"For nearly four decades now the Astraea
Lesbian Foundation for Justice continues to
empower a multi-gendered, racial and identified
international network of talented grassroots
LGBTQI leaders and activists working
within their communities."
|The evening of May 12th at the South End’s wildly popular Bohemian hip spot “The Beehive” was a night to remember.
"It was a wonderful night, with fabulous people celebrating the good
works of honorees and Astraea. It's important to pause sometimes and
highlight how the hard work of remarkable women have advanced our
community. It’s an honor to spend an evening with so many committed
warriors for the good,” Arline Isaacson, co-chair of Massachusetts Gay
and Lesbian Political Caucus shared with me.
The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice was in Boston to celebrate
the life and legacy of the late Jean Hardisty (Founder & President
Emerita of the progressive think tank “Political Research Associates),
and to honor our Boston-area LGBTQI activists Daunasia Yancey
(Co-organizer of Black Lives Matter, Boston) and Elyse D. Cherry (CEO
of Boston Community Capital) at their 2015 “Fueling the Frontlines
Awards" it hosted.
PHOTO: J. Bob Alotta (center) with
Honorees Daunasia Yancey (left) and Elyse Cherry (right)
With Boston being the first in the country to hold a feminist
conference in 1969, it was, in its heyday, an intellectual base with
activist circles of feminism. In acknowledging both Boston’s renowned
feminist activist history and expressing excitement that Astraea this
year landed in Beantown, J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director of Astraea,
told to me, “Boston has always been an activist town so Astraea found
true support and solidarity here. Each of the honorees is emblematic of
the values Astraea holds dear. It was an honor to share the stage and
raise a glass with and for these powerful leaders.”
For nearly four decades now the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
continues to empower a multi-gendered, racial and identified
international network of talented grassroots LGBTQI leaders and
activists working within their communities. Because Astraea’s network
expands across the globe it has advanced—in remarkable ways that too
often go unnoticed, unreported and underfunded—racial, social, gender
and economic justice for women, LGBTQI people of color, and youth. And
to date, Astraea is the only global philanthropic organization working
exclusively to advance LGBTQI human rights.
Astraea doesn’t shy away from the tough and troubling spot across the
globe. ”Doing the righteous work under the most daring circumstances,“
Alotta told the audience at the “Fueling the Frontlines Awards”
event. For example, Astraea has worked in Russia and continues to work
indefatigably in religiously conservative African and Caribbean
countries where LGBTQ activists constantly walk in fear, have been
singled out, and arrested because homosexuality and same-gender
consensual activity are viewed as an anathema to a black identity,
cultural and family values.
Astraea’s “Fueling the Frontlines Awards” celebrate local and LGBTQI
activists who, too, don’t shy away from the tough and troubling spot
across in Greater Boston and the nation.
Daunasia Yancey, as a revered black feminist femme lesbian, is heralded
as “The new face of Boston’s civil rights movement” by Boston magazine,
and is one of this year’s awardees. I personally cannot applaud
Yancey’s activism in the “Black Lives Matter” movement is an
international and intersectional approach, signaling a new generation,
toward black liberation and justice, which includes LGBTQI
participation that the 1960s Black Civil Rights movement both
vociferously and visibly excluded.
"Yancey has been an activist since she was 13 years old, when she
fought to found a gay-straight alliance at her Newton middle school.
She grew up in the post-Ellen era; gay marriage was sanctioned by law
by the time she was in high school. Her political training came through
local LGBT youth organizations, not from clergy fired in the kiln of
the civil rights movement or seared by Boston’s busing crisis. She is
heir to a protest culture that owes as much to feminism, ACT UP, and
“Silence = Death” as to Martin Luther King Jr.,” Boston magazine stated.
As another recipient of the “Fueling the Frontlines Awards,” my
Wellesley sister, Elyse D Cherry, has proudly lived up to the school’s
saying: “Women who will make a difference in the world.”
As CEO of Boston Community Capital (BCC) Cherry helped found BCC in
1984. As one of President Obama’s “Champions of Change” Cherry
has devised innovative solutions for defeating poverty, like a national
model for community investment that finances affordable housing, child
care facilities, community health centers, and jobs for low income
In refuting many housing specialists declaring Massachusetts
foreclosure crisis over Cherry told the Boston Globe in 2013, “If you
live in Newton or Weston or one of the other middle class or upper
middle class suburbs, your housing value is probably back up. If you
are located in an urban area, like Roxbury, Dorchester, or Lynn,
foreclosures are still happening and your housing prices are not up. If
fact, you might still be down as much as much as 40 or 50 percent.”
Jean Hardisty was honored posthumously. Hardisty died in March of
this year and her widow, Peggy Barrett, accepted the award on her
Hardisty was one of the greatest minds I encountered here in
Boston. Hardisty was the Founder and President Emerita of
Political Research Associates (PRA), is a Boston-based research center
that analyzes right wing, authoritarian, and anti-democratic trends and
publishes educational materials for the general public.
A political scientist with a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, she
left academia after eight years of teaching and researching
conservative political thought to establish PRA in response to the
emergence of the New Right in 1981.
Hardisty was a widely published author and had been an activist for
social justice issues, especially women's rights and civil rights, for
over thirty years. Her book, “Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative
Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers,” both
informed and shaped my activism.
For Gay Pride month in June 2011 I interviewed Hardisty and asked her, what motivates you to do what you do?
She shared the following:
"Because I live in the Boston area, people often ask me why I'm
involved in the South. I answer that I spent my formative teenage years
living with my parents on a farm in Maryland, and that experience
shaped me culturally. But all you have to do is show the slightest
interest in hearing more and I'll tell you the political reasons I feel
the South is a crucially important focus of progressive work.
The most widely shared view of the South emphasizes its history of
racial oppression and anti-union "right-to-work" politics. According to
this analysis it’s the part of the country where you can pay workers
less, extract coal, lumber and minerals without bothersome opposition,
and count on Republican voters to support ultra-conservative positions
on social issues such as abortion and gay unions.”
Astraea raised approximately $87,000 that evening. It was a new
“Fueling the Frontlines Awards” record as it moves closer to the
Foundation’s 3-year $20 million campaign to provide needed support and
resources to grassroots LGBTQI activists and organizations across the
And it’s still not too late to contribute no matter where you live on the globe.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of Religion. A
native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College
and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a
pastor at an African-American church before coming to Harvard Divinity
School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently named to
MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC.
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David A. Love, JD
Nancy Littlefield, MBA