Affirmations, Equality Michigan, Ruth Ellis: Will our 'big 3' be stronger?

We've all felt the effects of this economic downturn in our personal lives. Companies downsizing, jobs lost, friends moving to other states. Even Detroit is downsizing, neighborhoods disappearing, education struggling, businesses closing, and services being slashed.
It is hitting each of us hard and in this time of uncertainty we turn to our organizations even more. In the abstract we understand that giving is down and this hurts our organizations, but have our expectations really come to grips with this?
It's been happening for a while. Like the automotive "Big Three," our big three have been in crisis for a long while with no bailout in sight.
Our decline did not come with headlines, bankruptcy or the congressional attention the auto industry received, but each time they took a hit we took a body slam – not just in donations, but in the heart and soul of what has kept our community so resilient, despite the unfriendly and sometime hostile politics of Michigan. We have lost the time and talent of our LGBT community.
We've been downsizing, but have we been doing it strategically so we can reemerge leaner, stronger and better in the future? Are we poised for a GM-like reemergence or just wishing and hoping that things will get better?
The recent merger of Michigan Equality and Triangle Foundation was as much as a consolidation of resources as it was a consolidation of our many voices in our fight for equality into one strong statewide voice. The Ruth Ellis Center had to take a step back, reevaluate its purpose, mission and vision and make painful downsizing decisions.
Now it's Affirmation's turn. Our center grew from its humble beginnings to be a bright shining star of achievement and LGBT presence in Ferndale. But even this new, much needed and utilized facility was not safe from Michigan's economic flu. Staff and hours have already been cut and a campaign is underway to provide a much needed financial infusion.
Recently there has been a call for yet another merger, this time between Affirmations and Equality Michigan, but where's the long-term strategy for our community?
We have one statewide voice in Equality Michigan, but our voice in the 2010 mid-term elections was far less impactful than in 2008. We won the unity battle so that we were no longer squabbling amongst ourselves, but didn't do so well in the overall war for LGBT equality in Michigan.
The Republican sweep in Lansing, the coming conservative Supreme Court, an untested (on LGBT issues) Governor-elect, congressional redistricting by conservative leadership and serious threats to our allies in Washington including Debbie Stabenow – what's our strategy?
Is moving Equality Michigan into Affirmation's building a good move? Who knows? But again: where's the long-term strategy? It might be a better use of space, but would it resolve the overhead expenses inherent in owning a building?
I have often said that Affirmations would benefit from taking a page from the HRC playbook. A great deal of the HRC building in Washington D.C. is rented out, not just to other non-profits, but also to progressive businesses. This in effect helps the building pay for itself.
And what about Equality Michigan's building? That space on Detroit's west side is an asset to our community by its mere presence. That's an intangible that must be considered in planning a strategy for the future growth and stability of our community.
I'm lovin' the Ruth Ellis Center. It's like our own Ford Motor Company. They tightened their belt, made necessary cuts, and downsized staff, programming and hours. They took a hard look at themselves and came out swinging. Kudos to the board, executive director and kids who were part of the solution.
We cannot keep looking at our challenges in the same way and expect different outcomes. We need a holistic strategy that looks not just at today, but towards the future. It's more than just raising more money, having another fundraiser, and sending out another letter of appeal.
Our community is smaller and earning less, but we are rich in talent, passion and possibilities. We are a community within a greater community and neither will survive without the other.
Our connectivity to the greater community provides opportunities for growth, understanding and equality but we've got to come out of our LGBT closet, think outside the box and put some motion in this movement.
This is a tough time, but it also a time of infinite opportunities – a time to get off the defense and take some strategic offensive action to be the change we want.
We- the LGBT community – care, but please don't ask us for a bailout without a plan for winning this fight for equality.
In the spirit of the season let's build together, not shout or pout – we don't need any more lumps of coal in our stockings. As for me, I'm making my list and checking it twice and sending season's greetings to all and hopes for a happy, prosperous new year in peace and equality.

Topics: Opinions

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