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Celebrating Pride at the Intersection of Racial Justice

Today is the last day of Pride Month, a season in recent years that has been cause for celebration for all the enormous gains made within the LGBTQ community — from marriage equality to inclusive adoption and foster care laws. Indeed, rights for queer people have come a long way since the Stonewall rebellion of 1969.

But just as that historic event, 51 years ago this month, was driven by the queer community's response to over-policing and police brutality — so too are the protests and uprisings currently sweeping the country, and world, following the killing of George Floyd, along with so many others within Black and Brown communities, at the hands of police. 

The parallels are impossible to miss this Pride month, and have driven many LGBTQ and racial justice groups towards a moment of introspection — both broader movements have, at times, advanced their work without centering the needs of the most marginalized members of both communities: queer, trans and gender nonconforming people of color, who face disproportionately higher rates of violence, discrimination, harassment and death than others within their communities.

With in-person Pride events canceled this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, many LGBTQ advocates instead pushed their community to take this moment to recognize there is still much work to be done — in recognition of this fact, parades instead became protests in support of the Movement for Black Lives, helping instill Pride Month with a healthy dose of the activist spirit of the Stonewall rebellion, led by many Black and Brown, queer and trans people. 

At Veatch, we have long funded many organizations who have approached their justice work at the intersection of the needs of both people of color and the LGBTQ community. To mark Pride Month this year, and to honor the inspiring advocates and community organizations pushing for systemic change in the streets and state legislatures across the country, please take the time to learn a bit more about some of these inspiring groups below — whose work has always been rooted in the values espoused by Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, that there should be "no pride for some of us, without liberation for all of us."

Joan Minieri
Executive Director

From left to right: Carol Garbarino, Chair; Joan Minieri, Executive Director; Corinne Hayden, Vice Chair   
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The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office

The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU@UN) — a Veatch project-based grantee with the goal of promoting peace, liberty, and justice as reflected in the United Nations Charter — has a long history of fighting for the local and global LGBTQ community, often at the intersection of racial justice.

We caught up with Executive Director, Bruce Knotts, to learn more. As a white man married to a Black man, Bruce told us he and his husband, Isaac Humphrey, live at the "nexus" of race and sexual orientation bigotry. "My husband must face the world as a black gay man and navigate both racial bigotry and homophobic bigotry," he said. "There are times when one feels worse than the other, but on balance, both hurt and limit my husband’s ability to move forward in this world."

Bruce has spent much of his career drawing parallels between the struggles of these two communities. In 2006 while still working at the State Department, he invited Keith Boykin, a Black gay journalist, to speak at a Pride event about objections to LGBTQ people serving in the military. "The reasons were unit cohesion and combat readiness," said Bruce. "He compared these arguments with reasons given by members of Congress who objected to racial integration of the U.S. military — unit cohesion and combat readiness."  

His personal and professional experiences have led Bruce to continue pushing for equality at the intersection of LGBTQ and racial justice as the Director of UU@UN. In 2014, he presented a statement on LGBTQ rights during the 12th session of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) — the only statement to explicitly mention LGBTQ people and rights. He has also led the group to advocate for an end to the criminalization of same-sex relations, globally — an act still punished by 80 countries globally, eight with the death penalty.

As a closing thought, Bruce mentioned that some of the greatest champions for human rights have been both Black and LGBTQ. "We owe them a great deal for making our country more equal," he said. Below, are pictures of Bruce and his husband with two such activists — Alicia Garza, a leader of Black Lives Matter, and Janet Mock, a Black trans activist and author. 

Movement for Black Lives

From the group's inception, The Movement for Black Lives — a Veatch grantee and national network of over 50 organizations — has approached its work not solely through a racial justice lense, but at the intersection of a host of identities, including race, gender, immigration status, sexuality and gender identity. 

The organization is front and center today, helping provide infrastructure and support to groups across the country organizing against police brutality and for meaningful criminal justice reforms. But the group takes special care to highlight the particular and heightened violence facing the most marginalized members of the Black community. As the group prominently writes in its policy platform to End the War on Black People, "We are intentional about amplifying the particular experiences of racial, economic, and gender-based state and interpersonal violence that Black women, queer, trans, gender nonconforming, intersex, and disabled people face."

