Monthly Archives: August 2016

Change at Our Family Coalition

by Judy Appel
Executive Director, Our Family Coalition

After over ten years at the helm of Our Family Coalition, I will be concluding my time as Executive Director next month. I will join California School-Based Health Alliance as Executive Director, building on the educational equity I am so passionate about in my role on the Berkeley School Board. I am deeply honored to have been a part of this organization, with all of you.

I am very pleased to announce that Renata Moreira-Bilella – Our Family Coalition’s talented Communications and Policy Director and last summer’s Acting Executive Director – has the Board of Directors’ unanimous endorsement as Interim Executive Director this fall, as the Board conducts a comprehensive search and review process for the next Executive Director.

Renata-Judy-NightOut - 1In my eleven years at Our Family Coalition, I am proud to have seen the organization grow from local, to regional, to national prominence. The staff has grown from only two of us to over a dozen, and its annual budget has grown from a few hundred  thousand to over a million dollars. Our family support work now includes over 200 events per year, reaching nearly 3,000 community members from across the Bay Area. We work in coalition with some 120 nonprofit and social justice partners, serving statewide as an LGBTQ-inclusive voice on family issues, and a family voice on LGBTQ issues.

Policy wins during my tenure at Our Family Coalition have been numerous, including most recently the passage of our first co-sponsored bill: AB 960, the Equal Protection for All Families Act. We’ve seen Our Family Coalition take the lead as the state’s training source for Welcoming and Inclusive Schools, ensuring all children are educated in an environment that recognizes, understands, and respects their families and their whole selves. Finally, Our Family Coalition has developed an approach to LGBTQ social justice which deeply accounts for the multiple, intersectional identities of our community, and prioritizes solidarity work with movements for racial and economic justice. The racial diversity of both our staff and our Board reflects that of our state, something that makes me not only very proud, but very confident in our capacities to make change in 21st century California.

Many of you know my interim replacement Renata – pictured with me at left in the image above at a recent Night Out gala. She brings nearly two decades’ experience in educational and nonprofit leadership to her work at Our Family Coalition, and has served in advisory roles to a range of organizations, from the California Immigrant Policy Institute to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. This past year, in addition to becoming a mother, she has been a Changemaker Fellow in the Spirituality and Social Change program at the Pacific School of Religion.  Her passionate, skilled advocacy has been at the center of so many of Our Family Coalition’s recent successes. In her words:

I’m thrilled to be stepping in as OFC’s Interim ED. This is a moment of personal honor for me as a queer mama who has been working to promote equity for LGBTQ people and our allies for over 15 years. It is also a moment of deep personal responsibility that I do not take lightly. I will work tirelessly, with my eyes on our mission, my ears open to the voices of all, and my heart committed to LGBTQ parents and our families.” 

With Renata as Interim Director, we are confident the organization will be will be in very able hands during the upcoming transition.

I want to thank you, the community, for the opportunity to spend my kids’ childhoods leading this incredible organization and its dedicated staff. I am proud of the strong team we’ve become, and I take my next step knowing the organization is well-positioned to take on the challenges to come.  From not so very far away, I will be looking forward to Our Family Coalition’s next chapter with Renata’s strong leadership of the amazing OFC team.

The Importance of LGBTQ Inclusive Education

maraineyBy Maya Berkley, Policy Intern 

Growing up queer and of color, the endlessly vast reach of queerness did not spontaneously occur to me, and it certainly was not taught to me until I reached college and began pursuing a minor in GSFS and actively seeking out classes in my school’s Africana Studies Department. Learning about history in college in a way that intentionally includes historical figures who look and love like me has helped me feel more represented and engaged in my own learning and the history of this country. I know that if I had had access to facts and information about LGBT people throughout elementary, middle and high school, I would have a better educational foundation entering into college, as well as a more pronounced interest in the history I am learning because it represents the diverse, beautiful United States that I am a part of. Though I have taken multiple classes in multiple disciplines in an effort to bridge the gap in my/my college/my country’s cultural and academic understanding of black queerness, I recognize that my understanding of the cultural and historical implications of my identity are limited by the framework within which I was presented my history; my culture.

This summer, however, I have been able to vicariously experience a more LGBT-inclusive primary and secondary education through my work interning with Our Family Coalition (OFC) and working with a history teacher at Berkeley High school. We are developing a curriculum to teach the Harlem Renaissance with a focus on the many black and LGBT identified prominent figures of the era. This will provide California teachers with tools to comply with the FAIR Education Act and most recent revisions to the History Social-Science Framework .This work is not only extremely rewarding for me, as a queer artist of color with an intended minor in GSFS , but it also allows me a totally new perspective on the Harlem Renaissance that California’s students will soon have the privilege of engaging with at a much more pertinent point in their academic careers. This is one example of the many ways that California’s groundbreaking decision to rewrite its History-Social Science curriculum to be more inclusive of LGBT history will positively impact its students for years to come.

An inclusive and diverse History-Social Science education is essentially not only to provide all students with the most accurate and unbiased representation of history possible, but for many students from marginalized communities, it is one of the many first steps in developing a healthy self-concept in a world that would have them do otherwise. I find that I am constantly unlearning myself as a black and queer person living in a society built and shaped for and by white cis-hetero people, when I am in fact a black and queer person living in a society built and shaped by black people, queer people, other people of color, Muslim people, immigrants, those living with disability, as well as white cis-hetero people.

gertrudepridgettFor example, I really enjoying listening to and creating blues-folk music, and for a long time, my image of blues and folk music was white; I thought of Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac; modern blues revivalists like Hozier. This was the framework I was given to understand music within- black people created hip hop, the rest was white. It wasn’t until high school when my musical framework was challenged. I learned that blues music began as black music, was, for a while, the called and responded-to voice of black sorrow and joy, both individual and collective. Still, within this framework, it was the music of straight black masculinity. It wasn’t until this summer, when I began my work on this summer that I came to realize just how many black, queer, femme musicians created blues music, and the many art forms that stemmed from the Harlem Renaissance. Ma Rainey, Gladys Bentley, Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters, these are just a few examples of black queer women without whom there would be no blues, and as a result, no jazz, no rock, no hip hop, no American culture as we know it. I am grateful that I have a chance to unlearn a history that either intentionally erased or otherwise failed to include the history of so many marginalized communities, however,  it is not my job.

I should not need two years and counting at a private liberal arts college to understand my place in this nation’s history. Education should not be unlearned, and this is what makes California’s newest revisions to its History Social-Science Framework so important- it empowers students to create positive change by showing them that people like them have always shaped the world that they live in. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, same or many gender-loving, gender non-conforming, gender expansive people that we now peg with the umbrella title of LGBT(Q) have always been, and will always be, a part of every culture, every era, every great movement in the United States. In this world. Whether marginalized or celebrated, tolerated or embraced, we have always been here.