percent said they think it is “important” and “very important” to help future generations. The foundation estimates it will receive at least $35-million in future estate gifts to its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender endowment fund.

““The success of this vision does not depend on any assumption that LGBT people are richer than the non-LGBT population,”” said Roger Doughty, executive director of the Horizon Foundation. “”All our projections are based on assumptions that we are ‘average,’ except that fewer of us have children and the lives of many reaching their ‘planned giving years’ have been deeply touched by the growth, struggles, and triumphs of the LGBT movement.””

GONYC Magazine–—Still Acey After All These Years

On Wednesday, Oct 10 when friends and family gathered to celebrate Katherine Acey’s 20 years as Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, it was laughter and appreciation that prevailed. There were easily three generations of feminists, young grantees, people from all walks of life, and supporters from both coasts who had gathered to pay tribute to this champion of lesbian causes.

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A Tribute to Katherine Acey
20-year Executive Director of Astrea, honored.
by Isa Goldberg

On Wednesday, Oct 10 when friends and family gathered to celebrate Katherine Acey’s 20 years as Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, it was laughter and appreciation that prevailed. There were easily three generations of feminists, young grantees, people from all walks of life, and supporters from both coasts who had gathered to pay tribute to this champion of lesbian causes.

Best known for her radical efforts in achieving social justice for women, Acey was cited for her “decisiveness and radical vision” by long-time feminist Cheryl Clarke. In one of the many hilarious moments, Marjorie Hill toasted Katherine with her “favorite quote” from Dr. Martin Luther King, “We must constantly build dykes of courage to hold back the flood of fear”.

Moving right along the dyke theme, Dr. Hill and others enumerated Acey’s accomplishments as an activist and advocate of social change. To put it simply, Michael Seltzer, a pioneer in the field of nonprofit management and philanthropy commented, “Katherine has made the world a better place.” From 1982 when she served as the Associate Director of the North Star Fund to her leadership role in the Women’s Funding Network, to her participation on the boards of Women in the Arts, the Center for Anti-Violence Education and MADRE among others, Katherine’’s commitment to philanthropic endeavors seems boundless.

At Astraea where she began as a Board Member in 1987, Acey has been at the helm of the organization, generating grants to 181 organizations in 99 cities and 39 countries, issuing $1.9 million in grants this year alone. As a result of her efforts and tireless commitment, Astraea has recently been gifted an anonymous $1.5 million.

Gay City News Features Acey 20th Anniversary Celebration

More than 200 people gathered in the penthouse of the 1199 Conference Center on 42nd Street on October 10 to honor the 20 years of service executive director Katherine Acey has given to the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Although the event was billed as a “toast and roast,” it was all cheer and no jeer for this icon of the social justice movement.

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All Toast, No Roast

More than 200 people gathered in the penthouse of the 1199 Conference Center on 42nd Street on October 10 to honor the 20 years of service executive director Katherine Acey has given to the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Although the event was billed as a “toast and roast,” it was all cheer and no jeer for this icon of the social justice movement.

“I was almost at a loss for words; the whole evening kind of took my breath away,” Acey said in an interview the following day. “To see so many old friends, colleagues, people who have made such a tremendous difference in my life and work; it was so great to have my family there, and friends from the West Coast and Chicago.”

Among the many community leaders, activists, and artists who took to the podium to laud Acey was Dr. Marjorie Hill, CEO of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

“Of the many accomplishments, the many lives, the many wonderful things Katherine has done to inspire not only those of us in this room, in this city, in this country, but in the world, the one thing I want to share is when Astraea came out,” said Hill of the move by Acey early in her tenure to openly identify Astraea in its name as a lesbian-focused organization.

“Now some of us remember what a traumatizing, agonizing, totally terrorizing event it was for those on the board, staff, and organization, but for those of us on the outside, it was pure heart. For all of us in that room, it was really Katherine’s tenacity, her absolute commitment to integrity, her absolute determination to be who she is, to celebrate whoever and however we wanted to be and to call it like she saw it.”

“My favorite quote of all time came from Martin Luther King. And Dr. King said, ‘We must constantly build dykes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.’ You were just what Dr. King had in mind,” said Hill, to waves of applause.

Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, thanked Acey for the collegial and mutually enriching relationship they have had throughout the years. He was grateful for her single-mindedness of purpose.

