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Stonewall Columbus was founded in 1981. Our goal then was to fight for tolerance, acceptance, and basic human rights for our LGBTQ+ community. Since then, our community has grown, evolved, and achieved some hard-fought victories. As an organization, we stand on the shoulders of those before us. We remember our institutional history and those who have worked hard for our community as we build our future. And that includes the times in our past when we, as individuals and as an organization, failed to live up to our own goals.
One of those times was in June 2017. In the aftermath of the protests during that year’s Pride parade, Stonewall failed to show up in the way that the community expected and in the way that Wriply Bennet, Kendall Denton, Ashley Braxton, and DeAndre Antonio Miles-Hercules (collectively known as the Black Pride 4) deserved. We apologize to each of these individuals for the harm and trauma they experienced from Stonewall Columbus not being there to support them. We apologize to the broader LGBTQ+ community for not being the voice of our community when we needed to be. We unequivocally condemn the police actions and policies that harmed the Black Pride 4 and members of our LGBTQ+ community.
We also recognize that the events surrounding Pride 2017 were not isolated. Rather, they were a symptom of a much larger systemic issue of excluding and under-serving the most marginalized in our community, especially people of color and the trans community. Unable to change the past, we accept accountability for not always living up to our duty and obligation to support and protect the most vulnerable among our LGBTQ+ community. Moving forward, our enduring commitment is to serve those most in need through new programming and advocacy.
Over the past two years, Stonewall Columbus has taken concrete steps to live out these commitments. This includes broadening our Board of Trustees to better reflect our community, hiring a new Executive Director whose values of diversity and inclusivity continue to reshape our organization to the core, completing a “100 Days of Listening” initiative, and creating a committee to organize the first Trans Pride March in Columbus. But the work of becoming a more inclusive and culturally humble organization does not end here.
Moving forward, we will continue providing cultural humility training for our board and staff, we will enhance our outreach strategy to bring services and resources to under-served communities, and we will launch new initiatives to recognize, engage, and elevate the most marginalized voices in our community. We look forward to sharing more of our progress in future updates and welcome the community’s continued input as we discover new ways of working together so that all of us can thrive.
AJ Casey, Executive Director
and the Stonewall Columbus Board of Trustees
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