Side By Side and Us Giving Richmond Connections are publicly committing to black LGBTQ youth in their work for racial equity. Side By Side’s Ted Lewis and UGRC’s Rev. Lacette Cross explain why this commitment is of paramount importance.
The life expectancy for Black transgender women is 31 years, according to the Consumer Health Foundation. LGBTQ+ people of color make less money and are discriminated against at higher rates than their white LGBTQ+ peers, according to HRC. A HRC survey shows that Black LGBTQ+ youth face the highest risk for suicide, homelessness, and incarceration of any youth in our community. If we are to build a better world for all LGBTQ+ people, then we must embrace racial equity in our movement.
“Racial equity is about applying justice and a little bit of common sense to a system that’s been out of balance,” writes the Center for Social Inclusion. It is an ongoing practice of investigating the ways oppressive systems impact racially marginalized people in our community, and equitably distributing resources and services to ensure all of us thrive.
Racial equity is not easy. It is not something that can be done in a one-time meeting or event. It is an ongoing practice that requires all of us to engage in difficult and meaningful dialogue around racism and how it continues in our LGBTQ+ community.
Historically, LGBTQ+ people of color from, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera to Audre Lorde and James Baldwin, have been at the front of the movement to improve the lives of all LGBTQ+ people. Today in Richmond, LGBTQ+ leaders of color continue the legacy of doing justice work at the intersection of race/ethnicity and gender/sexuality. And these leaders, both past and present, continue to remind and push our community towards a more just movement.
In the Richmond area, we’ve seen the birth of new celebrations, including Diversity Richmond’s Black & Bold Awards, Us Giving Richmond Connections’ (UGRC’s) Black Pride RVA, and Viva RVA, which celebrate the beauty and fullness of our community. These events celebrate the culture, contributions and unique experiences of LGBTQ+ people of color through events that welcome everyone.
Yet even with the presence of wonderful leaders of color and beautiful new events, we often hear murmurs that many believe this representation divides our community. It does not. These events bring us together, because they acknowledge and celebrate the diversity, showing the full rainbow of experiences within our community.
In order to continue to advance the fight for justice for LGBTQ+ people, we must engage thoughtfully in conversations of racism within our community and how we can actively dismantle it. Side by Side’s board and staff have been working with Dr. Archana Pathak at VCU to embrace racial equity as an organization. Over the past three years, we have been on an intentional journey to shift the makeup of our organization to better reflect our community. We have engaged in deep, difficult, and ultimately fruitful conversations about shifting our policy and our practice to ensure LGBTQ+ youth of color receive the services and support they need to thrive.
Side by Side, with URGC’s support and guidance, are excited to publicly share our commitment to Black LGBTQ+ youth. Given the unique history of anti-Black racism in Virginia, and specifically in Richmond, we are focusing on Black youth in this initial work of racial equity. We invite our community to engage in this work with us and hold us accountable to this commitment.
We invite leaders in our community to join us on December 2nd at 6pm at ART180 for a special focus group on the needs of Black LGBTQ+ youth. And then we invite youth and families to join us at four Community Forums on Black LGBTQ+ youth in Richmond, Charlottesville, and Petersburg in early 2020.
We encourage our community to dive into racial equity work and embrace the messy and difficult dialogue that comes from dismantling racism within our movement. We hope that our journey towards a more racially equitable organization and our commitment to Black LGBTQ+ youth can help turn the tide and change the statistics for our community. And we hope that you all will join us in this work.
Learn more at sidebysideva.org/racial-equity
Note: Op-Eds are contributions from guest writers and do not reflect GayRVA editorial policy.
Top Photo: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera march in New York City, 1973. Photo via Netflix