Equality Virginia is committed to building a fully inclusive Commonwealth by educating, empowering, and mobilizing Virginians to ensure all LGBTQ people are free to live, love, learn, and work. In order to build a fully inclusive Commonwealth, we are dedicated to making anti-racism central to our work and ensuring LGBTQ Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, and Pacific Islander people are central to our advocacy and programs as leaders and decision makers. We are on a journey to build anti-racism into the foundation of how we operate and heal the harm of our past (in)actions.
As an organization with a predominantly white leadership and membership, it is our responsibility to use our resources, influence, and reach to combat white supremacy. However, throughout the organization’s 32-year existence, we have not acted with the urgency and deep commitment required to address and name the ways systemic racism threatens Black Virginians. This has been true even during the past year amid the uprisings in defense of Black life and the attacks on the Capitol by white nationalists urged on by a racist president.
We have not done enough to prioritize our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, and Pacific Islander community members, and this has allowed white supremacy to divide our collective community power. It is unacceptable that we did not answer the call to do more. We apologize to our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, and Pacific Islander community members, including our supporters, volunteers, speakers, and partner organizations for the ways we neglected to fully join you in the call to actively combat racism.
Our State’s Rotten Roots
Our office is located in the fallen capital of the confederacy – Richmond, Virginia. This country’s colonization of indigenous land, the genocide of indigenous nations, and the participation in the trans-Atlantic trade of enslaved Africans all started in Virginia. This oppression of Black and Indigenous communities has been constant and contributed to current conditions that we witness today right here in Virginia, such as wealth inequality, gentrification, mass incarceration, state violence, and police brutality – just to name a few ways. In Virginia, Ebony Morgan, Chae’Meshia Simms, Noony Norwood, and Sage Smith are some of the Black trans women who have gone missing or were murdered in the past few years. In 2018 in Richmond, an unarmed Black man in a mental health crisis, Marcus-David Peters, needed help and instead was killed in cold blood by a police officer who has yet to be held accountable. We honor all the generations who have faced down white supremacy, and we say the names of those we have lost.
Anti-racism is not additional to our work for LGBTQ equality, it is an indivisible part of the work of LGBTQ advocacy. When our movement is invested in defeating white supremacy, we all succeed and thrive. We must not allow white supremacy to divide our collective power. We take the stance that our work must be rooted in addressing the conditions of our community members who face the most unmet needs and the largest barriers, which is overwhelmingly Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, and Pacific Islander LGBTQ Virginians, especially transgender and non-binary people.
Apologies mean nothing without action, so we are committed to making deep organizational shifts to combat white supremacy and heal the harms of our past. Currently, these include bi-weekly meetings of the Racial Justice Committee within our Board of Directors, collaboration with a Planning & Equity Committee for our TIES conference, and a year-long investment with True North EDI, a racial equity consultant, to work with our staff to craft a plan for long-term systemic changes. We will also create opportunities for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, and Pacific Islander community members to make decisions affecting the course of our work. These commitments mark the beginning of this process, knowing the work is never complete. We will continue to keep the community up-to-date on these efforts moving forward on quarterly basis.
We are deeply grateful to the Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, and Pacific Islander leaders who have invested their time and energy to do good work alongside us in LGBTQ advocacy and anti-racism efforts. It is your leadership we will most invest in and prioritize.
We want to invite our community members, our volunteers, our Board of Directors, our donors and funders, and our allies to join us on this journey of embedding anti-racism into every aspect of the fight for LGBTQ equality. We do so in the hopes of building a beloved community invested in liberation for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, Asian, and Pacific Islander people in Virginia and beyond.
We welcome feedback, critique, and questions as we continue along this process. To directly contact Equality Virginia, email [email protected].