For more on how the Movement for Black Lives lifts up the specific needs of the Black LGBTQ community, read "A Vision for Black Lives," a policy platform released by the group in August of 2016. You can also read more about two queer leaders of the Black lives Matter movement in this recent article on the Guardian

Transgender Law Center

Transgender Law Center (TLC), another longtime Veatch grantee founded in 2002, has grown into the largest trans-specific, trans-led organization in the country. The organization is intentional about its approach to the work — fighting at the intersection of racial, transgender and gender nonconforming justice.

For instance, the group's Trans Agenda for Liberation is an evolving policy platform that specifically centers the lives and voices of trans people of color — who have so often found themselves at the margins of both the racial justice and LGBTQ movements for equality. As the group writes on its website, "An agenda for trans liberation is a blueprint for liberation for all."

In a recent interview with NPR, Kris Hayashi TLC's Executive Director, demonstrated how the group seeks to amplify the voices of trans people of color. Like most LGBTQ advocates, he took the opportunity to celebrate the landmark decision by the Supreme Court earlier this month that bars employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But he was quick to contextualize this victory within the experience of the most marginalized segments of the LGBTQ community — who often face much more harm than discrimination in the workplace. "We need to continue to fight for our communities because we know that ... trans people of color are most impacted by violence, discrimination and harassment."

For more about the Transgender Law Center's work, watch this short video below. 

Southerners on New Ground

Southerners on New Ground — a group organizing in Black and brown LGBTQ communities in the Southern United States — is another of our grantees organizing at the intersection of LGBTQ and racial justice. In recent weeks, as protests against police brutality have swept the nation, the group has worked hard to center the specific experiences of trans people of color, including the deaths of Nina Pop in Missouri and Tony McDade in Tallahassee, who died at the hands of violence or the police in May. 

Liberty Hill & Astrea

As part of Veatch's funding model, we fund several regranting programs and collaborative funds that help us extend our reach to support hundreds of additional organizations and communities. Two of these collaborative funds specifically work to support organizing in LGBTQ communities of color.

These include Astraea — LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund, a fund and cohort program for grassroots organizers and organizations in the South that support LGBTQ people of color; and Liberty Hill — Fund for Change, a California-based fund for community organizing and leadership development with LGBTQ young people of color. 

In Astraea's first four years of grant-making, the Fund has provided more than $4,000,000 to grassroots organizations in the Southern United States working to advance LGBTQ and racial justice — and its base-building grantees reported a 25% increase in membership growth as a result of this support. 

Follow this link for more on Liberty Hill's LGBTQ and racial justice work, but to see the group's impact on young queer people of color in action, watch this video below of Gabriel Vidal, youth organizer at Liberty Hill grantee InnerCity Struggle, talk about the importance of approaching his work on behalf of students from multiple lenses. 

"You should consider the rate of gun violence that a student experiences, you should also consider the pollution, you should also consider gender, and LGBTQ identities," Gabriel says in the video. "You should consider all of that to really experience what a student goes through."

Basic Rights Oregon

In 2007, Veatch grantee Basic Rights Oregon — a group dedicated to the empowerment of the LGBTQ community in Oregon — launched a Racial Justice Program. As the group writes on its website, "We pride ourselves as being leaders among state-based LGBTQ rights organizations in fighting for racial equity and against racism in our communities — From coalition work to leadership development, and from the legislature to the ballot box, we make these values known."

This has led the group to tackle campaigns that have often been sidelined from within the broader LGBTQ movement. After the group successfully helped win marriage equality in the state, for instance, Basic Rights Oregon shifted focus to defeating Measure 88 in 2014 — a ballot measure which sought to repeal the rights of undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s cards.

Basic Rights Oregon also hosts a training program called Affinity, which prioritizes the leadership development of groups that have been historically marginalized within the mainstream LGBTQ movement, namely queer and transgender people of color. This is a free, year-long program with four weekend retreats at a local retreat center where cohort members select and develop  community leadership projects — while acquiring skills necessary to execute them.

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