New York City is opening up again after vaccination rollout, and it’s going to bring up a lot of important new questions as we move forward into the next stage of the pandemic. For a community organization that has historically gathered people as part of our work, this is the moment to consider the balance between autonomy and collective safety in movement building cultures. The safety work of gathering crowds is being transposed to meet the needs of the moment, but the philosophical questions underpinning it are present.
At every turn of our 25 year history, the Audre Lorde Project has been navigating the impacts of violence against otherness and defining ourselves as a protective space for the oppressed. In this benchmark year, we can reflect together on what it could mean to be free after a global pandemic, while fully understanding that our decompressing lives will require community, love, safety, and support more than ever. We will be contextualizing the strength and gifts of our identities with our power to envision collective action that holds together with unity.
It’s time to announce that after a combined 15 years of work at ALP that we, Co-Directors Cleopatra "from the Bronx" Jach and Maxwell Scales, will be transitioning out of the Audre Lorde Project on October 1, 2021. That’s still a long way from now, but it will be here sooner than we know.
We moved into these leadership positions officially in October 2019, and we knew that it was imperative to restore as much integrity, structure, and core values as possible back into the organization. After launching a much needed (and successful!) restoration period that addressed the cracks of transparency, conflict, and trauma, in October 2020, we announced to our board that it was time for us to start planning for transition. We feel that ALP, and its stakeholders (members, leaders, supporters, and allies), are ready to move into the opportunities we have established due to our diligent work. Going into ALP’s 25th year, we are in a place to really take in its profound legacy, honor, wins, and successes.
It has been a year of surviving pandemic, and while we've moved through many challenges with perseverance, even in isolation, the uncertainty of when we will be able to gather again safely still weighs on every aspect of how we are able to support each other and organize in these unprecedented conditions.
The life and work of Audre Lorde beg us to imagine the world through a lens that critically examines power where it is gathered, and where it must disperse for the well-being of our communities. It asks that we learn from her lived experience as a poet, scholar, mother, worker, teacher, organizer, survivor, and movement leader. Her legacy requests that we learn from her experiences in imagining and creating empowered futures that integrate the understanding that the political and the personal are inextricably intertwined. Political conditions preclude our personal experiences, and those personal experiences are catalyzed into power by expressing ourselves, caring for one another, caring for ourselves, and working towards our collective freedom. It is no wonder that the systems we are forced to live in, designed by straight white cis-gender men, are reacting in force in this political moment. They are afraid.
Every November, we honor our communities by observing Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience, and the following week, we engage our own values in considering "Thanksgiving". ALP was founded in response to the public health crises facing LGBTSTGNC people of color, and in this moment, we are reminded of the ongoing amplified assault of the settler colonial state on non-white marginalized bodies as COVID rages in its second wave.
This month's election season comes to a dire conclusion, regardless of electoral outcomes. White supremacist reactivity and assaults on our human rights and bodily autonomy will be the outcomes -- there's no point in denial about these realities. The only way to react is to build and to create our own tools.
Time is moving differently. The pandemic is asking us to reflect on our own ways of looking at the world and how these perspectives have served us or created challenges for us in the past. It's undoubtedly a growth period for Audre Lorde Project's staff, members, and board.
We are asking questions, like, how do we gather safely? How do we keep each other safe and connected in this isolating time? How can we adapt to this new landscape of movement building and political education? What are we doing to build resilience in this moment? How can this era teach us about our own roles in building movements, creating solutions, and participating safely, in resistance? Who is this crisis turning us into? How is it strengthening us? What is it showing us about ourselves as individuals and as communities who are most impacted by long-standing systems of structural oppression that become most obvious in times of crisis? These are the questions we're asking ourselves at ALP, as we turn the bend on six months of pandemic life.
I attended this weekend’s March for Black Trans Lives, a powerful space where an estimated 15,000 people showed up to support the call to end violence and harm against trans, gender non-confirming, and non-binary Black and Brown folks. It was the first time in weeks that I was honest about how I’ve been affected by the rampant murders, attacks, and police brutality on my community. A friend who I hadn’t seen in months due to the pandemic asked how I was doing and I said “terrible. Everything feels awful. But we’ll be ok.” I stopped pretending I was fine, that the trauma we face by watching the news, walking down the street, having cops occupying every (non-white) space in the city, doesn’t impact me greatly. As a Black trans masculine person, I’ve been more alert and vigilant than ever lately, worried about how cops and others will see me, especially in a mask, as a threat. Worried about being an immunocompromised person during mobilizations. Worried about my comrades and those close to me in community who remain isolated at home or behind bars. But I maintain hope. Hope that these uprisings show that our people are not willing to go back, return to a world where the few with power and money control the lives of the many without.
Compiled by our amazing Director of Dignity and Care, Simone Sobers, we offer community a list of COVID-related resources that center the needs and resilience of QTBIPOC folks in NYC.
Click "read more" to learn about the intentions of this resource.