Editor’s note: Below is a letter to the William Way LGBT Community Center board of directors advocating for greater diversity and inclusion of people of color in the search for a new executive director and moving forward. The letter was received by the board, who responded by the requested deadline. A similar letter was sent to the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund.
April 6, 2010
From: Philadelphia LGBT Community Leaders To: William Way Executive Director Search Committee
Dear Search Committee:
On behalf of the undersigned community leaders, we would like to congratulate Laurien D. Ward for being chosen to serve as interim executive director of the William Way LGBT Community Center.
While this role may be a temporary one, we celebrate your search committee’s diligence and commitment by providing continued leadership at the center for the LGBT and allied communities during this transition.
As you may know, there has been a general sentiment over the years of Philadelphia’s LGBT communities of color feeling that William Way as a whole has not been as inclusive of issues affecting LGBT communities of color and other diverse constituencies in LGBT communities. In the time ’Dolph [Ward Goldenburg] was the director, some progress was being made in this area and we applaud the efforts he put forth and those that the board of directors supported. Now that the center is looking for a new director, we see this as a great time for the board of directors to show their continued support for greater inclusion of LGBT people-of-color issues as you decide on a new leader for the organization.
Issues such as organizational and leadership diversity are key elements to the success of LGBT movements and to the center directly. The failure to fully embrace actions and strategies which will grow the center’s reach in these areas remains obvious and critically important not only to the center but to our region, which relies on the center’s ability to be both a unifier and a motivator in our diverse communities.
To this end, we suggest the following: 1. We would like to see the board of directors/search committee share their plan with the community as to how they are ensuring the new director has experience with engaging LGBT communities of color. 2. The center consider having an open discussion period (community town hall) to solicit feedback about the direction of the center for the board/search committee to take into consideration as a new director is being selected. 3. As a longer-term strategy around inclusion, develop an advisory board comprised of a mix of persons representing LGBT leaders, advocates and lay community people. We recommend this committee be comprised of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons of all racial groups. Ideally this advisory board would meet with the executive director every other month or quarterly. 4. One person from the advisory board should be provided a seat on the board of directors for the center.
The undersigned are committed to continuing the growth and evolution of the William Way LGBT Community Center, and we feel the suggestions provided above are reasonable and could lead to healing the divide that has existed for many years around the center and it being a place that all segments of the LGBT community feel comfortable in.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Soda Nobuhle, founder/CEO, The Womyn’s Village Lee F. Carson, Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council Jaci Adams, founder, Trans People With Hope Curtis Allen, community member Christopher Alston, president, Philadelphia Black Gay Pride Melanie Bolden, founder, Simply Melanie Ricardo Bostic, board member of NAACP Philadelphia chapter Zane Booker, artistic director, Smoke, Lilies and Jade Arts Initiative Robert K. Burns, House of Blahnik Sherrie Cohen, community member Debra D’Alessandro, community member Tony Daniels, community member Theodore Faigle, founding member, William Way Community Center Rick Feely, executive director, Trans-health Information Project Lawrence Frazier, community advisory coordinator, COLOURS Inc. Alison Gerig, executive director, Women’s Therapy Center Allegra Gordon, co-chair of Community Advisory Board on LGBT Research, PHMC Jacinto J. Grant, MSW, Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council Lonnie Grant, founder, Trans-Masculine Advocacy Network Brian Green, executive director, Safeguards Project Andrea Harrington, founder, Lamour Cares Foundation Christopher Hayes, community member Gary Q. Hines, former member, William Way LGBT Community Center board of directors Michael Hinson, founder/executive director, COLOURS Inc. Damon L. Humes, founder, House of Blahnik Duane Ingram, community member Carrie Jacobs, executive director, The Attic Youth Center Miles Johnson, community member The Rev. Jeffery Jordan, pastor, Metropolitan Community Church Philadelphia Aaron Lisbon, community member Micah Mahjoubian, political consultant Eric Reid, community member Jesse Salazar, special assistant to Sen. Bob Casey Sarah Saunders, LSW, community member Mark M. Seaman, community member Ben Singer, Philadelphia activist Tyrone Smith, Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council A. Dionne Stallworth, transgender activist BJ Tillman, student clergy, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church Philadelphia Leo Watts, Trans-Masculine Advocacy Network