A Response to the Call for Community Accountability

and Our Recent Town Hall

 

To the Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community

The movement for our collective liberation has been shaped by effective call-outs, and we’re grateful to every human who signed the recent call for community accountability statement posted online by the Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center.

We hear you, we see you, and we are sorry. We wouldn’t presume to engage with you directly, and want to honor your space. But our door is open for dialogue, and we have a plan, now, for a restorative process related to the harms.

We thank you for the leadership you have shown where we have fallen short of our mission. And we appreciate your approach in calling us out. We acknowledge that we have caused harm in the past within our community. We have taken too long to recognize that harm.

We understand that our actions, whether deliberate or inadvertent, have helped to perpetuate the patriarchical systems and behaviors that characterize our country’s history. They have caused harm.

We also hear that past harms have included interactions with people that made them feel less than safe or welcome. They include the misgendering of individuals. That’s not okay.

We’re a little out of our depth, right now. We realize that. So we have contracted with a diversity and inclusion consulting firm to help us address our cultural shortcomings.

Saying sorry can compound harm when you don’t say sorry in the right way. And we haven’t always learned from or taken ownership of past mistakes, either. From now on, we are committed to reparative change.

We pledge to be transparent, to be accountable, and to work hard to regain the community’s trust. We will make meaningful changes to our systems, policies, and actions, and where needed, we will seek to introduce restorative and transformative practices.

We stand with the entire community against racism, injustice, and inequity in all forms. We want the Center to be a safe and inclusive space for every member of our community for generations to come.

We are committed to repairing any past harms.

As asked for in the recent letter of accountability, we acknowledge that the community is asking us to take responsibility and accountability for our actions. We’re sorry it took us a while to respond but we wanted to get this right. To address the concerns:

    • Community engagement. We look forward to working with other LGBTQ+ community organizations and individuals to listen and learn from the grievances of any who have experienced past harm. Our recent Town Hall intended to do just that, but we recognize that it fell short. It was a case of intent versus impact. And again, we realize we are a little out of our depth, here.

Where appropriate, we have begun and will continue to reach out  to both groups and individual people. We’d very much like to work with the leaders who signed the letter, but we also understand that it takes time to build back trust.

We also intend to move forward planning for a community advisory council, previewed at the Town Hall. It’s intended to provide new and deeper opportunities for people to participate in Center decision-making, and contribute to specific needs and programs. Please contact us if you have an interest in knowing more, and participating.

    • Education and training. We commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion education and training for board members, staff, and volunteers, with a plan developed and training for board and staff together beginning during the upcoming summer months. This activity and learning will be ongoing, and grow to include our volunteers, and we know it will enhance our ability to serve and create a safe environment for all community members.

Although we own fully getting this underway in short order, here, too, we welcome community input regarding recommended resources – please share your thoughts.

    • Collaboration. We welcome the opportunity to join the coalition of LGBTQ+ and other Hudson Valley organizations, in all ways the coalition deems appropriate and as soon as possible. Doing so will allow us to take the steps necessary to ensure that possible competition ceases, that support for the coalition’s priorities and work already being done by others is one of our key drivers, and that fruitful partnerships and collaboration can result. We want to work collectively to address the needs of all of the intersecting community across the Mid-Hudson Valley.

We acknowledge that some members of our community raised other issues during the past year; we are taking action and will provide the community with regular updates on progress made against these items. As true for all other topics, community input is welcomed; help shape our go-forward plans:

    • Accessibility. We look forward to our physical Center’s reopening and the resumption of onsite activities. As was reported on April 29, working with RCAL, Resource Center for Accessible Living, we have identified a robust punch list of items to improve accessibility throughout the building. A new, more user-friendly ramp for the ground floor has been purchased and is ready for use. In addition to physical changes, we are working on making service improvements to overcome language and other barriers: we welcome further community input on accessibility priorities and will enhance our plans and actions where we can.
    • Community needs assessment. We are actively at work on a community needs assessment initiative, in partnership with Marist College. Concerns expressed at the Town Hall have already resulted in changes to timing and approach, and we are committed to gathering further community feedback on the survey before it launches. We want to make sure this research captures knowledge and insights that are representative of all of our community, and that can be helpful to all LGBTQ+ and allied organizations in our area.
    • Diversity and inclusion on the Board. We agree that more diversity across our Board is needed: we have several openings right now and are committed to finding as diverse a pool of candidates as possible and to hiring diverse people for the board as a result. In addition to our own search activity, we welcome raised hands from every corner of the community. All financial barriers to board membership have been removed. If you have interest, please be in touch. Click here.
    • Transparency. We commit to more regular communication about our decision-making, actions taken, and planned next steps; we will hold ourselves accountable for doing what we say we will do, when we say we will do it.

We are accountable for change.

We commit to change and you will see change. Our growth will be an ongoing process. We commit to working diligently to earn your trust and help heal our community by taking meaningful action, while consistently demonstrating empathy and respect.

In closing, we will communicate with you about all this, and more. We hope that the entire community will continue to engage with us, and we will listen carefully and seek to hear you. Only with this input can we know where real progress is being made and how we can achieve what we want most: to live up to our mission of helping our entire community achieve its fullest potential and create a more equitable world.

Sincerely,

The Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center

June 9, 2021