Statement: Do Not Militarize Our Mourning: Orlando and the Ongoing Tragedy Against LGBTSTGNC POC

See the original post on the Audre Lorde Project website. June 15, 2016

We at the Audre Lorde Project are devastated by the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando which resulted in the murder of 49 queer and trans people (the majority of whom are Black, Latinx, and/or Afrolatinx), including Enrique Rios from Brooklyn. We send our deepest condolences to all of the families, lovers, and friends of the victims and all of the Southern queer and trans organizers who continue to fight for liberation in their name. We are with you in solidarity.  We are constantly reminded that there is no separation from our need to heal and our need to organize for our continued survival. We need each other now more than ever.

Our community in New York City is struggling today as we reconcile with the constant reality that we are considered disposable by a racist, transmisogynist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic country. From our experiences on the ground as an organizing center for and by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two Spirit, and Gender Non Conforming People of Color (LGBTSTGNC POC) we know that this massacre is not the exception, it is part of the economy of violence against LGBTSTGNC, Black people & People of Color, indigenous people, and immigrants. It makes explicit what the institutions of war, prisons, detention centers, and the police teach our communities every day: that we were never meant to survive.*

Contrary to what the media and mainstream LGBT organizations and publications are depicting: the victims and survivors are Black, Latinx, AfroLatinx, Trans, Gender Non Conforming, undocumented, and working class. These identities matter. They matter because of the US occupation and militarization of Puerto Rico and Latin/South America due to US sanctioned economic violence. They matter because our communities have to make separate Latinx nights at clubs due to racism even within the LGBT community. They matter because Black and Latinx club sanctuaries and safe spaces (like Starlight in Brooklyn, Club Escuelita in Manhattan) are routinely shut down due to rampant gentrification and increased policing of our neighborhoods. They matter because Bayna Lehkiem El-Amin, a Black HIV/AIDS counselor and Ballroom community leader, has been demonized as a homophobe and is currently awaiting sentencing in Rikers for defending himself against an attack by a white gay man. They matter because there is an epidemic of murder of Black and Latinx Trans Women and Gender Non Conforming people and this tragedy is part of this ongoing colonial project.

The fact that only the race of the perpetrator and not the victims is being discussed is telling. Besides erasing the lived reality of Muslim LGBTSTGNC people, Black Muslims, and LGBTSTGNC people of color more generally, this promotes the xenophobic stereotype that Muslim people and immigrants are more “homophobic,” and become “radicalized” elsewhere. The culprit becomes the figure of the “Islamic terrorist,” and the heroes become the politicians, the police, and the military. We reject this deliberately racist framing. Individual perpetrators are part of a much larger system of militarization and colonization. We recognize that terrorism is not imported, it is home grown in a culture that is deeply anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-queer. It is of a culture where the Christian Right has attempted to pass over 200 pieces of anti-LGBT legislation across the country, it is a culture where 59 year old Mohamed Rasheed Khan was beaten on his way out of a Queens mosque this month, where an immigrant detention center in Santa Ana still detains and assaults many Latinx trans women who came to the US to escape US-backed political violence. In order to do justice to the victims of Orlando we have to address these problems at their root causes, not their symptoms. While the daily violences of settler colonialism (the continued occupation of indigenous land), of Christian supremacy, of anti-Black policing, of Islamophobia, of criminalization of gender non conformity, of immigrant detention and deportation are never elevated to the status of national tragedy, we must commit ourselves to abolishing these systems if we want to prevent Orlando from ever happening again.

Already the NYPD, along with other security forces across the country, has heightened security outside of our bars and Pride events. This has looked like armed cops in riot gear policing our safe spaces – cops who are carrying the same kind of weapon that Omar Mateen used in Orlando.  Politicians (both Trump and Clinton alike) are calling for a harsher crackdown on “Islamic extremism.” Our allies are pledging to keep us safe as we assemble for Pride this month. But we ask: safety for whom? They call for increased policing, but never for affordable housing. Hate crimes legislation has been shown to fuel mass incarceration and disproportionately criminalize Black and People of Color survivors of violence. The Christopher Street Pier, a sacred space for LGBTSTGNC youth and poor people of color, is barricaded shut by NYPD during Pride. Calls for gun control never seem to include demands for demilitarization of the police.

