Last week, 19-year-old Johnson & Wales University sophomore Raymond Chase died in his Providence, R.I., dorm room, becoming the fifth LGBT youth to take his own life over the past three weeks. The recent rash of tragedies has led notable figures like Ellen DeGeneres and Dan Savage, through his It Gets Better Project to start campaigns to end campus harassment and hate crimes, but how do we build a lasting foundation of support networks for LGBT people within communities of color?
The Applied Research Center (ColorLines.com's publisher), in partnership with the Arcus Foundation, recently released "Better Together," a study of the intersection between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and organizations of color. There's a widespread misconception that LGBT communities and people of color are radically different constituencies in the political landscape--an assumption that acts not only as a barrier to engaging in meaningful work, but serves to further ostracize young LGBT people of color in their own communities. Through surveys and interviews with dozens of leaders and activists, the report set out to explore the relationships between racial justice organizations and LGBT communities across the country, and to find strategies for overcoming those obstacles to encourage cross-issue collaborations on the ground.
Some highlights of the report:
Racial justice work should be inclusive of all communities in order to be successful. "We can't talk about racial justice and not look at queer people of color," said one respondent.
Long-term community education is a key element in bolstering an organization's cross-issue engagement. "People think we're culturally predisposed to be homophobic, but really we just need education like everybody else." The more dedicated groups are to providing this education, the more successful they'll be within their communities.
Developing LGBT leaders of color is crucial to moving LGBT issues in the racial justice community. These leaders not only act as role models to young people, but they challenge the assumption that LGBT means white.
Besides giving recommendations to funders and community groups on how to move forward with more equitable analysis within the racial justice and LGBT movements, the report also points out issues like workplace discrimination, child welfare and housing issues that specifically address the challenges that LGBT people of color face, and highlights successful strategies from existing organizations. Through creative strategic collaboration, each movement can reach a broader audience and have more political influence if they work together to develop leaders. In order to promote acceptance and solidarity nationally, it's important to start conversations around sexuality in our own cities and regions. It's just the beginning of a long road ahead, but "Better Together" is a step in the right direction for reclaiming the national dialogue on sexuality in our own communities and building a more inclusive movement.
Check out the Executive Summary and the full report here.