March 22′ Address to the Community

March 22, 2022

To all the Coalition Members and Supporters

Meaningful and direct dialogue is an important component of the restorative justice process, and so we are looking forward to a small group meeting at the end of March. In the meanwhile, we wish to continue to be in touch and pledge to be transparent and responsive as we move our repairing and rebuilding process forward with members of our community. We know regular communication between all will be important.

In that spirit, the purpose of this communication is to provide all with more detail around steps we are taking related to the coalition’s request #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, the Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center (The Community Center) began in the middle of 2021 to implement a comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program that includes education and training for all board and staff and volunteers.

And importantly, we continue to welcome coalition recommendations for DEI, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive training and education resources. We appreciate your ideas and suggestions at any time.

The work that we are doing, and the program we are instituting, is broader than education and training: it will continue with no anticipated end date. We understand that our DEI and anti-racist journey needs to be a continuous one. Here are some highlights of our efforts – past, present, and ongoing:

Internal discovery with Flannel & Blade (F&B)

With the assistance of Flannel & Blade, a locally based and self-described intergenerational, queer, BIPOC organization, we took a hard look at ourselves and our situation: how The Community Center had arrived at this place in time, our current strengths and shortcomings, the composition of our team, and consideration of alternatives and avenues for the best way forward. F&B conducted a thorough organizational culture audit and made a series of recommendations to us about how we might move forward with community re-engagement, change some of our future focus areas and team composition, and imbed DEI training and education in all activity going forward. At the core of the recommendations is ensuring that The Community Center always works diligently to allow all member of our diverse local community – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and allies; and of any age or race or nationality or economic circumstance – to have a welcoming and safe experience during every interaction with Center team members and our programs and resources.

One local DEI resource recommended by F&B was Dr. Edward Lawson, an adjunct lecturer at SUNY New Paltz and recently named Assistant Director for Intercultural Relations, who supports diversity, equity, and inclusion programming and outreach for the school. Dr. Lawson also leads Family and Community Engagement Services (F.A.C.E.S.), Inc., based in Newburgh, which works to help organizations with their DEI journey through training and strategic guidance and action planning.

DEI training and action planning with F.A.C.E.S.

The Community Center’s work with Dr. Lawson continues today. His team has delivered implicit bias and DEI training sessions to our board and staff. Building from F&B’s culture audit, the F.A.C.E.S. team completed their own assessment of The Community Center’s place in the community and is working with us to put in place a comprehensive DEI program, that will touch all aspects of our people, operations, community engagement, and service delivery.

During the next two months, we will finalize an over-arching DEI organizational policy framework for The Community Center, specific and measurable DEI goals, and a DEI action plan to guide making the DEI policy real and achieving the DEI goals. The four pillars of our evolving DEI framework are rebuilding trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, training and education, and communications. We will be transparent with the community and all our stakeholders about the DEI priorities we set and the actions we take as we move forward in 2022.

Ongoing Center team DEI commitments

For the past 13 months, all staff have participated in a regular series of team meetings dedicated to anti-racism awareness and learning. The focus for our 2022 meetings is to better understand ways that white supremacy manifests in nonprofit organizations and to formulate concrete steps to address systemic racism at our Center. We have also encouraged participation in anti-racism workshops and community events. A representative list of some of these trainings and activities follows:

  • New York State Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health & Human Services Network’s 19-week series on anti-racism, listening and learning
  • National Association of Social Workers FORUM’s “Advancing Racial Equity” workshop
  • LGBTQ+ Health Initiative’s Anti-Racism Listening and Learning series, including “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo; and “How to be Anti-Racist,” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • The People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond, “Undoing Racism” Workshop
  • Go Beyond Conflict’s “Race & Racism” training
  • Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso’s anti-racism training
  • Bard College Lifelong Learning Institute offerings including “Restorative Justice,” “Equal Justice: Policing in the USA,” “African Americans in the Hudson Valley – Then and Now,” and “The Criminal Justice System in America and Its Attempt at a More Humane Approach.”
  • Garrison Institute’s “Making the Invisible, Visible: Exploring Race and Racism through a Buddhist Lens”

Creating a strategic plan for The Community Center’s future

And finally, we wanted to share that we are building out a two-to-three-year plan of priority focus areas and initiatives for The Community Center. Key components of the plan will be a refreshed vision, mission statement, and core values for The Community Center; enhanced management and operational policies and approaches; and a roadmap for better serving all of our audiences and the evolving priority needs of the community. And the DEI goals and action plan mentioned above will be a foundational and fully integrated part of this more broadly focused strategic plan. The New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON) is our partner in this work, which likely continues into May.

On behalf of the entire Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center team, we commit to further communication soon and look forward to connecting directly on March 30 and beyond. As we have shared previously, we understand fully that repairing relationships and rebuilding trust will take time and cannot be rushed. We are eager to see what it means for all of us to move forward, together.