CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 2017 has been a transformative year, for better and worse, in a number of ways, both locally and nationally.
Charlotte’s LGBTQ organizations have weathered the storm of a tumultuous year politically and managed to do outstanding work in the face of adversity.
Here is a look back at what four of the largest LGBTQ organizations in the region accomplished this year and a look ahead to what to expect from these groups come 2018.
MeckPAC also saw most of the candidates it endorsed win their races in November, including Mayor Vi Lyles and all the Charlotte City Council candidates the organization got behind.
It also celebrated the fact that it had more than double the number of candidate responses than it received in 2015 from Mecklenburg County town candidates.
MeckPAC also announced a push for PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, in Meckleburg County. PrEP is a once-daily pill that can significantly decrease the chances of contracting HIV.
While the county was initially resistant to funding PrEP as part of a strategy to address the growing HIV epidemic in Charlotte and the surrounding region, their efforts, alongside the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, convinced officials to act.
On Dec. 19, the Mecklenburg County Commission approved the use of $233,000 in contingency funds to implement a PrEP pilot program to assist uninsured individuals at high risk for contracting the virus.
It will serve at least 320 people, at $1,300 per person annually.
“MeckPAC and the North Carolina AIDS Action Network applaud the county commission’s intentional movement towards supporting uninsured, at-risk county residents,” they said in a joint statement. “We were also encouraged to hear commissioners reference the need to develop a full, comprehensive plan to end new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the county. We will hold them to their commitment to approve and implement a plan in 2018.”
Equality North Carolina
Equality North Carolina (ENC) celebrated a significant number of its endorsed candidates winning their elections this November. Of 65 endorsed candidates, 45 of them won on Election Night.
Matt Hirschy, interim executive director of ENC, noted in a press release that the organization endorsed more municipal candidates in 2017 than ever before in its history. He called the results “nothing but amazing” and predicted that “the wave of newly elected openly LGBTQ candidates will be vital in our efforts to keep the state moving forward.”
“2017 will certainly be a year we won’t soon forget”, Hirschy told qnotes. “Knowing that our community still faces significant structural inequities, we’ll be launching exciting new intersectional programs in 2018 that will focus on proactively resourcing our community with the skills and tools we need to succeed in the future. Our members and supporters can expect Equality NC to continue to hold leaders accountable, and resource them with the tools they need to help us achieve full lived and legal equality. We invite everyone to join us as we invest in proactive movement building and work hard to get openly LGBTQ and allied elected officials into office.”
ENC is also in the midst of searching for a new executive director, after former head Chris Sgro stepped down to take a position with the Human Rights Campaign in May.
Time Out Youth Center
Time Out Youth Center (TOY) had a historic 2017, opening its newly purchased facilities at 3800 Monroe Rd. in east Charlotte in August.
Pushed out of its former building in NoDa due to the rising rents that come with gentrification, TOY managed to find a way to make the best of a bad situation.
The organization’s new location, purchased at the end of 2016, is much larger, offering it the opportunity to grow to its full potential. The building itself is 7,400 square feet and the property is large enough to allow for expansion.
“Staff sat down and did the dream list of what we were looking for,” TOY Executive Director Rodney Tucker told qnotes back in February, adding that the new building had provided almost everything they were looking for even before the remodel.
The building has also allowed them to welcome in ENC, in addition to Transcend Charlotte, another local non-profit that serves the transgender community. Both have taken two offices each in the new space. Additionally, ENC is partnering with TOY to take its school outreach program statewide. TOY also plans to open a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in the coming years in a first for Charlotte.
It will take 2018 as a planning year, looking at what the housing program should look like and what the true cost is likely to be, placing it in a better position to move forward.
The plan was given a serious boost in February, in the form of a $1.5 million donation from the Gambrell Family Foundation. It is the largest donation the organization has ever received, and represents almost half of the $3.4 million it said it hoped to raise over the next five years in order to help pay for the renovations and open the shelter. The Howard R. Levine Foundation and Howard and Julie Levine also gave TOY a $100,000 matching grant to TOY’s capital campaign.
Freedom Center for Social Justice
The Freedom Center for Social Justice (FCSJ) can count many successes in its organizing work in 2017, both in Charlotte and beyond.
The organization added over 100 new businesses to its Yes, You Can Go campaign, launched last year in response to House Bill 2 and its restrictive laws against transgender bathroom use. Businesses receive a packet including signage informing transgender people that they are welcome to use the facilities matching their gender identity. Those interested in receiving materials, as well as training if requested, are encouraged to contact email@example.com or call 980-729-8454.
Executive Director Tonyia Rawls was honored in Essence Magazine’s “Woke 100” list, recognizing “the women who are blazing trails for equal rights and inclusion for Black people in America,” alongside Michelle Obama, Rep. Maxine Waters, Amandla Stenberg and more.
The organization also helped coordinate The Historic Thousands on Jones Street rally and march this year in Raleigh, where for the first time, transgender families were placed in a position of honor as a show of solidarity.
It also helped organize the consecration of Rev. William Barber II, qnotes 2017 Person of the Year, as Bishop of Repairers of the Breach. Barber was consecrated by the LGBTQ-led College of Progressive Bishops.
Additionally, FCSJ helped coordinate the kickoff event for the Poor People’s Campaign, also led by Barber.
It will also once again return to the National LGBTQ Task Force Creating Change Conference in Washington, D.C., taking place from Jan. 24-28, 2018. This time the organization will be sponsoring five members of the LGBTQ community to join staff, and has asked those interested to send an email explaining why they wish to attend to firstname.lastname@example.org.