by Jessica Carreras
Many organizations come and go without anyone ever noticing them. What starts as a great idea fizzles when funds, manpower and willpower die out. The same is true for the black LGBT community in Detroit – which has seen the rise and fall of many grassroots organizations over the past 20 years.
Some, however, are here to stay, and for southeast Michigan’s black gay community, those names are Kick and S.P.I.C.E.
For over a decade, both organizations have been changing lives and creating events within the area, and both are poised this year to show tremendous growth with increased resources and revenue and two grants from the HOPE Fund’s Racial Equity Initiative. But even more than their own growth, both organizations hope to see the black LGBT community of Detroit and surrounding areas thrive and go places its never gone before.
Kick and S.P.I.C.E. know the community is expanding, and they’re hoping to lead the way.
The ten-year anniversary of S.P.I.C.E. – Sistahs Providint Intelligence, Creativity and Empowerment – came and went in January without a peep from the organization. No cake with candles, no balloons and streamers and no party or announcement. Instead, Executive Director Andrea Wilson and her team were hard at work building the meat of S.P.I.C.E. from the inside out.
While still maintaining their usual events, the organization has been busy in past months doing housekeeping to strengthen the organization. Things like rewriting their bylaws, creating a Web site and coming up with a financial policy and strategic plan have taken up their time. So much so, in fact, that they haven’t even touched the $20,000 grant given to them by the HOPE Fund.
“We’re trying to establish some consistency and some longevity in the community,” explained Wilson of the decision to hold off on using the grant money. “We’ve raised almost $10,000 and we said in our grant that we would raise $13,000 for the 2009 fiscal year and we’ve already almost met our goal. We wanted to show them – grant funders want to see that you can survive without their money and that’s the purpose of us hitting it really hard.”
By those efforts, 2009 marks the first year S.P.I.C.E. has raised over $25,000 and filed their 990 tax forms. It’s a long way from the little discussion group that started over ten years ago.
“It was only intended to be a potluck discussion group,” Wilson, who pioneered S.P.I.C.E. with two other women, recalled. “We started off with about 15 of us and by the fifth or sixth year, it was 80 women a week. It was overwhelming, and they wanted more than just to sit and talk. They wanted to see what we could do about health care, babysitting services. We were the catalyst for a lot of women just to come out.”
And more than anything, they wanted to know that S.P.I.C.E. would always be there when they needed them. “They knew they could come back for support,” Wilson said. “People can come out without anybody around, but then what happens after you come out? And we were able to answer that question.”
Though the organization has grown exponentially, that founding purpose still holds true today, and the discussion group is still the hub of S.P.I.C.E. “We think the core programming for S.P.I.C.E. is definitely our sister circle, our discussion group,” Wilson explained. “It is what defines us. It is the thing that I think is going to keep the women coming back because the support is there for them. That’s never going to change.”
What is changing, however, is the amount of other programming the organization is able to do. Wilson said that in the near future, the group hopes to obtain a building for operating out of, create more programming and outreach in the areas of health and religious institutions and start a mentoring program for young black LGBT women.
They’ve already begun, too, and their second film festival was held during Hotter Than July week on July 23 to a near-sold-out group.
But more than anything, S.P.I.C.E. just hopes to stick around.
“We just want to be around for anybody who wants to walk through the door and needs to know that they’re loved,” Wilson said. “We want to help be a vehicle for our own community of color to have someone who empowers them and lifts them up.”
For Kick, having an empowered, thriving black LGBT community in Michigan is all about having a place to call home – and they want that place to be Kick.
Need advice on where to get tested? Call Kick. Not sure which restaurants are the hip gay hangouts? Kick knows. New to the area and looking for friends? Kick can help. And with their office in Detroit’s New Center, they can provide assistance better than ever.
“We think of this site as the welcome center for area gays and lesbians to know what’s going on in Detroit,” explained Executive Director Curtis Lipscomb. “If you look up Kick, we’re listed in the phone book. If you call us, you’ll get a human voice that will give you any kind of information that you may need. … You may want to know a number of things that we believe people will call us for and we will refer them to that service.”
Since the HOPE Fund’s Racial Equity Initiative provided Kick with a grant for over $15,000, the group has been able to purchase phones, computers and software necessary to serve as the go-to place for the goings on of Detroit’s LGBT community.
Like S.P.I.C.E., Kick is a far cry from where it began 15 years ago. Started in 1994 as a for-profit magazine, Kick made the transition to a non-profit in 2003. Now, they boast having 137 active members and are the only membership-based LGBT organization of color in the state. They only plan to grow bigger with their Friendship Drive each year – and with one coming up on Aug. 7, they hope to increase their membership by 5 percent this weekend.
More than just a place to go for information, however, Kick hopes to continue to provide more programming to the community and to partner up with other organizations. They’re already doing so, in fact, with their educational series, Live and Learn. The series brings speakers in from such organizations as the Triangle Foundation, faith-based organizations and legal organizations to address issues of importance to the LGBT community. They’ve covered marriage, law, finance, health and more, and their next seminar on coming out happens in September.
Kick sees the organization’s progression and growth as a microcosm of the entire black gay community’s growth, and hopes that within a few years, Detroit will have an LGBT-friendly area comparable to Chicago’s Boys Town. And with a great office location near the cultural district, restaurants and nightclubs, Kick hopes to be at the center of it all.
“I know that within the city of Detroit,” said Lipscomb, “we will be the recognizable spot for gays and lesbians to find what’s going on.”