Our steps towards making GLSEN an anti-racist organization
The below message was sent from our executive director Eliza Byard to GLSEN's supporters:
On Monday, you heard from Melanie, celebrating our victory at the Supreme Court and recommitting GLSEN to daily action in support of Black LGBTQ lives in our schools. I write to you today about another crucial aspect of that commitment - the internal process of transformation underway at GLSEN.
For a number of years, GLSEN has been engaged in an on-going process of evolution with respect to equity, including a particularly difficult period over the past twelve months. This has involved learning and action at all levels of the organization. The ultimate goal is and has always been to center the leadership of Black and other POC leaders on the Board, staff, and across the network, and to become an anti-racist organization. It is a process – and we know we still have a ways to go.
Because of the work we did not do in the past, and because of the pace of our current efforts, we have caused harm. I apologize. And I apologize for my direct and indirect role in that harm. As the Executive Director of GLSEN, and Deputy Executive Director before that, I am accountable for past mistakes and for the impact of our anti-Blackness on affected staff.
I am also responsible for doing the work to support emerging leadership across the organization and the network that will lead GLSEN into the future. I am committed to continued labor in support of new leadership and new directions for GLSEN for as long as I can be useful to the process. And I remain committed to engaging with the ways I am being called in to do better and to make amends for past impact.
The team now leading at the staff level, and the student leaders who are at the core of all we do, are not responsible for our past actions. I hope that you will continue to support and partner with GLSEN as this queer and trans leadership of color emerges at all levels of the organization, and works with me to make meaningful changes to our long-held systems, policies, and practices.
GLSEN continues its work to meet the moment internally as well as in the world. We are listening to the feedback and critique of constituents and staff (past and present) to guide our steps towards building a racially just organization, capable of sustained action in support of BIPOC lives as we pursue our mission. These steps include:
Investing in organizational culture and HR to create a healthier workplace for BIPOC staff;
- Transparently recruiting queer and transgender Black and POC people to take leadership roles at the executive and management levels of the organization, and investing in their leadership;
- Intentionally inviting more queer and transgender Black and POC people to become members of the Board of Directors to direct and oversee the work of the organization;
- Developing the competencies necessary for healthier multi-racial organizing and anti-racist work in the organization and across our network of local leaders;
- Introducing Restorative and transformative practices at all levels of this organization to continue moving towards accountability;
- Creating transparent board-level systems of accountability to measure and monitor our progress toward these goals.
I am grateful to work alongside some incredible Black leaders – including young people on our National Student Council, chapter leaders, GLSEN staff and board members – as well as other PoC leaders. I feel deeply accountable to these change makers and grateful for their partnership. I will continue to learn from and act with them every day.
Together, we will continue to do the necessary and hard work to create schools that fully value and support Black LGBTQ lives, a project at the core of our collective liberation.
We as a nation are clearly in a moment of great potential transformation, poised to make meaningful social change. I promise to do all I can to bring that same spirit of transformation to GLSEN, and report back to you regularly on how we are doing.