To Our LGBTQIA+ Siblings and Allies,

If there is one thing we have learned, it is that we must take care of each other. This has always been true for our LGBTQIA+ community. Our history is a stark reminder of caring for those that society deems “less than” during times of medical crisis. Every decision we make has a reverberating impact. If we don’t do the work for our community, nobody else will.

Today we remain in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its toll has been unprecedented, particularly for the most vulnerable; those with pre-existing health conditions, communities of color and low-income workers.

As LGBTQIA+ Charlotte-area organizations, we are calling on our community to recommit ourselves in the fight against COVID-19. We are asking that each of us lead with care and love, taking every recommended safety effort to protect ourselves and one another.

We know all too well the fatigue many share at this moment and the economic hardships faced. The pain institutions, businesses and individuals have suffered.

Now is the time to remember the countless, unnecessary lives lost and recognize that the deaths and hospitalizations continue to grow. The 500,000+ lives lost are loved ones — Moms, Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Siblings and Friends — each with a name, each with a precious story and a soul that no longer lives on this earth. Many lives could have been saved and no more should have to die because we failed to listen and act.

Hope is on the horizon but this is not over. We must remain vigilant now more than ever. We must be steadfast in our conviction to protect each and every member of our community. Inequities abound, as systems of oppression hamper vaccine rollouts to marginalized peoples while those with greater privilege are better positioned to take safety precautions at work and home.

We must listen and follow the healthcare experts who have given us a blueprint to move ahead to the next chapter.   We must ensure all of us have equitable, affordable healthcare access and the resources needed to take care of and feed our families; specifically our most vulnerable, people of color and low income families. This includes access to help with loss of income due to COVID-19, burial services for victim families, counseling, mental health resources and other health needs.

Together we believe that there are ways to prevent more unnecessary death. Civil rights champion and openly gay black activist Bayard Rustin once said: “We are all one — and if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.” What we are calling for is not new. The message bears repeating 500,000 plus times for every life lost.

As leaders and members of Charlotte’s LGBTQIA+ community, we implore our community to take our safety seriously, protect ourselves and those most vulnerable and act to be safe taking care of one another. We ask that we commit to and follow the guidelines:

• Wear your mask. Medical professionals are suggesting to wear a surgical mask, and a cloth mask over it, or a KN95 mask for optimal protection from COVID-19. If you are able to do so, donate and supply masks to others through community nonprofit organizations or other local opportunities.

• Wash hands regularly and ensure 6ft of social distancing when you absolutely must be out in public. If you are a business, be sure to enforce mask wearing, social distancing and provide hand washing supplies/stations.

• Follow healthcare guidelines and government authorities. Fully abide by healthcare recommendations and the COVID-19 laws of the State of North Carolina for individuals and businesses, which include not hosting or attending large in-person events or gathering in large groups. Small gatherings also carry risk and should be avoided.

• Aid those in need. Continue to find ways to safely help the most marginalized among us, including those experiencing health impacts, housing or food insecurity or financial hardships.

• Honor those who have experienced loss. Find ways to show compassion and identify financial resources, if necessary, for the families of loved ones who have passed away or continue to suffer. Bring attention to their stories and honor their loss, the suffering as a way to prevent more death.

Signatories:

Kristen Clark, President, One Voice Chorus

O’Neale Atkinson, Interim Executive Director, Time Out Youth

Matt Comer, Communications Director, Charlotte Pride

Bishop Tonyia Rawls, Executive Director, The Freedom Center for Social Justice

Gina Esquivel, Civic Canvas

Cameron Pruette, President, LGBTQ Democrats of Mecklenburg County

Jonathan Barrio, Co-Founder, Charlotte Gaymers Network

Zach Smith, Co-Founder, Charlotte Gaymers Network

David McRae, Deputy Director, Charlotte Gaymers Network

Brent Roberts, Assistant Director of Programs, Charlotte Gaymers Network

Gary Montgomery, Founder, Queer Society Charlotte

Nathan B. Smith, Vice President of Philanthropy, RAIN, Inc.

Jennifer Ratajczak, President, Charlotte Transgender Healthcare Group

Holly Savoy, Past President, Charlotte Transgender Healthcare Group

Benjamin F. Simmons, III, Vice President, Charlotte Transgender Healthcare Group

R. Lee Robertson, Jr. Chair of the Board of Directors, RAIN, Inc.

Chelsea Gulden, President and CEO, RAIN, Inc.

Connie J. Vetter, Attorney at Law, PLLC

Jermaine Nakia Lee, Executive Director, POOR NO MORE

Frank Summers, Founder & Director, Rainbow Foster Network

Frank D. Dorsey, II, Associate Director, Johnson C. Smith University – Office of Student Leadership and Engagement

Louis Kemp, on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign-Charlotte, Board of Governors

Cristal Robinson, Board President, Pauli Murray LGBTQ+ Bar Association.

Roger Howard, City Commissioner, Stonewall Sports Charlotte

Don Wilson, President, Queen City Connects

Daniel Valdez, Board President, Charlotte Pride

Jerry Yelton, Programs & Development Director, Charlotte Pride

Elaine Millen, Consultant, TeknoLink Marketing Services

John C. Quillin, Managing Artistic Director, Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte

Liz Fitzgerald, Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund Board Member

Chris Rudisill, Founder of artstreet and Project Manager, QnotesCarolinas.org

Members of the Charlotte LGBTQ Elders

Kendra R. Johnson, Executive Director, Equality NC

Jamie Hildreth, Charlotte Civic Engagement Coordinator, Equality NC

Jacob Hamm, Chair, Time Out Youth

Chad Turner, President & CEO, Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Ciara Lilly, Chair, Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Joe Davis, Founder & Executive Director, Hearts Beat as One Foundation

Reia Chapman, Owner, Center for Family & Maternal Wellness; Executive Director,

Social Justice Emotional Response Collective

William Loftin, Transitional Chair, MeckPAC

Nattiel Turner, Transitional Vice Chair, MeckPAC

Kode Brown, Manager, White Rabbit

Shann Fulton, Chair, Charlotte Black Pride

Bethany Corrigan, Executive Director, Transcend Charlotte

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