In order to prevent the violence we witnessed in Orlando, it is more important than ever that LGBTSTGNC POC turn to each other for community safety rather than relying on systems that were never meant for us. It is more important than ever that we reject increased militarization at home and abroad. It is more important than ever that we uplift the experiences, politics, and movements of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx queer and trans people fighting for self-determination of our bodies, homes, neighborhoods, clubs, and lands.

It will be imperative that we look towards each other for our political survival, for our collective well being and safety.  We honor the names of those lost in Orlando, as a reminder of the conservative backlash in this country and reminder we must continue to fight, to love, to build power and transform violence and colonization that has always deemed our bodies expendable.

In Solidarity, Audre Lorde Project Members, Board, Staff

 

* Audre Lorde’s “Litany for Survival”

 

For those of us who live at the shoreline standing upon the constant edges of decision crucial and alone for those of us who cannot indulge the passing dreams of choice who love in doorways coming and going in the hours between dawns looking inward and outward at once before and after seeking a now that can breed futures like bread in our children's mouths so their dreams will not reflect the death of ours;

For those of us who were imprinted with fear like a faint line in the center of our foreheads learning to be afraid with our mother's milk for by this weapon this illusion of some safety to be found the heavy-footed hoped to silence us For all of us this instant and this triumph We were never meant to survive. And when the sun rises we are afraid it might not remain when the sun sets we are afraid it might not rise in the morning when our stomachs are full we are afraid of indigestion when our stomachs are empty we are afraid we may never eat again when we are loved we are afraid love will vanish when we are alone we are afraid love will never return and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive

March 17, 2021

How Philanthropy Can Move from Crisis to Transformation

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, urges grantmakers and the philanthropic sector to take concrete actions to defend democracy and speak out against racist attacks on people of color. This post was originally published here by the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project.

Dimple was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. General Service Foundation, which partners with grassroots organizations to bring about a more just and sustainable world, is a member of NFG.


  

Dimple AbichandaniIt was just a year ago, and yet it feels like a lifetime.

Last March, I was dreading a hectic month packed with too much work travel. Long before we had heard of Covid-19, many of us had been preparing for 2020 to be a consequential year, one in which our democracy was on the line.

My mother had generously traveled from Houston to help with childcare during my travels. Her two-week visit turned into three months, and our worlds as we knew them changed.

Covid happened.  

Then the racial justice uprisings happened.

The wildfires happened.

The election happened. 

And then an armed insurrection to overturn the democratic election results happened.

Every turn in this tumultuous year reaffirmed the reality that justice is a matter of life and death. 

Our democracy survived, though barely. But more than half a million Americans did not, and this unfathomable loss, borne disproportionately by communities of color, is still growing.

Across the philanthropic sector, funders stepped up to meet the moment. We saw payouts increase, the removal of unnecessary bureaucracy, and commitments to flexible support from not only public and private foundations but also individual philanthropists who gave unrestricted billions.

A year ago, we all faced a rapidly changing reality — one that it made it hard to know what the next month, or next year might hold.  Now, we have turned a corner in a most consequential time in American democracy, a time that has been defined by the leadership of Black women and grassroots movements for social justice that are building the power of people — and these movements are just getting started. There is momentum for change, leadership that is solidly poised to make that change, and broad-based support for the bold solutions that will move us towards a more just and equitable society.  We are in a dramatically different time that continues to call for a dramatically different kind of philanthropy.

As we look back on this year of crisis, and see the opportunities before us now more clearly, how are funders being called to contribute to the change we know is needed?  To answer these questions, I point to the truths that remained when everything else fell away.

We have the power to change the rules.

In the early days of the pandemic, close to 800 foundations came together and pledged to provide their grantees with flexible funding and to remove burdens and barriers that divert them from their work. Restrictions on funding were waived, and additional funds were released. These changes were not the result of years-long strategic planning; instead, this was a rare example of strategic action. These quick shifts allowed movement leaders to be responsive to rapidly shifting needs. Grantees were more free to act holistically, to mobilize collectively, make shared demands, and achieve staggering change.

