Tag Archives: social justice

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.

Alphabet Soup Episode 4: Racial Justice Edition


Amber Todd, Co-chair of Oakland Pride
Tarah Fleming, Our Family Coalition’s Education Director

Food for Thought with Allen Johnson, Our Family Coalition’s Development Associate

Host: Renata Moreira, Our Family Coalition’s Acting Executive Director

What does it mean to be an ally? How can privilege be used to move the pendulum of change? How can we give our kids the tools and knowledge needed to navigate growing up in a racist society, and empower them to use their voices to be a part of the solution?

Tune in to Alphabet Soup to listen to moving and urgent conversations with Amber Todd, proud mother of four and co-chair of Oakland Pride, and Tarah Fleming, Education Director of Our Family Coalition and co-founder of the Youth Action Project, which exists within the White Privilege Conference.

Lessons Learned: Ashley’s reflections on being OFC’s Policy Intern

I open the door with butterflies in my stomach. It’s not every day that you get to follow your dream by applying to a policy internship at a progressive nonprofit. It’s not every day that you get the internship, apply for a stipend, find housing, and move across the country, all in one month. I followed a career-related whim to work as the Public Policy intern at Our Family Coalition and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

My heart pounds as typical vestiges of doubt rear their ugly heads. “What if you’re not good enough?” “What if it’s too hard?” “What if the staff is mean because you’re the mew intern?”

All of my fears were quickly put to rest as I met Renata Moreira. The quick talking, but even quicker-witted, Policy and Communications Director welcomed me with open arms. Staff members were quick to introduce themselves with genuine smiles and fun tips on where to visit in San Francisco. I was visiting OFC to get a feel for the office and discuss the specifics of my internship, but before I knew it, I had tickets to go to QWOCMAP, a queer, women of color film festival. I also received an invite to an alternative networking mixer for prospective LGBTQ parents.

All of this before my first day of work! I was overwhelmed, to say the least, but I couldn’t shake the fact that I was overjoyed. Not only was the work environment welcoming, but everyone knew their stuff. As a student leader at Washington University in St. Louis, I am used to working with some of the best and brightest academics in the country; however, to be in a work environment with an array of individuals well versed on advocacy, law, communications, and educational policy made me feel like I was going to leave this internship with more than I had hoped.

AshleyPullQuote1Before long, I started my first official day and was imbued with knowledge of local, state and national laws and policies that affect millions of LGBTQ individuals across the country. I was aware of some of the policies because of my interdisciplinary background in Urban Studies, but most of the information was new due to the mutable nature of our justice system. Working at OFC requires knowledge of these policies and an ability to brainstorm effective ways to combat said policies’ bias and discrimination. One of the main projects that I have been working on, the Reframing Our Families Project, utilizes my organizational, people, time-management and oral communication skills all in one. At first, working on the Project seemed daunting, but with help from Renata and Judy Appel, OFC’s Executive Director, I felt equipped to break down the Project’s main components and develop efficient strategies to complete them.

Besides the beautiful view from the office, there are two things that I will definitely take away from this experience.The first is that the policies in this country need some serious work. Let’s be honest! States like Virginia don’t even allow unmarried couples to adopt and since same sex marriages are not legally recognized in Virginia, LGBTQ couples in the state are not legally allowed to adopt children. Though this may change in due time, this means that, currently, more unplaced children will be denied loving and welcoming homes because of legal bias and discrimination. The more work and research that I do, the more I learn about the significant challenges I will have to overcome as I form my own family. But as I work, I am in awe of the seemingly furtive battles that have already been championed on my behalf.

AshleyPullQuote2The second is that our society needs organizations like Our Family Coalition. As one of the only organizations that deal with LGBTQ headed families, OFC is a rare, but essential gem dedicated to the advancement of LGBTQ individuals and their families. After discovering policies like those in Virginia, I began to develop a large sense of doubt in our political system. However, working at this internship reassured me that there are a slew of organizations, both locally and nationally, fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people everywhere. Being able to say that I was a part of one of them, is truly an honor.

Overall, this internship was a lot of work mixed in with a lot of fun. I’ll be honest, it’s not for everyone. But if you are committed to LGBTQ equality and social justice, then it will be for you, too.