SINCE LAUNCHING IN JULY 2019:
Black Queer Mutual Aid Fund
When COVID-19 hit, Black communities were devastated with a death rate 3 times higher than white communities when adjusted for age. Black workers had been disproportionately represented in service industries where working from home wasn’t an option and more than 1 in 6 black workers lost their jobs between February and April.
As uprisings surged all over the country to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all Black lives lost to white supremacist violence, Lighthouse Foundation launched the Black Queer Mutual Aid Fund to support Black LGBTQ+ people in Chicago who were struggling to pay for rent, utilities, and basic needs. Our community came together to raise over $16,000 which we distributed via $250 micro-grants!
Black Queer Pride
Our organization quickly pivoted to virtual events and organizing as soon as the COVID-19 outbreak began. When we heard that some Black Queer party promoters started planning in-person Pride events, we realized that we needed to create an alternative to help celebrate our community without risking our health in a pandemic that was devestating Black communities. Within a matter of two and a half weeks, we pulled together Black Queer Pride: Summer Edition, a 3-day virtual extravaganza that LGBTQ+ folks could join from anywhere in the world.
Black Queer Pride has since become our biannual flagship event, with a Winter Edition taking place in January. The cultural and educational event features Black LGBTQ+ poets, drag performers, comedians, visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, facilitators, and more. Black Queer Pride showcases the talent, resilience, and joy of the Black LGBTQ+ community.
Pictured above: Jamie Frazier, LF Executive Director, hand-delivering the letter to the Center on Halsted
Securing Equitable Access by Removing Off-Duty Police from Community Center
Center on Halsted (COH), which receives millions in funding to serve Black LGBTQ+ Chicagoans, was contracting with Walsh Security, a firm owned by an off-duty police officer with a history of abuse and white supremacists ties. Community members approached Lighthouse Foundation about feeling unsafe at COH, citing Officer Walsh's 2013 physical and verbal assault against James Matthews, a Black security guard at The Lucky Horseshoe bar. As of 2019, Walsh had still not served his 60-day suspension levied in 2015 by then-Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy. Yet he worked at the largest LGBT Center in Chicago where he routinely harassed and called the police on Black trans women.
In August of 2019, Lighthouse Foundation decided to take on the controversial contractor to help Black LGBTQ+ folks access needed services at Center on Halsted without fear of violence. We wrote and hand-delivered a petition to COH CEO, Modesto Tico Valle, signed by 150+ people from 40+ institutions demanding that COH end its relationship with Walsh Security. COH leadership met with Lighthouse Foundation leadership, who then hosted a press conference with the support and presence of our non-Black accomplices. In just six months, Lighthouse Foundation won our first Racial Justice Campaign, and COH fired Walsh Security and hired Quantum Security, a Black LGBTQ+-owned security firm trained in de-escalation.
The victories continued as Lighthouse Foundation's efforts set off a wave of change. In June 2020, the Northalsted Business Alliance agreed to stop contracting with Walsh Security during Boystown parades or festivals. We realized that we needed to turn this moment into a movement. We needed to build a coalition to demand continued and constant institutional investment in Black, LGBTQ+ communities in Boystown and beyond.
Pictured above (left to right): Dr. Vertie Powers, Tim Wolfe, Executive Director Jamie Frazier, Cleo Pockalipps, Council President Karlyn Meyer, Edward Davis
JULY 2019 - BOYSTOWN Racial Justice Summit
After Progress Bar attempted to ban rap music, Lighthouse Church of Chicago UCC teamed up with Affinity Community Services and Black Gay Men’s Caucus to host a protest attended by more than 150 supporters. A month later, "Racial Justice Summit: Boystown & Beyond" formally launched Lighthouse Foundation to a room packed with clergy of LGBT-inclusive churches and their parishioners present. The event built cross-racial solidarity, fostered empathy, and started to develop an analysis around what equity in Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community could look like.