Lesbian News: Astraea Holds International Retreat

Astraea is the world’’s only lesbian-led, feminist foundation focused on both U.S. and international LGBTI human rights.

Women will come from all over the world to meet in Dallas, Texas November 2nd through the 5th, 2006 at the Omni Mandalay Hotel and share ideas and strategies for funding social causes and programs. Astraea is the world’’s only lesbian-led, feminist foundation focused on both U.S. and international LGBTI human rights.

 

GO Magazine Names Astraea Communications Director Jennifer Einhorn and Board Member Stephanie Blackwood in their 2006 Women We Love

“There are lesbians living in the homophobic Bible Belt who, thanks to the Appalachian Women’s Alliance, have found support and renewed self worth. There are lesbians who’ve been denied formal education in Namibia who, thanks to the Rainbow Project’s job training program, have learned new skills and found employment. Because, together, there is so much more we can do.”

Click here to view the article on gomag.com.

Open Letter in the Advocate

In an “open letter” to The Advocate and to LGBT people everywhere, more than four dozen prominent activists of color take issue with Jasmyne Cannick’s commentary calling for LGBT equality to take priority over rights for illegal immigrants. Quoting Audre Lorde, they remind us, “There is no hierarchy of oppression.”

We 55 respectfully disagree

By 55 LGBT activists

An Open Letter to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community:

We are a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of color who work in the LGBT movement. We are writing to you in response to Jasmyne Cannick’s article “Gays First, Then Illegals,” in which she, a black lesbian, argues that she cannot support the current battle for immigrant rights because LGBT people have not yet won the right to marry. We are writing to express our profound disagreement with her and to offer alternative LGBT perspectives to the current immigration battles happening across the country.

To begin with, Cannick fails to realize an obvious fact that the LGBT community and the immigrant community are not mutually exclusive. There are thousands of LGBT immigrants in this country. There are thousands of black immigrants. And there are thousands of black LGBT immigrants. To put forward an argument that says “we should get ours first” makes us question who exactly is the “we” in that analysis. In addition, we recognize the historically interconnected nature of the immigrant and LGBT struggles–such as the ban on “homosexual immigrants” that extended into the 1990s and the present HIV ban, which disproportionately impacts LGBT people–and we believe that only by understanding these connections and building coalitions can we ensure real social change for all.

And we ask those who share the destructive views of this article to remember the immortal words of Audre Lorde when she said that “there is no hierarchy of oppression.” We reject any attempts to pit the struggle of multiple communities against each other and firmly believe that rights are not in limited supply. We condemn the “scarcity of rights” perspective espoused by Cannick and other members of the LGBT movement and are surprised to see members of our community trafficking in such ugliness. But then one reason why it has always been so hard to shift power in this country is because the ruling class has successfully made us believe that there are only a few deserving groups to whom rights can be given. This strategy has always been used to divide oppressed groups from coming together to work in coalition.

We are painfully aware that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities still lack many basic protections under the law in this country, including the right to care for and support all of our families in the various ways in which we construct family and kinship. Nevertheless, supporting immigrant rights, while we continue to work for LGBT liberation, does nothing to hurt our cause. In fact, we believe the opposite to be true and want to work towards building powerful coalitions between immigrant and LGBT movements to work together for social justice.

We are also aware that many immigrant rights advocates have (intentionally or not) used antiblack rhetoric to move their agenda forward. Arguments such as “Don’t treat us like criminal” or “We are doing work that other Americans won’t do” have the effect of positioning immigrant narratives as subtly juxtaposed with American stereotypes of nonimmigrant black communities. They leave native-born black Americans as among the only people who do not have access to the immigrant narrative and so are in a permanent position of subordination, as the state consistently negotiates and redefines citizenship and “American-ness” for almost everyone but blacks.

Nevertheless, the solution to this problem is not to abandon support for the struggle of immigrant communities. Rather, we call on immigrant movements and (nonimmigrant) black organizations to work together for real racial and economic justice in this country. Together these movements can work to end the exploitation and targeting of both communities and to ensure that black folks and immigrants do not end up having to choose between competing for low-paying jobs, or being targeted for detainment or imprisonment.

As lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of color, we support the current immigrant rights marches and rallies happening across the country this month, and we march too.

We march because immigrants are among the most politically vulnerable, underpaid, and exploited communities in the country and are asking for basic human rights, including the right to live free from torture and exploitation, and the right to work.

We march because we recognize the connections between the state attacks on immigrant and LGBT communities, and that LGBT immigrants in particular are disproportionately affected by much anti-immigrant legislation.

We march because we oppose the heightened policing and criminalization of immigrant communities, including the increased militarization of the border, as mandated by HR 4437 and Senate bills.

