A Letter to the Community
After the Community Conversation on Monday night, our board took some time to gather our thoughts and discuss how to best move forward.
The Stonewall Columbus Staff, Executive Director and Board will continue to work internally and externally to address the concerns of #BlackPride4 and others in our community. Our mission, which we strongly value, is to make Columbus a community where all LGBTQ people thrive. Stonewall possesses the aspiration of reaching and serving the entire LGBTQ community, community members who have been left out, unheard, and unwelcomed. Habit, implicit bias and cultural norms are strong forces that plague many institutions. We understand that it will take more than our principles to fight those forces and achieve the diversity and inclusion we all desire and deserve.
We apologize for one of our very first statements which said that we would be sending legal representation to the #BlackPride4. While we did send a Stonewall representative to the jail just hours after the event, we made a mistake in issuing that response and we are sorry.
The LGBTQ and African-American communities have a long and complicated history with police divisions around the country. There was a time, in Columbus, when LGBTQ community members were ignored, outed or abused by police officers. For many of us, that is no longer the reality and we feel confident that, should they be needed, the Columbus Division of Police can be counted on to serve and protect. That is a victory won through the hard work of community members and allies. However, many members of our community who are people of color (POC) are not sharing in that victory.
The distrust and fear of the police that most of the LGBTQ community experienced in the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s still exists for people of color. Stonewall is adamantly against violence and police violence against members of our community. We denounce any police action or policy that is predicated on or unfairly targets community members on the basis of their race, sexual orientation, perceived or actual gender identity, nationality, age, religion, socio-economic class or neighborhood.
One of our key principles is to make Columbus a community where all LGBTQ people thrive. A person who lives in fear of unwarranted violence at the hands of the police is not thriving.
We support the right of everyone to peacefully protest. These charges will have a negative impact on the livelihood of these individuals. The Stonewall Board and staff want to acknowledge that those interested in contributing to the legal fund to help pay for the defense of the #BlackPride4 can go to https://www.youcaring.com/blackpride4ashleywriplydeandreandkendal-852184
Stonewall Columbus has already started conversations with Chief Jacobs and others at the Columbus Division of Police (CDP). We have asked them to examine CDP policies with respect to the use of chemicals, the policing of LGBTQ community events, and the de-escalation of interactions with LGBTQ citizens, specifically LGBTQ people of color. We plan to continue this conversation and partner with community members and others to examine CDP policies and procedures, make recommendations for improvements, and develop the training materials/resources that will implement those recommendations.
In addition, Stonewall board and staff will seek out additional education, resources, and best-practices regarding the justice-system related barriers faced by Trans and Queer POC with the goal of developing and instituting programming that serves those who have been or are at risk of being harmed in this manner.
Stonewall’s mission is to increase visibility, inclusion, and connection for the LGBTQ community. We apologize to every member of the community who has been excluded, silenced, or overlooked. While we are confident that it has never been the intent of any trustee, staff member, or volunteer to hurt another member of the community, we are equally confident that hurt has occurred. We are in the process of developing a detailed action plan to help address these issues.
As a part of this plan:
1. Stonewall will attract and retain diverse community members for board and staff service.
2. Stonewall will develop an outreach strategy to bring services and resources to those who are marginalized in our community without expecting those community members to find resources for themselves.
3. Stonewall’s board and staff will have cultural competency training on an annual basis.
4. Strengthen, bolster and promote Stonewall’s current programming and resources for the trans community, including our in-house counseling, space for the trans social group, and the transgender program in correctional institutions.
Racism, homophobia, transphobia, and systemic discrimination on the basis of class and gender are issues that affect our entire community. We continue to be hopeful that our community can come together to help us form and implement this action plan that targets ending discrimination in Columbus within the LGBTQ communities.