Racial Equity at The Center

Queer and trans people of color carry the heavy burden of systemic racism and economic injustice. Higher unemployment, poverty, and homelessness rates are the result of years of systemic barriers. Removing these barriers takes a persistent commitment and work to ensure we are all free to live healthy and successful lives.

The Center's Founding

Since our founding in 1983, The Center has served as a sanctuary for those seeking freedom from persecution and prejudice.

To achieve racial equity in our mission through our programming and services, The Center continues to acknowledge and respond to the long-term, pervasive effects of all forms of racism affecting our community members, partners, and staff.

The Center is committed to centering racial equity in all aspects of our work.

Our Progress

From October 2019 – July 2021, The Center:

  • Formed a Racial Equity Steering Committee (RESC), led by the diverse voices, perspectives, and unique backgrounds of our staff members. 
  • Partnered with Change Elemental via a year-long engagement to help The Center build organization-wide capacity around racial equity.
  • Provided coaching sessions and training by Change Elemental for RESC members and co-leads, the Senior Leadership Team, Executive Director, and Board members. 
  • Launched a Board Racial Equity Working Group to steer the Board around how it engages in racial and gender equity work and develops equity knowledge and skills.
  • Initiated racial identity caucus groups for BIPOC and white staff members to process, support one another, learn and unlearn, and heal together. 
  • Conducted an organizational assessment (including internal and external interviews and focus groups, internal surveys, and data and document analysis) to identify areas where The Center can improve, and helped to develop a multi-year action plan to advance the necessary changes. 
  • Formed four race equity implementation teams to enact the aforementioned action plan, focused on organizational identity, communications, education, and reflection. The first one to begin work (in August 2021) was the identity team, as the organizational assessment illuminated the need to more explicitly establish The Center’s mission, vision, and values as a foundation from which we can make other forms of structural change. Without this, The Center will maintain a white-dominant culture internally and continue to prioritize the comfort of white community members externally.

Implementation and embedding

In 2022, we began to implement our action plan, impacting various areas and functions across the organization. To support us in implementing our strategies, we partnered with Inca A. Mohammed for coaching, visioning, and big-picture support.

Interventions have included:

  • Leadership capacity:
    • Capacity building for Senior Leadership Team members around leading with a race and gender equity lens, facilitation of healthy conflict, chipping away at white supremacy culture, though courageous and vulnerable leadership.
    • Conducted anti-bias training with leadership team members in advance of participating in the search process for the new CEO.
    • Prioritized equity capacity & lived experience when hiring for leadership roles.
  • Board capacity: 
    • Formed a Board Racial Equity Working Group, which then became a permanent Committee, to coordinate capacity-building strategy for the Board at large. 
    • Implemented race equity training for board members, including a series of sessions in 2021 and a day-long retreat in 2023. 
    • Conducted anti-bias training with board members in advance of participating in the search process for the new CEO.
    • Shifted Board recruitment practices, including give/get for personal philanthropy policy and nomination committee makeup and practices.
  • Staff development & support: 
    • Racial equity caucus groups to build capacity and provide support spaces in recognition of the different work that folks of different identities need to do to dismantle racism. 
    • Developing shared language around race equity, by providing 16 hours of training for all staff, focused on: social identities and positionality; systemic inequities, privilege, oppression, structural racism, intersectionality, interpersonal dynamics related to positionality, organizational culture, white dominant habits, and how to make The Center more inclusive. 
    • Skills building for managers around best practices for supervising and supporting staff, through an equity lens.
    • Increased support for TGNC staff through the launch of a TGNC affinity group and the addition of healthcare coordination and case management benefits through FOLX.
  • Healing & organizational identity:
    • Engaged all staff in dialogue, naming and taking accountability for patterns of white dominant culture at The Center, and committing to shifting those patterns.
    • Established explicit, written values to be used as a compass to ensure our programs, policies, culture, and decisions align with our commitments to equity. 
    • Strategic planning and revisiting our mission will be an outgrowth of this work.
  • Evaluation/impact:
    • Dialogue with the Reflection Implementation Team to discuss the progress and impact of our equity work, and determine strategies for reflection in teams and organization-wide.
    • Creation of a data dashboard with demographic data over time, published on our internal staff portal and external website.
  • People & Human Resources practices:
    • Formalized and standardized interview questions, to reduce bias in the hiring process, including questions that prioritize competencies and lived experiences around equity. These requirements have also been added to all job descriptions.
    • Developed organizational core competencies which describe required skills across all roles and functions across the organization, rooted in equity and our organizational values, and provides transparency around growth pathways for staff.
    • Developed a compensation philosophy which provides transparency to staff around how salary ranges are established and what salary bands are for each role. Determined and implemented minimum liveable wage; no staff member makes less than $25.65. Salary ranges have been added to all job postings.
    • Revised our performance management process/tools to incorporate 360-degree feedback, and provided training for all staff on best practices for giving and receiving feedback. Annual salary adjustments have been decoupled from performance evaluations and are instead based on organizational budget.
    • When budget cuts were suddenly necessary during the 2020 COVID pandemic, salary adjustments were made through an equity lens (for example, salary reductions were given to the highest paid staff). When there was an overage in the budget in 2021, stipends were provided back to staff, with the biggest amounts given to the lowest paid staff. 
  • Communications & transparency: 
    • Collaboratively developed a communications plan for how we talk about our race equity work, internally and externally, implementing the plan over 18 months. 
    • Implemented a quarterly Center Insights series for staff, to provide education and transparency around topics that staff have historically asked for further information about (e.g., budget and fundraising, medical benefits selection, and data collection processes).
    • Facilitated training around communication styles using the DiSC assessment; all departments to be trained by 2024.
  • Community engagement  
    • New and innovative programs designed by and for Black community members, such as the Juneteenth Block Party, Black Holiday Market, and Activist-in-Residence Fellowship.
    • Increased immigration services and programming in Spanish.
    • Reinvigorated partnerships with the Ballroom community, and establishment of the World of Red Ball in honor of World AIDS Day.
    • Revised former “Code of Conduct” to use more restorative language, reframed as Community Agreements.

Our Work Continues

At The Center, it is important our staff and leadership are composed of individuals that represent the diversity of our communities, and that all voices have a space at the table. Due to this, people of color and marginalized gendered folks, including transgender and gender expansive people, are strongly encouraged to apply to join our team and help us lead these important efforts.