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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 24, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 39
New study examines relationship between racial justice organizations and LGBT communities
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New study examines relationship between racial justice organizations and LGBT communities

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On September 15, a new landmark study on the relationship between racial justice organizations and LGBT communities found that the lack of resources, funding, and community support are obstacles to engagement.

The study, titled 'Better Together: Research Findings on the Relationship Between Racial Justice Organizations and LGBT Communities' and produced by Applied Research Center (ARC) in partnership with the Arcus Foundation, points out that there are damaging perceptions about LGBT communities and racial justice groups - specifically, that LGBT identity and politics are for white people, and that communities of color are disproportionately homophobic.

'These myths harm LGBT communities of color and continue to be perpetuated by divisive, politically motivated platforms such as the Proposition 8 Campaign,' said Rinku Sen, president and executive director of ARC.

Formed in 1981, ARC is America's leading think tank on racial justice. The Arcus Foundation is a leading global foundation, dedicated to advancing pressing social justice and conservation issues.

"Better Together" is a result of surveys and interviews with more than 80 organizations and 30 key leaders, based on the premise that significant numbers of LGBT people are of color and compromising an important part of the racial justice constituency.

"The report focuses on current engagement efforts, perceived barriers, potential opportunities, and key recommendations for advancing work in this intersectional area," said Sen. "When racial justice groups, including those focused on LGBT people, take on the intersection of race and sexuality, they can build enduring political power to make the policy and practice changes that improve communities nationwide."

Primary recommendations are:

o Increased funding and support for LGBT organizations of color.

o Investment in tools for strategic clarity.

o Supporting leadership development for LGBT leaders of color.

o Building media and communications infrastructure.

"The significance of philanthropic support for racial justice engagement of LGBT issues cannot be overestimated," said Roz Lee, senior program officer of Arcus Foundation's Racial Justice, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity program. "There is a critical need for general and targeted funding for LGBT organizations of color and partnership-building. Additionally, funders must support media and leadership development in order to increase visibility for the incredible work that is happening every day."

The report is generally optimistic about the opportunities for more organizations to engage, but "Better Together" also warns that many existing programs focused on LGBT people of color do exist but are not receiving the media attention and visibility that would support expansion, much less impact public perception of the issue necessary for policy change.

As the study shows, there are compelling reasons and opportunities to address barriers to effective engagement explicitly over the long term.

"Arcus is proud to support the Applied Research Center's research on racial justice engagement of LGBT issues, and it is our hope that more funders provide targeted funding to support critical research on this intersectional area, partnerships between these overlapping communities, and capacity-building for budding LGBT organizations of color."

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