Serving all LGBTQ youth up to the age of 24, We Are Family has been a safe space for queer Charleston, South Carolina residents since 1995. Since June 28, the grassroots nonprofit effort have been guided by new Executive Director Domenico Ruggerio.
After serving the queer community for three years, former Executive Director Nijeeah Richardson, has moved on to Southern Vision Alliance in New Orleans. Ruggerio’s expertise in teaching and tutoring will be instrumental in the organization’s goals of providing aid to college students.
One of We Are Family’s three tenets is intersectionality. Through events and programs, this nonprofit values supporting all persons in all possible avenues. This, however, goes hand-in-hand with facing racism head-on. “If our work is not based in being an anti-racist organization, we’re not serving the communities in the way we should be,” Ruggerio told the Post and Courier.
Ruggerio’s game plan for the future of We Are Family involves incorporating more black queer and transgender youth and staff into programs and discussion groups.
Among the other area organizations We Are Family works with are Charleston Promise, an educational group that provides tutoring and health services to under-resourced neighborhoods, and Metanoia, a nonprofit that offers after-school care and economic aid to working-class communities.
Within these partnerships, Ruggerio aims to reach individuals in rural areas who may not have a support system that accepts them for their LGBTQ identity. In the near future, We Are Family would like to start a thrift store on-the-go program for LGBTQ youth in college campuses and remote locations. This outreach program would provide gender-affirming clothing and other items to young adults across South Carolina.
In order for changes to be made at We Are Family, changes must also be made on a national legislative level. Ruggerio is hopeful the need for hate crime laws in the state will take root in Charleston. “My hope is that we are able to move that needle and have our champions and allies in the state house and be in a place where this is something that is a given.”
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