Updated: Aug 31, 2019
Author Note: This blog was originally published on April 22, 2016 in the Albany Times Union.
To date, the book blog I published on July 2, 2015 “No Longer Invisible” has been in the top five or six of my most read blogs and it still continues to get hits ten months later. I don’t know if it’s still being shared somewhere out there in the universe among Facebook friends, or if it’s simply people liking one of my recent book reviews enough to go back and read a few others. Doesn’t matter. But what this tells me is that particular blog, my friend who inspired it, and the book he lent to me that week, still matter.
They matter very much.
Tonight I had the pleasure of sitting down with two people who represent two very important organizations in the Capital Region; Tandra LaGrone, Executive Director of In Our Own Voices, and Michael Weidrich, Executive Director and CEO of Pride Center of the Capital Region. You can read more about each organization below.
I had the opportunity to speak with both of them about the upcoming Pride season, and the very real issues both organizations face on a daily basis. It was enlightening, inspiring, and educational. Let’s face it I’m a straight, white woman who lives in the suburbs of Albany so what do I know? However I have whole-heartedly supported Albany's LGBT community, and so I’ve considered myself fairly "in the know" from conversations with some of my best friends, attending events, and so on.
I use the word fairly, because when I wrote No Longer Invisible, I clearly stated I have no idea (and never will) what it means to be black or gay, or anything other than a straight, white woman. I know my lane, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to swerve over into any of my friends’ lanes when they need support from me or from an entire community.
With the risk of being arrested after the fact, let’s just say there isn’t much I won’t do (or haven’t done) to support and protect the friends I love and care about. I attend Pride festivals, I stood on the steps of the Capital for marriage equality, and I continue to choose my politicians based on those who will favor and work toward equality for all. But that’s not enough, and the fact that Ms. LaGrone and Mr. Weidrich are communicating and collaborating on multiple projects that bring awareness, support, health and wellness, and safety to a large portion of our LGBT and LGBT People of Color (POC) communities is proof there is a lot more work to do within the LGBT community itself.
This process may start with the blood, sweat, and tears they and the members of their organizations work through on a daily basis, but it can and should continue through the community in which we live - and that means you.
Here’s a little statistic for you: approximately 40% of the people who utilize some of the services provided by In Our Own Voices are white and heterosexual. Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be. The point is inclusion and it’s time we as a community realize there is still a hell of a lot more work to be done in not only supporting the organizations who support others, but the people they are helping as well. Marriage equality was a win, no question about that, but it’s not the only one required, and it was not the be all, end all of what people are still working toward.
Attend Pride festivals. Talk to people. Attend events and fundraisers. Get educated.
There are some amazing, fun, and festive events coming up. Check out the web sites of both organization and get involved. You will also be able to read the full interview from my sit-down with Ms. LaGrone and Mr. Weidrich in publications from both organizations. Keep an eye out.
About In Our Own Voices
In Our Own Voices engages in advocacy and education on a number of levels, working to ensure the voices of LGBT POC are a part of important conversations in our communities. We also advocate for legislation and policies that improve the lives of LGBT POC, as well as enforcement of existing legislation. In Our Own Voices offers a variety of programs, including the region's only LGBT-specific Domestic Violence Support Line, and the Capital Region Anti-Violence Project, which works to improve domestic violence services for LGBT POC in Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Montgomery, Saratoga, Columbia and Greene counties. Web site: www.inourownvoices.org
About Pride Center of the Capital Region
The mission of the Pride Center of the Capital Region is to promote the well-being of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified people and those affected by discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Based in Albany, the Pride Center has been meeting the diverse needs of LGBTQ people in a ten county region since 1970. Our programs, both at the Center (332 Hudson Ave in Albany) as well as held throughout the region, meet the health and human service needs of the LGBTQ community as well as educate and advocate for those needs in the broader Capital Region. As the oldest continuously-operating LGBTQ community center in the country, the Pride Center has worked to build a welcoming and empowering community for all people. Web site: www.capitalpridecenter.org