December 9, 2021
To all the Coalition Members and Supporters
We have done our best to communicate this message broadly, but we acknowledge our distribution list is not complete: please share this with other coalition members and supporters.
Thank you again for having organized the accountability listening session on November 9, we know it took considerable time and effort on the part of many individuals. Since that event and our first message of thanks shared on November 11, the board and staff of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center have had multiple meetings and conversations about all that we heard…very powerful storytelling…and what our best next steps can be.
ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PAST HARM: WE LISTENED AND WE HEARD YOU
We listened carefully and did hear the hurt that the Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center has caused, and for that we are truly and deeply sorry. And we apologize to those who had to repeat personal accounts they had shared before. We understand that past harms touched multiple individuals in different ways, and we did hear and learn from remarks made and stories shared about the weight of communication, abuse of power, resource and space hoarding, needless competitiveness, fear, harms experienced by former Center constituents, denial, and defensiveness. Our current team, including many new board and staff members, are determined that similar experiences will never happen again in the future.
We also heard and understood content shared about the importance of embodied listening, bias, accountability, the role of discomfort, the right balance of urgency and patience…thank you again for all the energy and work that went into November 9.
ACCOUNTABILITY FOR COALITION REQUESTS: WE ARE WORKING AT THEM
We recognize that we were not as nimble as we could have been in acting against all demands, but we are determined to take all needed steps to address them. And we understand the goal is not to cause harm to the Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center but to call out behavior that cannot continue. The current Center team, board and staff, is committed to ensuring that we as a community can repair and rebuild relationships in the Hudson Valley to better support our communities.
Below, we briefly describe our responses so far to all six of the asks from the coalition: we are happy to share further details. And we welcome further clarifying dialog and direction from any within the coalition that will help us to satisfy fully the needs of our community.
1. Publicly acknowledge that they have caused harm.
We have acknowledged publicly past harms and are truly sorry for them. And we will do so again if it is helpful to moving all of us forward: we want to join with all in healing.
2. Participate in a public forum to listen to, and learn from, the grievances of those who have experienced harm through a restorative and transformative justice process.
We have listened deeply and learned a tremendous amount: as shared previously, the November 9 meeting was eye-opening for board and staff, most of whom are quite new. If there are more personal experiences we need to hear and learn from, we are ready to do so. We welcome a restorative justice process, please see below.
3. Commit to anti-racist, anti-oppressive trainings for ALL board members, staff and volunteers as identified by this coalition within 6 months of recognition of this letter respond with a plan.
With the help of outside experts, we are embarked on a program of trainings for all board and staff and will be looking to institute a program for volunteers once the Center is fully open again with active volunteers onsite in early 2022. Current training is an initial phase of what will be ongoing learning for all. We have expressed before our interest in coalition recommendations for anti-racist, anti-oppressive training resources, and we welcome them at any time.
4. Join our coalition of Hudson Valley Organizations to work collectively in addressing the needs of our intersecting community within the mid-Hudson Valley.
We are ready to join and work collectively beginning now; we would be happy to participate in an upcoming meeting as a first step.
5. Address a culture of competitiveness that results in a scarcity mindset and does not allow for generative partnerships and fruitful relationships to flourish via funding or collaboration.
Some of the November 9 storytelling was new and enlightening in helping us to understand past wrongs. We recognize that meeting this request that cannot be “one and done” – this is an ongoing behavioral requirement. We hear you and understand the issue, and we look forward to working with all to ensure we make no further missteps.
6. Commit to support the work already being done in the Hudson Valley through partnerships with LGBTQ organizations and other formations that center queer leadership.
You have our commitment to do so, now and going forward: this is an ongoing goal for the Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center. We know actions will be more meaningful than words, and we look forward to tangible opportunities to demonstrate our commitment to meeting this request always.
LET’S BEGIN RESTORATIVE PRACTICES
It was coalition members who first recommended that restorative justice practices were needed in our rebuilding process, and we welcome them: let’s begin. Meaningful dialog is an important component of the restorative process, and so we suggest we work toward a smaller group meeting during the next few weeks, as soon as practically possible. From the Center, we propose only a few board and staff members participate; we leave it to you to determine who from the coalition will attend; we are flexible in terms of day and time and location; and we would welcome an in-person meeting if you would consider it. The agenda needs to be mutually developed, and we know we need to identify a moderator or moderators. We hope we can act together and make progress through restorative justice, both deliberately and with speed.
WE HAVE A SENSE OF URGENCY
We understand fully that repairing relationships and rebuilding trust will take time and cannot be rushed. But like all coalition members, we are also very aware of the depth of need for strength and support that exists across our entire Hudson Valley community. We should find ways to collaborate, sharing ideas and resources, to address these needs head on as soon as we can. We at the Center know we still have our own work to do, but we also hope that all of us can put all our energies and time into moving forward and doing good where it is needed.
On behalf of the entire Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center team, we look forward to your reply and to connecting soon. We welcome many future interactions, in the near term and ongoing, and want nothing more urgently than to figure out what it means for all of us to move forward together.
Peter Criswell, Executive Director
David Merrill, President, Board of Directors
Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center