Monthly Archives: November 2019

young-person-at-Ohlone-gathering-Coyote-Hills-2010

Grief, gratitude, and witness

by Sam Ames, Esq., JD, MTS
Interim Executive Director

On this day – for some a day of gratitude, for others a day of grief, and for many a day of both – I want to start by acknowledging that the history of this holiday can be a painful one. It’s especially complex for many LGBTQ people, for families facing food insecurity, and for those indigenous to this land.

Like every community, we owe our lives to the generations that came before us. Some were brought here against their will, some had to leave their homes in hope of a better life, and some have lived in this place for millennia. Today, we begin by paying respect to them – to the elders of the Raymatush Ohlone tribes both past and present from whose land I write this letter.

This originates from a practice in many Indigenous traditions when traveling to another’s home to acknowledge being guests and acting with respect. But today, we have to also acknowledge that 250 years ago those who traveled here didn’t arrive as guests but as colonizers. In a season when Indigenous culture is often reduced to costume and grief whitewashed by gratitude, we have to remember that safe and loving community only grows where we are willing to hold ourselves and each other accountable.

Part of what accountability looks like today is honoring the descendants of those from whom this land was taken – who are still here fighting for recognition – by paying into the Shuumi land tax that funds the efforts of the Sogorea Te Land Trust in East Oakland, and supporting groups like the Indian People Organizing for Change, which works to preserve sacred sites in the Bay Area.* Part of it is talking to our families about the history of our country with tools like the books for all ages collected by Nambé Pueblo professor Debbie Reese. And part of it is not turning away from the complexity of a season that is many things to many people.

Whoever you are, and however you hold this day, you’re part of this family.

If you’re Indigenous and reminded every time you turn on the television that, on your Day of Mourning, this country would rather hold a multimillion dollar parade than a moment in honor of the ancestors you lost;

If you’re too queer or too trans or too political and reminded every time you open a newsfeed, filled with smiling faces around long tables, of the family you lost;

If you’re a survivor of abuse and reminded every time you make eye contact across the table of the childhood you lost;

If you’re grieving and reminded every time you see an empty chair of the love you lost;

If you’re a descendent of enslaved people and reminded every time a football player kneels that your leaders will pardon turkeys and torturers but won’t stop criminalizing Black bodies even after they’re lost;

If you’re a person without legal immigration status and reminded every time there’s a knock at the door of how much you could still lose;

If you’re in the dark, no matter the reason, and reminded every time you open your eyes of the light you can’t see –

We see you. And we’re so grateful you’re part of our family.

*And also: Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits and Indian Canyon.

This Is What Family Looks Like

by Sam Ames, Interim Executive Director

[they/them]

One thing we all know–especially those of us building families and expanding understanding of what families are–is that change is one of life’s most dependable constants.

Over 20 years ago, Our Family Coalition started creating space for family inside LGBTQ advocacy and support systems. Queer families existed then, but in relative isolation. Our community-based organizations by and large didn’t recognize us. Our larger institutions didn’t see or support us. Our culture was indifferent to us at best, hostile at worst. And we saw virtually nothing on the horizon to suggest the day would come when we could walk down the street holding our heads high and our hands together–as family.

We built and raised our families on our own, usually in the face of huge risks–legal, medical, or emotional, or all three–sharing our growing knowledge with each other as best we could. We’ve grown since then, as a society and as a community of families that have been in this together since the beginning. And in the process, we’ve helped bring about massive change: mind by mind, and heart by heart. Through it all, we’ve come to realize that it’s our love–of our partners, of our children, and of the just future they have the right to–that keeps our families strong.

Today, we need you to help keep the OFC family strong.

The love that defines us has driven an expansion of the very definition of family. We are chosen family. We are extended family. We are multigenerational, multiracial, multigender family. We are age-old ways of making family. We are brand new ways of defining family. We are your family. This is what family looks like.

We know that work this big takes generations, and we know we have miles to go before we sleep. The victories we celebrate along the way aren’t finish lines; they are mile markers, and fuel for the fight.

Wins like these are not effortless. OFC’s ability to commit and stay committed–not just to survive, but to help our families thrive–depends on significant financial resources. Your investment is among the most important, direct ways to show your support for this mission, and for the work it takes to live it. It’s how our work becomes your work.

Now through December 31st, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation
will match your donation dollar for dollar!

Supporting Our Family Coalition means supporting diverse queer families. It means supporting culturally humble and evidence-based direct services to our community. It means supporting visionary institutional change work that prioritizes and follows the lead of those who are most impacted by unjust systems.

Help OFC build an inclusive and just world for all queer families

by donating today.

When I reflect on this past year, I return to this core truth: it is you, our community–our family–who remains our fuel for the fight, our strength, our true north. You show us what is possible when we lead with love. You show us what family looks like. Thank you for being part of our family, and for letting us be part of yours.