We march because we oppose indefinite and mandatory detention of noncitizens–as well as the mass incarceration of people-of-color communities in the U.S. more broadly–and envision a society that ensures the safety and self-determination of all people, regardless of national origin, race, class, gender, or sexuality.

We march because we oppose the guest worker proposals, which would continue the exploitation of many low-wage workers. We march because we demand the repeal of the HIV ban.

We march because our sexualities have been historically criminalized by this country, and we understand that law and justice are not the same thing.

It is our understanding that Jasmyne Cannick was writing as an individual and not as a representative of either the National Black Justice Coalition (on whose board of directors she serves) or the Stonewall Democrats (for whose Black Caucus she serves as cochair). As LGBT people of color, we call upon both of those organizations to publicly clarify their own positions in this ongoing civil rights discussion.

We also call upon our community to imagine how much more progress we could make if we all stopped thinking of social justice as a zero-sum game.

Sincerely,
[signed as individuals; titles and affiliations provided for identification purposes only]

Katherine Acey
Executive Director, Astraea Lesbian Action Fund

Faisal Alam
Founder & Former Director, Al-Fatiha Foundation for LGBTIQ Muslims

Samiya Bashir
Board member, National Black Justice Coalition
Communications Director, Freedom to Marry
Board member, Fire & Ink

Noemi Calonje
Immigration Project Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

Noran J. Camp
Office Administrator, Freedom to Marry

Chris Chen
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, immigrant from Taiwan in 1997

Cristy Chung and Lancy Woo
Lead plaintiffs in the Woo v. Lockyer marriage rights case

Alain Dang
Policy Analyst, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Debanuj Dasgupta
Board of Directors, Queer Immigrant Rights Project

Carlos Ulises Decena, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Joseph N. DeFilippis
Executive Director, Queers for Economic Justice

Marta Donayre
Cofounder, Love Sees No Borders

Andres Duque
Coordinator, Mano A Mano

Monroe France
Educational Training Manager, Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Glen Francis
Associate Executive Director, GRIOT Circle

Eddie Gutierrez
Representative for Christine Chavez, granddaughter of labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez

Priscilla A. Hale, LMSW
Executive Director, ALLGO

Teresa Haynes
Creating Change Associate, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano
Director of Arts and Community Building, ALLGO

Kemi Ilesanmi

Joo-Hyun Kang
Director of Programs, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
Former Executive Director, Audre Lorde Project

Surina Khan
Interim Vice President of Programs, The Women’s Foundation of California
Former Executive Director, International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Jane Kim
President, San Francisco People’s Organization

ManChui Leung
HIV Program Director, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum

Lee Che Leong
Director of Teen Health Initiative, New York Civil Liberties Union

Yoseñio Vicente Lewis
Board member, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Latino and transgender social justice activist, first-generation U.S. Citizen

Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Glenn Magpantay
Steering committee member, Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York

Rickke Mananzala
Campaign Coordinator, FIERCE!

Andy Marra
President of the Board, National Center for Transgender Equality

Gloria Nieto
National Latino Justice Coalition

Doyin Ola
Welfare Organizer, Queers for Economic Justice

Jesús Ortega-Weffe
Director of Community Organizing, ALLGO

Emiko Otsubo
Former board member, Queers for Economic Justice

Clarence Patton
Executive Director, NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project

Donna Payne
Senior Diversity Organizer, Human Rights Campaign

Earl L. Plante
Development Director, National Minority AIDS Council
President-Elect, Board of Directors, National Black Justice Coalition

Achebe Powell
Betty Powell Associates

Lorraine Ramirez
Public Policy Committee, Queers for Economic Justice

Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera
Convener, the National Latino Coalition for Justice

Ignacio Gilberto Rivera
Founder, Poly Patao Productions
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Elias Rojas
e-Philanthropy and Community Campaigns Manager, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Russell D. Roybal
Director of Movement Building, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Rebecca Sawyer
Chair for Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning Issues, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, DC-Chapter

Shay Sellars
Major Gifts and Events Administrator, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Pedro Julio Serrano
Communications Associate, Freedom to Marry
President, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s

Regina Shavers
Executive Director, GRIOT Circle

Nicholas Shigeru Sakurai
Program Coordinator, GLBTA Resource Center at American University

Sarah Sohn
New Voices Legal Fellow, Immigration Equality
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Mónica Taher
Directora de Medios de Comunicación, Alianza Gay y Lésbica Contra la Difamación (GLAAD)

Lisa Thomas-Adeyemo
Cocoordinator, National People of Color Organizing Institute, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Director of Counseling, San Francisco Women Against Rape

