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Audre Lorde Project Faces Uncertain Future

Organization enters “restoration period” amid internal discontent, space constraints

A group participates in an Audre Lorde Project membership orientation event in January.
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The Audre Lorde Project, a New York City-based organization dedicated to achieving justice for LGBTQ people of color, is entering a nine-month “restoration period” during which the team will shutter one of its two offices and staff members will re-evaluate the operation across a range of areas.

Named after the late African-American poet, English professor, and lesbian activist whose Staten Island home was recently landmarked by the city, ALP has been in operation since 1994, initially in Fort Greene and later in Chelsea, as well. But six leaders of the team made an announcement on October 2 that revealed signs of turbulence on multiple fronts — including fundraising — and raised questions about the long-term stability of one of the city’s few groups specifically dedicated to LGBTQ people of color.

The letter first confronts apparent concerns that the organization has, in the process of serving the community, neglected to treat its own team with respect, saying that they “often have fallen victim to capitalist ideas of productivity over people.”

The letter continued, “This has at times caused us to stumble — choosing punitive responses over transformation, placing healing on the backburner, and not being as transparent with internal happenings within the organization as needed. In solidarity with our members, current/ former staff, and the community that we serve, we want to apologize for the harm that has been caused.”

The organization is beginning the nine-month restoration period this month to “better focus on deep internal study and alignment” and bolster political education tools, curriculum, trainings, programming, and campaigns,” according to the announcement.

ALP also voiced plans to update internal policies and “relaunch” its “membership structure” to expand opportunities for those who wish to gain leadership roles.

Among ALP’s current offerings include the “Safe OUTside the System Collective,” which is an anti-violence program; “TransJusti­ce,” which mobilizes transgender and gender nonconforming folks on key political issues facing the community; and “3rd Space,” which entails working with LGBTQ people of color who need assistance with employment, education, healthcare, and immigration issues. Of those programs, the letter only specified changes to the 3rd Space program. In a written statement to Gay City News, the organization said the only looming changes to the programs as a whole are plans to “de-isolate” staffers and have them work comprehensively in all areas of the operation.

While much of the letter focused on upcoming internal changes, there also appears to be financial trouble on the horizon. The announcement stated that ALP plans to “strengthen” its fundraising plans and close its Manhattan office in Chelsea due to rising rent costs.

“From November 1 to January, our offices will be closed to the public while we prepare for our move,” the letter continued. “This means that we can’t accommodate unscheduled drop-ins during this time. In order to honor community needs, we will update and share the Resource Guide created by our 3rd Space program to provide referrals for services needed.”

The organization told Gay City News that the team does not anticipate any limitations in their work after trimming down to one office space. However, due to accessibility issues at the Brooklyn location in Fort Greene, ALF said, “we will be doing a mapping of free or low-cost spaces that are more accessible for us to continue our external public programming.”

The announcement also mentioned at a three-year plan, for which details remain scarce. But ALF clarified that the restoration period “is essentially an incubator to achieve success for the full 3 year plan.”

“We can’t grow until we have effectively tilled the land we seek nourishment from,” ALF said. “After establishing set structures, identifying institutional failures, and executing a full organizational alignment, we will be better off to achieve our main 3 year plan goals.”

Those goals, ALF said, include strengthening ALP’s political education and community organizing work; defining wellness, healing justice, and safety and how those are integrated into ALP’s work; increasing wellness, development, and accountability among its staff; and diversifying funding “with an eye toward long-term stability.”

When asked whether the organization’s long-term existence could be in jeopardy, a spokesperson said, “Some organizations face those questions and push past them to exist for the sake of existing. We truly want to honor the dignity of our stakeholders and the work that’s been accomplished in our 23-year legacy; in order to do that, we must face who we are in regards to the communities we are accountable to.”

The letter nonetheless captured the extent to which ALP is plagued by issues that have emerged among several other organizations dedicated to LGBTQ people of color in New York City. Griot Circle, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit dedicated to LGBTQ seniors of color, intends to expand someday but currently receives only small funding boosts from city government and, like ALP now, is limited to just one office. Gay Men of African Descent, an organization focused on HIV prevention and sexual health also based in Brooklyn, went on hiatus this past summer amid shortages in funding.

“With grace, humility, and hearts open to critique, love, and change, ALP will continue to be in the fight for racial, gender, and economic justice with all of you,” the letter concluded.

Posted 12:00 am, October 10, 2019
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