I applaud the Wisconsin Gazette for the June 3 article on race and the LGBT movement as it gives me an opportunity to discuss diversity and inclusion at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.
The Community Center is one of the most diverse and inclusive LGBT organizations in the city. Our board of directors is diverse (38 percent people of color) and the center’s staff is equally diverse (38 percent people of color), representing African-American, Latino, and Native American people. The board and staff are also very diverse in orientation and gender identity.
Across our programs, participants are overwhelmingly people of color with varied orientations, gender identities, ages and many of these people are of moderate-low income status. In fact, the majority of the funding received by the community center directly benefits LGBT people of color. The result is our programs are very responsive and relevant to the estimated 8,000 people we serve.
Across all our programs we have established partnerships with organizations at the local, state and national level, many of which represent people of color. We value our partnerships with these organizations because what we learn from our partners and our programs are made all the better through these affiliations. We are honored to name a few of these partnerships: Association for the Rights of Citizens with handicaps, Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, FORGE, GenderPAC, Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Hmong American Friendship Association, Inc., Hmong American Women’s Association, Inc., La Casa De Esperanza, Inc., Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, UMOS, UMOS Latina Resource Center and Vets Do Ask Do Tell, LLC.
On a professional note, in my role as a national board member of CenterLink (a national association of LGBT Community Centers), I had the opportunity to participate in the Pipeline Project for Executive Directors of LGBT Community Centers. This year-long diversity program was aimed at bringing more LGBT people of color into leadership roles. As a commissioner for the last three years on the Milwaukee Commission on Police Community Relations, I serve with representatives from every cultural and minority group in the city, and I learned a great deal about the concerns of these groups. As a commissioner, I support the efforts of these allied groups to gain equality. As a member of the diversity committee for Visit Milwaukee, I support efforts to bring diverse conventions and meetings to the city, including the 2011 LGBT Community Center Executive Directors Summit.
Supporting equality in our city is about doing what one can do to improve life circumstances for everyone. It is actions that create change, and the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center continues to provide meaningful leadership.