Carmen Vazquez
Deputy Executive Director, Empire State Pride Agenda

Robert Vazquez-Pacheco
Former Program Manager, Funders for Gay and Lesbian Issues

Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz
Capacity Building Project Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Andy Shie Kee Wong
Coalition Manager, Asian Equality

Miriam Yeung
Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, the LGBT Community Center

Affinity Turns Ten, Honors Astraea (Windy City Times)

Affinity is a South Side grassroots non-for-profit serving Chicago’s Black lesbian and bisexual women. The group strives to provide visibility, empowerment and leadership for Black lesbians, and meet the community’s needs. It provides economic empowerment workshops, social justice and health justice initiatives, advocacy work and social networking events.

Click here to read this article on windycitymediagroup.com.

AFFINITY TURNS 10
by Amy Wooten

As Affinity glides through its tenth year, the organization raises the bar.

Affinity is a South Side grassroots non-for-profit serving Chicago’s Black lesbian and bisexual women. The group strives to provide visibility, empowerment and leadership for Black lesbians, and meet the community’s needs. It provides economic empowerment workshops, social justice and health justice initiatives, advocacy work and social networking events. Looking ahead, Affinity board members plan to fine-tune their focus to better serve their community.

The agency even raised the bar for its annual Jazz n’ July event. Held at Park West, 322 W. Armitage, Affinity celebrated its anniversary of serving the Black lesbian and bisexual women’s community. Singer Terisa Griffin and comic Karen Williams entertained July 30, plus there was food, dancing and DJs.

““We are forcing ourselves to take another step forward,”” said board vice president Gaylon Topps Alcarez. ““Even by having it at Park West. It’’s just pushing ourselves a little bit more.””

Affinity is a social service agency that provides a wide range of programs for the Black lesbian and bisexual women community such as outreach, health initiatives, youth and social services, a drumming circle and singles nights. Singles groups serve as a way of decreasing isolation, while drumming circles and open mic nights act as a forum for Black lesbians’ self-expression. Drop-in discussions are available for young women and other groups, and Affinity is part of a coalition of women, healthcare providers and community leaders that address health needs in the community. Affinity is also committed to the advocacy of Black lesbians internationally, nationally and citywide. It takes a stance against violence, hate crimes and war, and promotes creativity and inclusiveness.

Over the course of a year, Affinity serves close to 1,000 constituents—–or women they serve on a consistent basis–—through its programming.

The first meeting was in November of 1994, according to co-founder and board president Chris Smith. Smith joined the steering committee, which started meeting January of 1995. The organization applied for its first grant in October of that year, and was awarded its first grant January 1996. Affinity was born out of discussions among Black gays and lesbians on the South Side about forming a community center to service their needs. “”They felt like the North Side was catered to white, gay males so they wanted to form their own thing,”” said Alcarez, who joined in June of 1997. The group did a needs assessment survey, and as the work progressed, the men “disappeared” from the table. “The mission became to provide a safe space for Black lesbian and bisexual women,” she continued.

“”Virtually nothing that existed here today was there then,”” Smith said.

Much has changed since Affinity was simply discussions held in the homes of the men and women who gave birth to the idea, such as co-founder and returning board member Lisa Marie Pickens. Affinity went from being a collective group of women to a legit non-profit agency. Smith said the group has made all the necessary changes to be a strong, responsible part of the community that people can depend on.

“”We went from a steering committee with this pie-in-the-sky idea to an organization that for its size, has developed really strong allies over the years,”” she said.

One thing that hasn’’t changed, said Pickens, is the need for the organization. ““I believe that the need existed then for an Affinity, and I think the need continues to be there for an organization like Affinity,”” said Pickens, who returned to Affinity after a break to help the organization set its new agenda around advocacy and building community partnerships, Smith said. The group is working on building coalitions within and outside the community to provide information to its constituents and gain access to healthcare issues. Although much of its current work focuses on networking opportunities, the organization wants to continue to increase its exposure and provide ways to combat isolation. Affinity also wants to continue its efforts in strengthening its constituents’ economic situations by providing information, as well as career and education workshops.

As she returns, Pickens said she would like to see the group she helped form be more geared towards advocacy. “I think there is absolutely a need for the voice of Black women to be involved in those types of discussions, so I think there’s always going to be a need for the types of services that Affinity provides,” she said, adding Affinity is “in the very best place” to push forward with its health initiatives and other goals.

Call ( 773 ) 324-0377. Or see www.affinity95.org .

Astraea Reaches Out to Chicago Lesbians (Windy City Times)

On June 16, Chicago’’s lesbian community welcomed Katherine Acey, executive director of Astraea, the country’’s largest lesbian-focused philanthropic organization.

