Dec 12, 2023
Allow me this moment to give you your flowers. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for every gift you’ve selflessly donated, every tweet and post you’ve shared, every event you’ve attended, and every volunteer opportunity you’ve enthusiastically undertaken. Whether you’ve been with us since 1979 or came onboard in 2020, we wouldn’t be here without you and we appreciate you.
Earlier this year I announced that after five years the time had come for me to depart Equality NC as its Executive Director. I did not come to this decision lightly just as I did not make the decision to move to North Carolina lightly. I chose to serve as Equality NC’s Executive Director because I witnessed a dramatic shift backwards in the nature of the vitriol directed toward minority communities as Trumpism began and white supremacy ultimately won the White House. I knew I needed a bigger playing field to fight back, alongside strong allies working for undocumented immigrants, Black folks, women, differently abled people, the resource poor, and the LGBTQ+ community. I found just that, with incredible partners working on issues from voting and reproductive rights to incarceration.
The past few years have been some of the most challenging of my lifetime as not only an activist and a leader, but as a human being. Virtually overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic flipped our world upside down and began ravaging our communities. After the world watched a police officer crush the neck of George Floyd, women decried Me Too, and The Supreme Court banned LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment, our country was launched into the greatest period of racial reckoning since the Civil Rights Movement.
Almost immediately, we saw the backlash emerge via attacks on teachings of accurate history and gender equity; book bans on titles featuring Black, Brown and LGBTQ+ identities; and a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills statewide and across the country. Yet despite these challenges, there were successes. Equality NC’s staff diversified and spread from the Triangle to the Western edges of the state. The Board welcomed folks from varied races, ages, gender identities, and life experiences. The Political Action Committee expanded statewide, vetting candidates on races from Congress to school boards. And the organization completed an incredible strategic plan rooted in building LGBTQ+ power in pursuit of racial and social justice to guide us for the next five years.
ENC organized and showed up for our communities across this state. In the initial weeks of the shutdown, we focused on connecting folks with resources, from food insecurity to mental health services to unemployment information. We joined the NC United for Survival and Beyond coalition, which brought together over 250 organizations to draft a list of demands and action items to help elected officials prioritize the most disproportionately impacted groups from the pandemic.
Through our work with the #NCisReady Campaign, twenty-two municipalities passed groundbreaking nondiscrimination ordinances. We successfully pushed back against three anti-LGBTQ+ bills targeting trans youth. Additionally, four bills were introduced in the NCGA to protect LGBTQ + communities.
It has been my absolute privilege and honor to be at the helm of an organization that has collaborated with community members and other organizations to uplift the voices of our most marginalized. I find hope in the Rural Youth Empowerment Fellowship that began in my first year and is supporting the leaders of now and tomorrow to build lasting resources. I cherish the partnerships ENC has formed to mobilize voters, get progressive candidates elected, elevate the most pressing issues of our day, and support mutual aid efforts. And I know that with your support, Equality NC is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
Work of this magnitude would not have been possible without you. As a friend once said to me, her motivation for getting into politics and the work of LGBTQ liberation as a lesbian was that “they need to see us.” Not only do I hope you see yourself in this movement, but I hope you have felt seen by this movement.