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Maria Cadenas applause

Maria Cadenas of the Cream City Foundation must be applauded for her recent opinion piece in the Wisconsin Gazette. She eloquently notes the ongoing issue of addressing race as we seek to create healthy and supportive LGBT communities. Cadenas goes on to observe that race is used to limit power and protections to large groups of people, including LGBT people.

The intersection of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and age present all of us with an important opportunity and challenge when broadening our goals for social justice. These factors, long used to separate and disempower us, can help us as we build coalitions within and across the LGBT and other community organizations we support.

In Milwaukee we have much collaboration about which we can be proud. For example, FORGE has provided consistent outreach to transgender people of color by offering assistance to SHEBA (Sisters Helping Each other Battle AIDS), an African-American transgender group at Diverse and Resilient. The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center boasts a majority of youth of color in Project Q and in Q Block. The center’s health promoters for HIV prevention, tobacco cessation and alcohol abuse prevention involve African-American and Latino youth and adults as paid staff. The Milwaukee Health Department, United Migrant Opportunity Services, Sixteen Street Community Health Center – as allies – employ LGBT people of color in prominent positions that make a difference in our daily lives. Important contributions are also being made by Carol Calvin, Charles Daniels, James Pekrul, PrideFest, Pathfinders, Aurora Family Service, Jewish Family Service, ARCW, Milwaukee Women’s Fund, Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the Brico Fund.

While discrimination still exists, our LGBT organizations have many opportunities to be innovative. At Diverse and Resilient, for example, the majority of our program partners in Milwaukee are people of color. In the past three years, we have engaged more than 700 African-American gay and bisexual men in HIV-prevention activities. Latina, African-American, and Asian women have participated in our lesbian and bisexual women’s leadership initiative. Our African-American men’s leadership development project continues to draw a cohort of 20 men to semi-annual retreats and to monthly meetings. Connexus, our African-American LGBT social and educational program, brings scores of people together to celebrate Pride, Coming Out Day and other milestone events. Our youth advisors include youth of color. A majority of our 30 Milwaukee area health promoters are people of color.

Our larger LGBT community and its allies should not be satisfied with the extent or pace of the progress we have made. But we are proud of what we have all done and what we are committed to doing in the future. It is important to be mindful of our numerous and ongoing successes as we also critique the work yet to be done.

We look to the Wisconsin Gazette to expand its coverage of these successes and challenges within our LGBT communities. We also agree with Cadenas that much more involvement and financial support by our LGBT brothers and sisters will be essential in building a truly inclusive and strengthened community at large.

Staff and board of Diverse and Resilient

 

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