Click here to read this article on windycitymediagroup.com.

Astraea Reaches Out to Chicago Lesbians
by Marie-Jo Proulx

On June 16, 2005, Chicago’’s lesbian community welcomed Katherine Acey, executive director of Astraea, the country’’s largest lesbian-focused philanthropic organization. The house party, held in Kathy Valdiserri’’s North Side home, brought together more than 50 women to meet Acey and listen to her up-beat presentation. Jessica Halem, executive director of the Lesbian Community Cancer Project ( LCCP ) , and also chair of the event, introduced Acey.

Astraea was created by a small group of independent women in 1977 to support an array of organizations advocating for the awareness, protection, and promotion of LGBT and minority women’s rights. Today, under the name Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, it has a staff of 13, a demographically diverse board of directors, and dedicated volunteers all over the U.S. In 2004, through a system of four different panels, Astraea redistributed $1 million of the $2.5 million it raised to grantees in 24 states and 25 countries.

This year, Affinity Community Services, Beyondmedia, LCCP, and the Literary Exchange were Chicago’s local recipients. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ( SLDN ) , Disabled Queers In Action ( DQIA ) , Paris Press, and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network ( GLSEN ) were among the many national organizations who obtained Astraea funding. Notable international grantees include Jamaica’s J-FLAG and Thailand’s Youth AIDS Prevention Project. European, Middle Eastern, and South American groups also benefit from Astraea’s financial support.

In a recent trip to India, Acey met up with the women of CREA, a grantee-partner in Delhi that relies entirely on private donations. “”It’’s an institute that really covers the history, the policies, sexuality across the board. In terms of the work being done there, I think that in some ways, India is ahead of us. Both in theoretical framework and on the ground,”” she said, clearly impressed.

Asked to name a couple of organizations of which she is especially proud, Acey, who has been at the helm of Astraea for the past 18 years, first mentioned the Appalachian Women’’s Alliance. The Virginia-based grassroots coalition is made up of low-income and working women organized in “circles” to counter homophobia, economic injustice, and violence against women. “The fact that all the circles ( young women, African American, lesbian ) exist under one umbrella organization and that they are integrating their work is major, especially for a part of the U.S. where there is a lot of poverty,” Acey pointed out. In last year’’s presidential elections, the Appalachian Women’s Alliance sprang into action and got the highest voter turnout for the region. They received a $5,000 grant to continue its outreach to women in isolated areas.

Another source of Acey’s admiration is Patlatonalli, Mexico’s oldest human-rights group advocating for Guadalajara’’s LGBT community. With the recent publication of “Tengo Una Tia Que No Es Monjita” ( I Have an Aunt Who Is Not a Dear Little Nun ) , an illustrated children’’s book about a young girl who has a lesbian aunt, Patlatonalli is striving to educate Mexicans about LGBT issues and relationships. “”They have worked so hard for so many years within the schools and university system. You can go to the library in Guadalajara and you cannot find anything on lesbians or queer folks. So it’’s a huge success to put out this book,”” Acey said. The $10,000 Astraea grant will help Patlatonalli develop a project called All Families Are Sacred.

Astraea prefers the term “member” to “donor” because of the spirit of involvement it implies. “”We really think of the people who give money as having a stake in the organization and in the groups we are supporting,” Acey explained. “Overall in this country, the average for giving is around 2.5, 2.3 percent of income. Also, we know from reports that are taken every year that the people who give the highest percentage of their income are the poorest. And a lot of that goes to religious institutions,” she added.

Acey sees part of Astraea’s mission as educating the overlapping women communities about philanthropy. According to her, it is only by creating momentum and supporting movement building that significant social change can be affected. In the current conservative climate where government funding for social programs and services is under constant threat, Acey said it was her guess that left-leaning people who can give do try to contribute more. But citing the issue of same-sex marriage, she illustrated the gigantic resources gap between the right and the left. While conservatives raised $205 million to fund their campaign against equal marriage, the LGBT community and its allies only managed $21 million. The numbers served as an eloquent closing argument.

After Acey’s talk, UIC scholar and activist Beth Ritchie along with her partner Cathy Cohen announced a leadership circle challenge, promising to match any additional donation of up to $1,000 made on the night. The initiative proved an attractive incentive as many women took out their checkbook and filled out more donor cards on their way out.

For more information on Astraea, see www.astraeafoundation.org

Gay City News Lesbian Powerhouse of Funding

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice borrows its name from the goddess of justice, the last to abandon Earth and head to the stars, to become the constellation Virgo.

Click here to read the article in the May 26 – June 01, 2005 issue of Gay City News.