Today, our grantees are coping with the exhaustion, burnout, and trauma from this last year, the last four years, and even the last four hundred years. Recently, many of us have begun to invest more intentionally in the healing, sustainability, and wellness of our grantees. Systemic injustice takes a toll on a very individual human level, and as funders, we can and should resource our grantees to thrive.

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Research and Education Center, has urged philanthropy to, “Fund us like you want us to win.” Last year, we learned that we are capable of doing just that — and doing it without delay. Let’s build on funding practices that center relationships and shift power to our grantees.

White supremacy got us into this mess; racial justice will get us out.

Racial justice went mainstream in 2020 as the multiple crises exposed deep inequities and injustices in our midst. In the months after the world witnessed a police officer brutally murder George Floyd, many funders responded with explicit new commitments to fund Black-led racial justice work. These standalone funding commitments have been hailed as a turning point in philanthropy — a recognition of the importance of resourcing racial justice movements.

As we move forward, we must ensure that these newly made commitments are durable and not just crisis-driven. Movements should not have to rely on heartbreaking headlines to drive the flow of future resources. We can build on new funding commitments by centering racial justice in all our grantmaking. As resources begin to flow, let’s ensure that our frameworks are intersectional and include a gender analysis. To demonstrate a true desire to repair, heal, and build a multiracial democracy, philanthropy must do meaningful work in our institutions so that, at all levels, there is an understanding of the root causes of inequality and the importance of investing in racial justice.  Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, captured the centrality of this when he said, “We don’t get racial justice out of a true democracy. We get a true democracy out of racial justice.”

We know how to be “all in” when it's important. In this next period, it’s important.

With crisis as the rationalization, many endowed foundations were inspired to suspend a practice that our sector has long taken for granted: the 5% minimum distribution rule. In the face of compounding threats to our lives and our democracy, 64 individuals and foundations pledged to increase spending to 10% of the value of their endowment in 2020. And for the first time in years, the philanthropic sector is giving meaningful attention to the topic of spending decisions and the problem of treating the payout floor as though it is the ceiling.

To take full advantage of this once-in-a-generation opening for transformation, funders must put all the tools in our toolbox behind our ambitious missions. Social justice philanthropy can build new spending models that are not only more responsive to the moment, but also set our institutions up to better fulfill our missions — today and in the long-term.

This past summer, 26 million people marched in the streets of their small and large cities to proclaim that Black lives matter. It was the largest mobilization in our country’s history. Last fall, despite numerous efforts to suppress voters, social justice organizers mobilized the largest voter turnout we’ve ever seen. Now, as a result, we are in a moment that holds immense possibility. 

In big and small ways, we are all changed by this year. 

Our sector and our practice of philanthropy has changed too.  Let’s claim the opportunity that is before us by reimagining our norms and adopting practices that will continue to catalyze transformation.  The old philanthropy has been exposed as unfit. The new philanthropy is ours to create.

March 25, 2021

Philanthropy must be accountable: NFG's March 2021 Newsletter

We need each other and all of us in the fight for racial, gender, economic, and climate justice. The latest incidents of hate against AAPI women, elders, and our communities have left us grieving, angry, tired, and steadfast in our commitment to make philanthropy more accountable to AAPI, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities and low-income communities. See our full statement calling on all of us to Stop Asian Hate.

As Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of General Service Foundation, said in Neighborhood Funders Group’s 40 Years Strong convening series, "We must create cultures of accountability. How are we meeting this moment? A lot of what we need to do could be called organizing, but I think of it as meaning making." It is our collective work to make meaning of systemic injustices and resource power-building led by AAPI, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities at the level that is necessary for all of us to thrive.

NFG is holding philanthropy accountable by urging funders to utilize all of their institution’s assets to pursue social justice, center worker justice movements and strategies, strengthen organizing infrastructure built by Black women to shift political and economic power, support reparations and drive wealth back to Black and Indigenous communities, and reimagine public safety and community care to ensure everyone has a place to call home.

In the next few weeks, we'll be announcing more opportunities to connect with the NFG community, sharing Funders for a Just Economy's next Building Power in Place report featuring organizers in Texas, and releasing a new report on rural organizing in New York state commissioned by Engage New York and NFG's Integrated Rural Strategies Group.


In solidarity,
The NFG team

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