Lincoln Park-based Lighthouse Foundation, an advocacy that primarily uplifts Black LGBTQ Chicagoans and has its roots in Lincoln Park-based Lighthouse Church of Chicago, will survey five prominent LGBTQ-focused local organizations to measure their inclusion of Black individuals at their staff, board and client levels.
The project, Lighthouse's key initiative for 2021, will be called the Black LGBTQ-plus Equity Index, and signals a transition from "reactive confrontation to proactive collaboration," according to Rev. Jamie Frazier, who officiates at Lighthouse Church and is the Foundation's executive director. He spoke about the project Jan. 9 during the Foundation's virtual Black Queer Pride winter edition.
Lighthouse Foundation became especially active in the summer of 2019, when it played a key role in a number of protests against racist incidents and overall systemic racism in Lake View. Frazier described the organization's work in part as presenting a challenge to white gay men who until now have been the "prime beneficiaries" of progress the LGBTQ community has made the last five decades.
"LGBTQ-plus folks, since Stonewall, have made huge stridesstrides in rights, employment opportunities and access to generational wealth [for example]but those rights have not been fairly and equitably distributed," Frazier said. "Black queer folks have not seen the benefit and uplift that our white queer siblings have experienced."
He added, "We envision a Chicagoland in which all Black LGBTQ-plus people are safe, liberated, healthy, whole and well-resourced."
The Index would be an initiative measuring how well five Chicago organizations "mirror the clients that they serve" and researching the experiences of Black staff and board members. Those organizations include AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Howard Brown Health Center, Chicago House, Center on Halsted and Equality Illinois.
"The Index affords us, and the organizations we collaborate with, powerful opportunities to pursue racial equity in meaningfuland measurableways," said Frazier.
He added, "We need more than Black faces in queer places. We need intersectional analysis and need to know if they are properly supported by their institutions so that they aren't just 'present.'"
Frazier emphasized that the study would not be a "calling out," naming it a "calling-in" instead. The project would likely be "scaled up" to include more institutions in subsequent years.
Lighthouse Foundation has two full-time and three part-time staff members, and pays stipends to three other individuals, Frazier noted. As with nearly all organizations, Lighthouse underwent a dramatic pivot in 2020, moving its events online and raising funds to assist Black LGBTQ Chicagoans in need. About $16,000 was distributed by its Black Queer Mutual Aid Fund.
Lighthouse's Rev. Smash, who organizes the foundation's CARE (Coalition of Accomplices for Racial Equity) read responses in gratitude from recipients of that financial relief Jan. 9.
"It helped a lot of folks stay afloat, so we are really grateful," added Smash.
"It was so necessary because there was an unprecedented number of people out of work," said Black Queer Caucus Program Coordinator Morgan Sherm. " ... It was vital to their sanity at times."