FROM OUR EXCECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Lighthouse Foundation Family,
2020 was, in many aspects, completely unexpected. COVID-19 has impacted us all in ways we never anticipated. However, our fight for justice progressed in epic strides. In all ways, Lighthouse Foundation has risen to the past year’s challenges and made a substantial change in Chicago.
Together we raised $16,000 in mutual aid funds for Black Queer Chicagoans! This initiative made a massive impact on folks struggling with unemployment and reduced work. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who came together to move resources for the people.
At the close of the year, I was excited to welcome new staff members who will continue to grow this work in the coming year. Morgan Sherm is our new Black Queer Caucus Coordinator & Organizer, Hannah Pewee is our new Communications Coordinator, and Dani Gabriel is our new Director of Development. Please join me in welcoming them to Lighthouse Foundation.
As we enter 2021, I am hopeful and energized. The participation of 7,000 members and visitors in Lighthouse events and trainings over the past year has been inspiring, and I can’t wait to see our numbers grow. I am thrilled we are launching the Black LGBTQ+ Equity Index and excited about the opportunity to establish an industry-wide standard through a collective impact model.
Please join us to build community and work for the liberation and health of Black Queer people across Chicagoland!
Yours in struggle and power,
BLACK QUEER PRIDE 2020: SUMMER EDITION
3 days of events. 7,000 participants. $6,000 paid in stipends to Black Queer Performers.
Our organization quickly pivoted to virtual events and organizing 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 devastating Black communities. Within a matter of two and a half weeks, we pulled together Black Queer Pride: Summer Edition, a three-day virtual extravaganza that LGBTQ+ folks could join from anywhere in the world.
The cultural and educational event featured drag performers Cleo Pockalips & Dida Ritz, as well as comedian Sampson McCormick, along with a dozen more Black LGBTQ+ performers, professionals, and facilitators. We hosted 3 days of programming that reached over 6,000 people! Black Queer Pride: Summer Edition, which you can still check out on our Facebook page, shined a light on Black talent, resilience, and joy.
“Black Queer Pride: Summer Edition was an incredible experience. It was the first event I’ve taken part in where I felt fully seen at the intersection of my talents and true self. It was an opportunity to collaborate with other Black Queer people and expand my idea of community.
Our Black Queer community is vast, far and wide, and it’s amazing to not only witness but take part in.”
BLACK QUEER PRIDE PERFORMER, BLACK QUEER CAUCUS LEADER
SECURING EQUITABLE ACCESS BY REMOVING OFF-DUTY POLICE FROM CENTER ON HALSTED
The 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 improprieties and a track record of racism. Community members approached Lighthouse Foundation about feeling unsafe at COH, citing Officer Walsh's physical and verbal assault against James Matthews, a Black security guard at The Lucky Horseshoe bar in 2013. As of 2019, Walsh had still not served his 60-day suspension levied by then-Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy in 2015. Yet he worked at the largest LGBT Center in Chicago where he profited from a posh six-figure private security contract.
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 or bigotry. 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 then met with Lighthouse Foundation leadership, who then hosted a press conference with the support and presence of our non-Black accomplices. As a result of these actions, Lighthouse Foundation won our first Racial Justice Campaign! In just six months, we worked with COH to fire Walsh Security and hire 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 of 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!
BLACK QUEER LIVES MATTER MUTUAL AID FUND
When COVID-19 hit, Black communities were devastated with a death rate three 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 one in six 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.
Together we raised $16,000 from individual donors, which we distributed via $250 micro-grants!
Here is what some of the recipients of the micro-grants said:
“I used the funds to keep alive during this highly uncertain time. They helped me cover my living expenses. As an artist who primarily works in the realm of performance, this time has been extremely difficult financially for me. The funds helped me to keep going.”
“I used the funds to pay a utility bill I couldn’t afford and get myself some groceries. It meant (and still means) a lot to me that I’ve been able to better take care of myself with this help. Otherwise I was stretching out single meals or only eating questionable leftovers. Thank you for this fund.”
"Lighthouse Foundation has been a saving grace during this pandemic. With loss of a substantial portion of my income, their small grants have been able to help me pay bills and keep food in my belly. I appreciate their offerings especially since they come as surprise blessings when I least expected the help."
“During the time of COVID, my household structure changed financially. I’m used to a certain amount of supplemental income for my household every year through gigging. My gig calendar DECREASED about 78%, which means that portion of my income decreased about that much as well. Those gigs consist of weddings, corporate events, and other miscellaneous live music events. All canceled due to COVID and business restrictions. This aide has helped to replace a portion of that income, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
COVID-19: HOW WE BUILT COMMUNITY DURING THE PANDEMIC
COVID-19 altered the planned 2020 trajectory of our organization by forcing us to take all of our in-person events virtual and making urgent a need to organize mutual aid.
As COVID-19 became a crisis, we responded by partnering with Howard Brown Health Center to create culturally competent, trans-affirming messaging for Black LGBTQ+ people and accomplices about how to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 while caring for their mental health during quarantine.
We created a public health campaign called #stayathomeand. In addition to offering health education, the campaign facilitated community-building, virtual placemaking, and positive social engagement.
Our community is at high-risk for contracting the coronavirus, but highly under-resourced to face it. Based on our lived experiences as Black Queer people, we created a campaign that spoke to our needs that other institutions fail to address.
We also shifted to creating virtual events, which has enabled us to reach the most isolated Black LGBTQ+ people — youth in unsupportive homes, people with abusive partners, and geographically isolated people on Chicago’s South and West Sides.
Over the course of 2020, we provided over 30 hours of virtual programming presented by Black Queer people.
According to Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Black LGBTQ+ organizations receive only 5% of all LGBTQ+ funding in the United States—a mere .01% of all philanthropic giving in the nation. With the stock market crash and an uncertain economic future, some grantors have shuttered their doors and even more foundations and large donors are hesitant to give to entities they have not previously funded. Lighthouse Foundation is beating the odds by forging a model that is financially resilient, relying on membership funding, small-scale contributions, and fee-for-service contracts. At the same time, we have been building stronger relationships with Chicago’s philanthropic community to work towards future grants that will expand our capacity tremendously in 2021.
Lighthouse Foundation is an emerging organization that has made significant strides in a challenging time thanks to 1,880 of hours of unpaid work donated by our Leadership Council, Founder and Executive Director, and Black Queer Caucus Leaders (worth an estimated $49,504). According to the Chicago Community Trust's 2019 LGBTQ Needs Assessment, the majority of Black LGBTQ Chicagoans rate their top three concerns as basic income, access to employment, and racial discrimination. As we look forward to 2021, we know that we cannot continue to expect Black LGBTQ+ people to offer their emotional, intellectual, and logistical labor for free. That’s why we intend to raise our budget from $130,571 to $300,938 so that we can create good jobs for Black LGBTQ+ community leaders who are challenging racism.
FISCAL YEAR 2020 INCOME
1% Corporate Contributions
2% Fee for Service
7 % Donations
15 % Dues
43% In-Kind Contributions
A very special thank you to our 2020 funders:
Technology Funders Collaborative
Conant Family Foundation
Vanguard Charitable - The Jacques Louis Vidal Charitable Fund
African American Legacy Fund - The Chicago Community Trust
Within a single year, our organization expanded by over 150%.
Learn more about our 2019 and 2020 FY incomes by viewing the full annual report.