Center Justice Now
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center
From: [Your Name]
We invite you to imagine with us what the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center could be:
A vibrant community center where every member of the LGBTQ+ community can feel a sense of welcome, and belonging, and ownership. Where the incredible power and diversity of our community is truly represented. Where the essential work of liberation can take place. Where any one of us can come and find friends, resources, support, refuge and inspiration.
Not a cold monument to the wealth and ambition of a financially successful few, but a living community that actively centers and supports the most vulnerable among us.
We are writing not to call anyone out, but to call our leadership in. In fifty years, what will be the value of a name on a plaque on the wall? We will remember who valued wealth and prestige and power, and who valued the people and found the courage to really hear us.
It is the nature of institutions to grow increasingly conservative over time, to be more and more concerned about maintaining and protecting themselves, honoring their traditions, resisting change, and uplifting the visionaries who started them while ignoring their very human failings. We recognize this process as well as the protective instincts that drive it. We acknowledge the work for our community that went into creating and funding the Center, the sacrifices made and the vibrant community which grew around its founding and development. At the same time, we insist that the Center is out of touch with the larger LGBTQ community, and consistently centers wealthy white able-bodied cisgender people. Therefore we lovingly and firmly seek to call our leadership in to consider what our community needs from its Center now.
In order to honor both the Center’s Mission Statement and the realities of the Hudson Valley’s LGBTQ+ community, we the undersigned make the following demands. We are willing to work with the Board in accomplishing these demands in a good faith effort to build positive community rather than create divisions that alienate us from the Mission of the Center.
Whereas the Center is not a truly accessible space, and therefore cannot help but unacceptably exclude members of the LGBTQ community; we demand that the Center immediately prioritize effective, permanent, and safe wheelchair access to the building itself as well as to the third floor. Additionally we demand that the Center provide basic ASL and Spanish language instruction for all staff and volunteers, that written materials in Spanish be produced, that the website be updated to be compatible with screen readers, as well as any other necessary changes that might be suggested by local disability advocates, including the use of a language interpretation line for the use of anyone working at the front desk.
Whereas the Board of Directors has shown itself to be out of touch with the needs of the local LGBTQ community, and indeed the needs of a community are only known by its members; we demand that the LGBTQ Center commence a comprehensive community needs assessment as soon as possible, utilizing paid workers who will prioritize gathering information from the communities that have been heretofore neglected by the Center, i.e. people of color, poor and working class people, people with disabilities, and trans/nonbinary people. We demand the results of that assessment be published on the Center website and be used to plan Center programming and staffing needs. Additionally we demand that clear and accessible means for users of the Center to give feedback to Center staff be made available with no risk of retribution.
Whereas the Center as an institution lacks the resources to adequately serve the entire Hudson Valley, and has not engaged in mutually supportive relationships with other LGBTQ Centers throughout the Hudson Valley but rather has engaged in competitive and occasionally hostile relations with them; we demand that the Center repair its relationship with the community through collaborating, not competing, with other community centers in the area. We demand also that the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center either change its name to the Kingston LGBTQ Center or make a realistic plan to fully serve all of the counties in which it operates. We demand also that the Center commit to relationships of reconciliation, mutual aid, and solidarity with other LGBTQ community centers in the Hudson Valley.
Whereas the failings of the Center and the culture of privilege that led to them cannot be entirely blamed on any single person, but are also the responsibility of the Board of Directors, whose membership does not adequately represent the community the Center claims to serve; we demand that the Board of Directors commit in writing to seeking and appointing new Board members who are members of the communities the Center claims to serve: specifically people of color, poor and working class people, people with disabilities, and trans/nonbinary people, with the goal of having the Board proportionally represent the actual constituency of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ community. This will necessitate removing any financial barriers to board membership.
Whereas the Board does not operate in an acceptably transparent manner to be accountable to the community it exists to serve; we demand that the rules, bylaws, and meeting minutes of the Board of Directors be published on the Center website, that the current list of Board members on the Center website be kept up to date with names, photos, bios, and contact information of all current Board members, and that a fully accessible means of bringing reasonable concerns to the Board when Center leadership fails to act be made available immediately.
Whereas Jeff Rindler-Jordan, the Executive Director, has created and promoted through word and deed an environment hostile to people of color; trans and gender nonconforming people, and poor and working class people; and his actions as Executive Director have created ripples throughout the larger community leading to alienation and distrust; and has resisted any attempts to correct that hostile environment; and has abused his position to retaliate in a manner unworthy and unacceptable for his position against people who have spoken out; and much of the larger LGBTQ community has lost faith in his leadership as well as his willingness to acknowledge the harm he has done and to change; we demand that Jeff Rindler undergo a community accountability process.
Whereas there have been numerous instances of actions by the leadership of the Center having caused harm to members of the community; and the majority of those harms have gone unacknowledged and unaddressed by the Center; and portions of the LGBTQ community no longer feel welcome or safe interacting with the Center; we demand that the Board issue a public acknowledgment of harm caused, a public apology to the LGBTQ community in general, private apologies to the former staff members and other community members who have been specifically harmed, and a public commitment in writing detailing actions they will take to do better in the future.
Whereas the Center as an institution has unwittingly created and promoted an environment of racism, ableism, cissexism, and class privilege, causing harm to and repelling many members of the LGBTQ community, and has prevented the Center from accomplishing its Mission; we demand that all Center staff and Board members, including the Executive Director, commit to a searching and courageous self-assessment of their own values and commitments, and if they find themselves unable to wholeheartedly and honestly align themselves with the work of intersectional queer liberation, which necessarily entails actively working to undo classism, racism, white supremacy, transphobia, ableism, hetero- and cis- normativity, and every other axis of oppression, especially those that directly benefit Center staff, Board members, and leadership - then we demand that those staff, Board members, and leadership who are unable or unwilling to commit to the ultimate undoing of their own privilege begin the process of transitioning out of their current roles at the Center, and thereby open those positions to people whose values are in line with the Center's Mission Statement and with the work of LGBTQ+ liberation. We also demand that all future hiring of staff and appointments of Board members be contingent upon a similar self-assessment process.
We, the undersigned members and allies of the LGBTQ community in the Hudson Valley, make these demands in a good faith effort to work with the Board of Directors to revitalize the Center and to recommit as a community to the values that have always underpinned the movement for LGBTQ liberation and equality. We are eager to collaborate with the Board of Directors and the staff of the Center to grow together into the community center we truly need. We are already creating it, and we will continue to build that courageous, loving, transformative community with or without the Center. There is an opportunity here for the Center to be so much more than just a fundraising vehicle and event space. We sincerely hope the Center will join us.
We’ll expect a detailed written response which addresses each of these initial demands by July 2, 2020, to be followed by a meeting after our receipt of that response.