“Katherine has brought so much to all of our collective work because of the politics she brings, the humanity she brings, her progressive politics, what she stands for, the stuff she keeps right up front and on the table so that no one else can avoid it, so it can’t get lost among all the busyness of fundraising and paying the rent and all the things that have to happen in our regular work,” said Cathcart. “I know I speak for a lot of people when I say… that I am a better person and a better leader for knowing and working with Katherine for all these years, and I hope there are more to come.”

It was no surprise that so many leaders in the LGBT community were among the crowd at last Wednesday’s event. Astraea has a long history of funding LGBT human rights organizations, and is the largest lesbian grant-making foundation in the world.

When Acey joined the organization, it was raising about $100,000 a year; this year alone, Astraea gave more than $1.9 million in grants to 181 organizations in 99 cities and 39 countries.

When Gay City News last spoke to Acey in 2005, she mentioned funding the group had given during the past year to the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights; the Audre Lorde Project, the community center serving queer people of color in Fort Greene, Brooklyn; and Patlatonalli, a Guadalajara-Mexico based advocacy group for lesbian families.

The group’s Web site includes profiles of a diverse group of grantees, including ASWAT, an organization in Haifa, Israel that provides a safe space and resources for lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex Palestinian women; Mujeres al Borde (Women on the Edge), a social organizing and community-building group in Bogotá, Colombia; the Appalachian Women’s Alliance in Floyd, Virginia established in 1993 to combat the poverty, violence, and now homophobia as well that keeps isolated Appalachian women-many of them lesbians-without power or voice; the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a New York City collective that engages in impact litigation and public education on behalf of transgendered and intersex people; and J-FLAG, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, the only organization in that island nation challenging the violence and legal restrictions facing queer people.

Among the highlights for Acey in the past year was the group’s Dallas retreat, initiating a United States movement-building initiative, and experiencing growth among Astraea’s staff and board.

Acey said that the community in Dallas welcomed activists and donor activists from around the world to talk about “how to create movements, crossing the class divide, and what it means to be a progressive queer philanthropist.

One of Astraea’s anonymous donors made a multi-year pledge there for the next 12 years that will result in a couple of million dollars, said Acey.

Another highlight in Acey’s recent past was helping to build the political and organizational capacity of groups doing social change work in the LGBT community. Astraea gave seven groups $50,000 a year for three years to organize policy reform. They will help the groups shape their agenda, look at issues of capacity and build resources, both human and financial. These groups, many of which are working within communities of color and youth on issues of leadership development, will convene this week in New Jersey.

Acey is also pleased that Astraea’s staff and board are growing. Always quick to share the credit with her peers, she said, “I am delighted to be working with such a committed, talented, and gifted group of people.

They’ve helped me to grow and pushed me and the organization to new heights.”

The recent addition of an associate director of grant-making and a deputy director brings the Astraea staff to 17.

Acey had similar praise for all the speakers and attendees at the event, and expressed satisfaction that so many diverse people of all ages and sexual orientations were sipping her signature drink, “The Acey,” and building bridges.

“It was so great to see people having fun,” said Acey. “The energy in the room was great, people enjoyed seeing each other and coming together for celebration, not just of me but all of us together. That’s one of the beauties of Astraea, that we do cross so many communities. It is heartwarming to have all that love and give it right back.”

This reporter last took a look at Astraea in the May 25-31, 2005 issue of Gay City News, “Lesbian Powerhouse of Funding.” The online version can be viewed at

Roasted and Toasted at Astraea (New York Blade, 2007)

Activist powerhouse Katherine Acey, looking cool and chic in a many-colored striped suit, smiles as she talks about being roasted next week.

Roasted and Toasted at Astraea
Lesbian Foundation distributes grants, creates networks.
By Erline Andrews

Activist powerhouse Katherine Acey, looking cool and chic in a many-colored striped suit, smiles as she talks about being roasted next week.

““I’’m looking forward to it,”” says Acey, seated in the conference room at the Manhattan headquarters of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the grant-distributing organization she’’s headed for two decades.

She was, in fact, its first paid employee when the organization changed from being staffed entirely of volunteers. At that time, she’d been working unpaid with Astraea for four years.

