Reports lift up the experiences of LGBTQ communities in Rural and Small Town South and LGBTQ Youth of Color nationally. Call for increased resources for geographically under-represented regions and communities facing homelessness, violence and criminaJanuary 31, 2014
FIERCE, a NYC-based youth-led organization for LGBTQ youth of color, and Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a membership-based organization working at the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the South, will release two critical reports today at Creating Change, a national conference on LGBT equality.
Both reports -- Moving Up, Fighting Back: Creating a Path to LGBTQ Youth Liberation (FIERCE) and Small Town Cross Roads Report (SONG) -- give critical insight into regional and national landscapes, naming challenges such as isolation, criminalization, violence, and diminishing resources. The reports point out strategies that are having positive impacts, such as community education initiatives, policy reform fights, and cultural organizing through storytelling and media to fortify community resilience and healing among groups directly impacted by the issues they face.
Both reports also provide key recommendations to strengthen grassroots efforts locally, regionally and national, including calling for increased resources for rural and small town organizing and promoting strategies that bring disconnected and isolated groups together to learn, collaborate and envision together.
The reports will be officially released at a panel session on Friday night entitled, “Meet Me at the Cross Roads: Exploring LGBTQ identities, geographies, and experiences.” Panelists included:
- J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
- Ana Conner, Youth Organizer and former National Program Fellow, FIERCE
- Jai Dulani, Co-Director, FIERCE
- Fred Ginyard, National Program Coordinator, FIERCE
- Suzanne Pharr, Political Education Coordinator, SONG
The panel will streamed live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/fiercenyc.
Tune in at 6:30pm CT/7:30pm ET.
Copies of the reports are available online at www.fiercenyc.org and www.southernersonnewground.org.
Reflections from panelists:
“FIERCE and SONG have a long history as LGBTQ social justice movement sweethearts. We are both membership-based, grassroots organizations whose work from inception has been to build political power within LGBTQ communities that embody intersectional identities as LGBTQ folks who are also youth, elders, immigrants, people of color, folks living in rural areas, youth living in urban areas, and much more. The release of these reports and tonight’s event is a continuation of not only our work together, but of our commitment to deepen solidary across our movements.”
-- Jai Dulani, Co-Director, FIERCE
"We see the Small Town Cross Roads Report as an opportunity to look at the whole terrain of the South and to shift what, we think, is a myth about the rural and urban divide. We initiated this report based on 20 years of organizing in a region that is primarily rural areas and small towns and deeply embedded in white supremacy and harsh economic conditions. This report helps us bring attention to and support the lives, conditions, and resiliency of LGBTQ people living in those places. We know that there is some LGBTQ leadership in rural areas and small towns but it is often isolated from organizations and resources that many have access to elsewhere. We hope the report will serve as an invitation for people to share their stories and to continue to find ways to connect to one another."
-- Suzanne Pharr, longtime activists and SONG’s Political Education Coordinator
“Broadly, we must reframe the priorities of our mainstream movement to center the experiences of invisiblized queer and trans people, which means listening authentically and meaningfully to our experiences, supporting work that builds our political power, and following the lead of communities directly impacted who are creating and implementing the solutions that they know are going to be most effective. FIERCE’s report was youth-led project and draws on the direct experiences of youth organizers across the country. As LGBTQ youth of color, we have to create our own spaces where we are doing the talking and the leading, not just being the issue that’s talked about. Our allies must invest in supporting a youth-led movement that puts us at the center and recognizes our power.”
-- Ana Conner, Youth Organizer and former National Program Fellow, FIERCE
“Young people and southern leaders have been catalysts for some of the most substantive change that has shaped this nation. However, that change, that leadership, that instigative righteousness is heralded as a thing of the past—a historic happenstance—in an effort to dilute the amazing work happening right now. We at the Astraea Foundation believe our young people and our southern leaders continue to demand the most comprehensively, just-lived experience for all of us in our myriad experience and identities. FIERCE and SONG prove this to be true with the co-release of their comprehensive reports.”
-- J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
“We’ve reached a point in history where some LGBT issues have made their way into mainstream cultural and equality is starting to be institutionalized, like with marriage rights and in some cases employment protections. However, we continue to see the same communities left out and left behind by these reforms. When addressing LGBTQ youth issues, for example safety in schools – which is a critical issue—we often see solutions that rely on increased disciplinary action, further criminalizing many LGBTQ youth of color and increasing their risks of homelessness and violence at the hands of the police. These types of solutions are not in the best interests of our communities. It does not move us forward. Therefore, it is vital that the people most directly impacted are given a direct say in what and how we fight for justice.”
-- Fred Ginyard, National Program Coordinator, FIERCE
About FIERCE’s Report: Moving Up, Fighting Back: Creating a Path to LGBTQ Youth Liberation
A key aim of FIERCE’s national program is to identify political opportunities and strategies that build the political power of LGBTQ youth on a national scale. To do this, FIERCE conducts critical research about the issues that LGBTQ youth face and the organizing strategies to change oppressive policies.
Moving Up, Fighting Back is the follow-up report to Coming Out, Stepping Up, a national LGBTQ youth needs assessment conducted in 2009. From 2012-2013, FIERCE conducted a follow-up national survey and GIS mapping research to assess changes in national conditions and more deeply analyze laws and policies impacting LGBTQ youth. Through surveys, conversations and discussions with LGBTQ youth, FIERCE explored commonalities and differences in issues and barriers and identified political opportunities for growing and advancing a broad-based LGBTQ youth-led movement. Moving Up, Fighting Back also draws on lessons learned since FIERCE launched a National Program in 2009.
About SONG’s Report: Small Town Cross Roads Report
SONG has been hard at work over the past 12 months developing a rural and small town organizing program for LGBTQ people in the South. We've done a lot of research and have talked to a lot of people. You all, for various reasons, have been invaluable to this process and we can't thank you enough for your insight, experience, and cheers of encouragement. We've landed on calling our program Small Town South and will be rolling out the Small Town South program over the next 12 months, hopefully working in at least three Southern sites with a goal of building rural and small town LGBTQ leaders across the region to come together in the summer and fall of 2014.
Part of the roll out of our program includes the release of our recently finished Small Town Cross Roads Report, inspired by the Small Town Cross Roads Summit last spring in Greensboro, NC, where organizations and leaders came together to discuss strategies and challenges of intersectional rural and small town organizing. The report is a reflection of and was inspired by our time at the summit and the collective wisdom garnered there.
Founded in 2000, FIERCE is a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City. We develop politically conscious leaders who are invested in improving ourselves and our communities through youth-led campaigns, leadership development programs, and cultural expression through arts and media. FIERCE is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of social justice movement leaders. http://www.fiercenyc.org