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DETROIT – It’s a milestone for Detroit’s black LGBT community. LGBT Detroit recently purchased a building of its own on Greenfield Road on the city’s west side. The 3,100 square foot building is nearly three times the size of the space the agency currently rents on Burroughs Street in midtown. The purchase makes LGBT Detroit one of the first black LGBT non-profits in the country to operate within its own space.
“We’re the first in this kind of work,” said Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of LGBT Detroit.
“We’re the first that is not a health agency or a faith organization [to own our own building]. I’m very proud of that. We already lead with Hotter Than July being the second oldest black gay pride celebration in the nation. People look favorably upon what we have to offer and I’m very grateful for that. It’s something we can’t take lightly.”
Though Lipscomb estimates the purchase and renovation of the new space will cost approximately $500,000, LGBT Detroit just completed a Kickstarter campaign for $10,000 and actually raised over $1,000 more than they had sought.
“There are some immediate priorities that must be met in order for us to be compliant and to have a safe space for anyone to walk into,” Lipscomb explained. “The Kickstarter campaign helps handle those issues immediately. However, as we look forward to really making this facility optimal we’ll be looking for additional support to transform this indoor/outdoor space so it’s enjoyable for all the people we serve.”
As part of the Kickstarter campaign, and on social media, LGBT Detroit repeatedly referred to the new building as a “safe, brave space.”
“That’s a hashtag,” said Lipscomb. “We thought about some kind of hashtag, a call to action, a rally call that will get people to understand immediately our goal. So it was really simple when we thought about it. A ‘safe, brave space’ is really needed to organize around our mission, our goals and our aims. For those of us who are LGBT people we are oppressed, particularly in the state of Michigan, where we are not safe around so many issues. We need a space to be safe to really organize around our issues. And it’s brave because so many people feel that you can’t organize in Detroit. We’ve been doing it for so many years in our work … we are bravely moving challenges out of the way and knocking down barriers and confronting obstacles and looking at our opponents and saying, ‘listen, we want to move collectively forward.’ So you have to be brave to do all of that.”
Lipscomb said the new building will provide the agency with financial flexibility.
“We are currently housed in midtown Detroit and that has diminished a lot of flexibility to provide services,” he said. “With the rising costs of what has happened in midtown and downtown it has truly hindered us. So the new space will truly give us flexibility. That might not be the first thing that someone who comes to the center sees but that’s the first thing that the board sees.
“We can provide multiple spaces indoors and outdoors and provide an opportunity for those coming in to seek more services,” Lipscomb continued.
Others at the agency shared Lipscomb’s enthusiasm for the new space.
“I really love it because it gives us a safe place for just us,” said Antonio Johnson-Seals, LGBT Detroit’s board president. “We’ve been working on this for close to 15 years.”
Johnson said the building will be multi-purpose.
“It provides a space not just for us, but also the community at large to have meetings and come together as one, to discuss openly what’s going on in Detroit.”
LGBT Detroit Youth Advisory Board Member Rhiannon Chester said the purchase of the new building is huge.
“I think that LGBT Detroit getting its own building is monumental,” Chester said. “Because it’s our building we’ll be able to openly express ourselves and be very visible in the community. We want to show that the LGBT community is a part of the resurgence and rebuilding of Detroit.”
The agency hopes to move into their new building in early fall. A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place then.