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.
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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