Next week Astraea will thank Acey for leadership. The event—–set to take place Oct. 10 in New York City—–will take an unusual format. There will be the expected accolades, yes. But there’’ll be digs too. The event has been dubbed a “roast and toast.”

“”I love the idea of a roast,”” says Acey, “”because I love humor, and I think it’’s very important that we keep a sense of humor doing this work.””

It doesn’’t seem that Acey has to worry about maintaining her composure while enduring the barbs.

A community activist and volunteer since her youth, Acey, 57, has built of an impressive cache of goodwill and respect through the myriad organizations she’’s worked and been otherwise affiliated with.

“The lesbian community, and indeed how lesbians are viewed in the world, has changed dramatically since 1987. “Katherine Acey’’s phenomenal leadership and commitment to social justice has been a key part of that change,”” writes Marjorie Hill, PhD, the CEO of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, in one of many tributes posted on Astraea’’s Web site in anticipation of the roast and toast.

Acey, who grew up in Utica, N.Y., the older of two daughters in a Lebanese-American household, came to Astraea after many years on what she called the “planning and developing” side of activism. She’’d worked with another foundation—–the North Star Fund–—for five years before becoming Astraea’’s executive director.

She values the ability to affect many different organizations at once, she says, particularly groups from communities that would find it difficult to get help otherwise.

““Social change happens at many different levels and requires many different strategies; it requires the participation of many different people,”” Acey says. “”Many of our groups are building a base and trying to promote policy reform.””

About Astraea
The Astraea Foundation, named for the Greek goddess of justice, was founded in 1977 to address the specific needs of lesbians, particularly lesbians of color. Its reach has since spread to LGBT advocacy groups around the world, and it boasts of being the only foundation solely dedicated to funding LGBTI organizations in the U.S. and internationally. It distributed more than $1.9 million in grants so far this year, including a portion dedicated to lesbian writers that were the first of their kind when Astraea started them in 1990.

Among Astraea’’s beneficiaries are the Jamaican gay rights collective J-Flag, the Palestinian lesbian group Aswat, and the Virginia-based Appalachian Women’’s Alliance.

Besides distributing money, Astraea provides a platform for groups to learn from each other through regular retreats and other gatherings and Astraea’’s newsletters and annual reports.

““We’’re able to communicate with each other and share best practices because of the kind of support Astraea was able to give us,”” says Andrea Densham, the interim executive director of the National Lesbian Health Organization, another Astraea grantee. “”We were able to develop a network and to make lesbian health a national discourse in a way that just simply wasn’t possible if we all were struggling alone. Astraea gave us a megaphone as it were.”

Much of the growth in Astraea’s influence and grant-making ability happened under Acey’s direction.

Gathering donations and support is difficult for any organization; it’s particularly difficult for one assisting a population still so misunderstood and even ignored in much of the world, including the United States. But in the past two decades Acey’s observed a shifting of attitudes and the evolution of an environment more receptive to the work she’s doing, a change brought about partly through the operation of organizations helped by Astraea.

“They have many challenges, but they’re flourishing,” Acey says of Astraea’s grantees. (This year the foundation gave financial assistance to 181 organizations in 39 countries.) “They’re working in communities, but they’re also having national and, in some cases, international impact.”

One of the pleasures of her job, she says, has been seeing LGBT movements emerge in places where previously they had been unimaginable.

“I feel privileged,” she says, “to be in this work for so many years.”

Toast and Roast of Katherine Acey, 6:30–9:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 10, The 1199 Conference Center, 330 W. 42nd St. For information, visit their web site at

Astraea Commissioned Print Artist receives MacArthur “Genius Award”

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is proud to congratulate Joan Snyder, a contributing artist to Astraea’s commissioned print series, on her MacArthur Foundation Fellows Award. Commonly called the “Genius Award,” the MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.

Joan Snyder created My Maggie, the 2nd in a series of Astraea commissioned prints in 2000 to benefit the Astraea Foundation. In addition to numerous solo shows and exhibitions, Snyder’s works are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art among others. In 2005, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a retrospective of Snyder’s work.

Astraea’s commissioned print series also includes works by artists Deborah Kass and Miriam Hernandez.

To read learn more about Joan Snyder and the award, and to watch an interview with her, click here.

To purchase the Joan Snyder Limited Edition Print or other commissioned prints, email or call 212-529-8021 x17.