Justice is Sweet: Astraea’s Funding the Fight for Queer People of Color

The following post can also be found at Equality 101 in honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2010.

The Astraea Foundation funds LGBTI social justice activism both in the US and globally. (photo courtesy of Astraea)

Do you know who is funding the fight for queer social justice in Africa?

Do you know who is funding the fight for queer social justice in Latin America?

Do you know who is funding the fight for queer social justice right here in the US?

The answer to all of these questions is Astraea. No other public foundation is working harder for sweet justice than the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the world’s only foundation solely dedicated to funding LGBTI organizations in both the United States and internationally.

For more than 30 years, Astraea has been a major leader in the social-justice-feminist movement. Astraea began in 1977 in New York when a small group of women created a multi-racial, multi-class, feminist foundation in order to address the lack of funding for women—specifically lesbians and women of color. According to Executive Director Katherine Acey, the founding mothers—including Stella Alvo, Audrey Barnes, Nancy Dean, Barbara Grant, Joyce Hunter, Roberta Kosse, Cynthia Long, Achebe Powell, Joan Watts and Leslie Kanes Weisman—“believed that even the smallest of gestures, when combined, could create, nurture and strengthen significant social change. And they were right.”

Through the years, Astraea has become a major global women’s fund that supports not only lesbian social change activism but also that of gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) groups throughout the world. This past year alone, with the support of donor partners, Astraea granted more than $2.2 million to 210 organizations and 21 individuals in 109 cities across 43 countries.

As a fourth-year board member, I am proud to be a part of Astraea’s work in moving forward social, racial, economic and gender justice.  What sets Astraea apart from other foundations and what makes me excited to become a lifelong donor is its commitment to movement building and to queer people of color.

Their signature U.S. based Movement Building Initiative (MBI), now entering its fourth year, provides multi-year financial and structural support for 12 different queer people of color-led organizations. The 12 MBI grantees include: Affinity in Chicago; ALLGO in Austin; the Audre Lorde Project in New York; the Center for Artistic Revolution in Little Rock; the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio; FIERCE in New York; the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance in Washington, D.C.; Queers for Economic Justice in New York; the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project in San Francisco; Southerners on New Ground (SONG) in Atlanta; the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York; and the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project in San Francisco.

Internationally, one of the most exciting initiatives Astraea has engaged in is the Consortium of Latin American Women’s Funds LBT Project, which has collectively mobilized $1.5 million to invest in LBT organizations over two years.  The consortium connects more than 60 organizations in 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, from Chile to México. With grantee partners in all 17 countries, Astraea’s LBT Project grants are focused in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Peru. As a queer Latina, Astraea’s involvement in this Consortium is particularly important to me, and makes me all the more inspired to support their work.

Within the past few months, Astraea has also responded to world events affecting LGBTI individuals and groups, in particular the Ugandan anti-gay bill and Haiti’s earthquake. Astraea’s support of on-the-ground activists in Uganda earned them a mention in the New York Times based on an interview with Mai Kiang, Director of Programs, as well as a spot on WBAI’s Out FM radio hour, which featured Astraea’s Program Officer Dulce Reyes. Astraea also supports Las Tres Gatas and Transsa Dominicana in their relief efforts in Haiti.

Led for the past 23 years by Katherine Acey—whose indefatigable energy and vision has placed Astraea at important philanthropic tables such as the 2008 Arcus Foundation convening of LGBTI funders in Bellagio, Italy—Astraea continues to be as indefatigable as its executive director. Nothing evinces Astraea’s tenacity more than their new “Justice is Sweet” campaign that reminds us of their purpose: a world in which all people, including LGBTI people, can live freely and safely worldwide. By pooling resources large and small, Astraea promises to fund the fight for queer, feminist social change for many years to come.

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