The Collective Progression of Black and LGBTQ+ Communities

In February 2022, PIOW’s Jonathan Allen was joined by LGBTQ+ and allied Black community leaders to discuss the significance of Black History Month and our capacity to build toward the collective progression of our communities.

What are the realities of existing in a society with a history based in silencing and stagnating LGBTQ+ and Black individuals? In our conversation with Chastity Bowick, we unpack inter-community relationships to better understand what it means center accountability in our advocacy and press on in the face of record legislation and political tension targeting LGBTQ+, and specifically trans, communities.

From this conversation, we learn that there is a shared power in recognizing and declaring one’s own worth and the collective worth of our communities. Innovation and perseverance through discomfort remain at the core of successful grassroots organizing. Despite progress made individually by Black and LGBTQ+ equality movements, there are still significant opportunities for growth if we can set preconceived judgements of difference aside, see each other as human first, and advocate together for the collective progression of traditionally marginalized groups.

We got to do what we got to do to make sure people know that we matter – make sure we understand that we matter. You are enough. Our people are enough. And if they don’t think we’re enough, we’re going to show them that we are enough, and that’s only with community, love, education, and guidance.

Chastity Bowick, on Self and Community Worth

At the time of this recording, Chastity Bowick was the Executive Director of the Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts, an organization that remains incredibly important in providing direct support to low-income and homeless trans and non-binary individuals in MA.

Chastity now serves as the Community Engagement Director of Mass General Hospital’s Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement (CARE) Research Center. Learn more about this work here.

Black History, Community, and Navigating Identity with Beth Chandler

Our conversation with Beth Chandler not only features a discussion of “Black History” as we understand it today, but also explores ways to redefine and recognize history as it continues to unfold before us in the present. Who is driving change, and how can we bring organizations along with us to champion racial equality in our workplaces and in our broader society?

Beth and Jonathan tackle the complicated process of acknowledging one’s own level of privilege and “proximity to whiteness,” through an intersectional lens. Although it can be a divisive topic, we know that the juggling of identities (often expressed as code-switching), and participation in identity-based oppression olympics at work can leave employees feeling exhausted, misunderstood, and at odds with coworkers. Many times, unconscious biases and misconceptions about others (or ourselves) are baked into the systems we’ve come to accept as the norm in our industries.

Beth speaks to the ways these biases can be seen in the hiring of diverse employees:

“There’s some assumption [when] we hire a white person. Oh, they must be qualified. You hire a person of color and people start whispering, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’

And then that gets at the system, right? So why do you believe that?”

Beth Chandler, on Diverse Hiring and Bias

Beth Chandler is the President and CEO of YW Boston, an organization dedicated to the elimination of racism and the empowerment of women. YW Boston helps individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with the goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed. Learn more about their work here.

Difference, Solidarity, and Accountability with Keith Marion

Our conversation with Keith Marion was grounded in a nuanced understanding of allyship, as it pertains to both individuals with a passion for advocacy and organizations that have the opportunity to influence significant structural and societal change.

In acknowledging the potential of companies to create meaningful impact, Keith also speaks to the reality that many companies have failed to deliver on recent promises to support Black professionals, create opportunities for rising leaders, and invest in communities following public demonstrations. In the clip below, Keith comments on the performative allyship that so many of us witnessed in reaction to 2020’s BLM protests:

“Corporations and associations have a level of power that you and I don’t. They have the influence that you and I don’t… We saw a lot of companies and corporations and organizations be performative around taking stances and utilizing their voice in some ways to self-serve their organizations and not necessarily serve their constituency, their colleagues, their employees, their environments.”

Keith Marion, on Corporate Allyship

Keith Marion serves as the Director of Community Engagement Programs at Point32Health. As a long-time ally to the LGBTQ+ community and active advocate for the lived equity of all communities, we are grateful for Keith’s leadership as a partner in our work and for the support of Point32Health as a sponsor of our organization. Learn more about Point32Health’s commitment to DEI and community health equity here.

This series was possible because of the efforts of the PIOW team and the significant contributions made by our Board Member, Jonathan L. Allen. Outside of his time volunteering with our organization, Jonathan works as the Co-founder and Director of Development at Leadership Brainery, an organization addressing inequitable access to master’s and doctoral degrees and workforce leadership opportunities for underrepresented talent and those systematically excluded from higher education. They believe that with greater resources, access to inclusive networks, and advanced education, underrepresented communities can leverage impactful and higher-wage careers to establish financial stability and reinvest in their communities to create generational prosperity.

We thank Jonathan for his commitment to prioritizing intersectional discussions of inclusion within in our organization and in his own nonprofit. We encourage prospective graduate students and employers that share this commitment to inclusion to learn more about and consider working with Leadership Brainery here.

Remember, Black History Month may only come around once a year (during the shortest month of the year), but Black leaders are contributing to our collective progress, as a society and as LGBTQ+ community, year-round. We value all in our network working towards this goal together. For more on racial equity and Black history, explore related posts below.

Opening Dialogues on Racial Equity

How can individuals begin to address racial inequities at work? What steps can we take to ensure the creation of more equitable spaces for all employees in our organizations? In June and October of 2020, Pride in Our Workplace posed these questions to community leaders in the two-part virtual panel series titled, The Intersection of LGBTQ+…

Celebration, Education, and Accountability on Juneteenth

Progress towards a more equitable future can begin when we center Black LGBTQ+ individuals, experiences, and histories in our collective advocacy. By deepening our understanding of the systemic oppression faced by Black and marginalized communities, we become better equipped to push for larger workplace and societal change.

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