Mimi Demissew

Reflecting on Black History Month

This Black History Month I want to take a moment to reflect. And I want to invite you to join me, to take action.

This month and for many months preceding, I have been reflecting on these questions: what does it mean to me to be the first Black person to head an organization dedicated to uplifting sexual and gender minority families? What does it mean to be the first Black woman, the first Black mother to be holding this position in this time? 

Because it is an exceptional time: the past year has been incredibly challenging for the entire nation. With the onset of the global pandemic, we saw the most powerful nation standing idly by as it left its citizens unprotected.

For some of us, that was the first time our nation let us down. Unfortunately, like most Black people, it was not mine. Indeed, the fact that there are any Black people left at all in America is an absolute miracle and I invite you all to take a moment to honor that fact.

For all of us, the pandemic ushered in a new era of displacement: the school closings that followed the emergence of the pandemic forced caregivers, which are overwhelmingly women with children, to leave the workforce in droves. So I reflect further: how do I meet this challenge, given that the mission of Our Family Coalition is meant to support our families? 

For some of us, last year was also the first time we learned that our nation has not left its racist history behind, but rather it is still deeply entrenched in it. For me, for other Black women, and for other women of color, I would say that it felt like any other year. Another year filled with days when our pain and struggle is taken for granted. 

That pain is acute. When we take a moment this month to reflect on our very recent Black history, we must look clearly at all that has happened, including the ubiquitous videotaped and televised images depicting assassinations of many Black children. Because yes, each of those men and women whose names we call out are someone’s child. 

This month and always, I want us to take a moment to pause when we see another Black person. We need to stop talking about the outliers who have succeeded and leapt to greatness as though that means anything at all –because most Black people are drowning in institutional racisms that have left their families broken, their children punished and policed merely for being children, with Black women left holding everything together. 

I reflect deeply on all of this because I do not want my time with this beautiful organization to be in vain. I want to make sure that I use my position to uplift all sexual and gender minorities. And in doing so, I want to put a special focus on those among us who are most disenfranchised.

I invite you to join me in this work, and you can start by taking a few concrete actions.

This month we’ve launched a Community Needs Assessment which will continue throughout the year. And early next month we will be interviewing small groups of families and people who want to form families so that we can clearly align all of our programmatic initiatives with community needs. 

Please take the survey, participate in a focus group, and share the news widely in your networks.

Our organization has also launched a California Reparations Task Force Accountability action. I want to make sure that the Reparations Task Force that was authorized last fall by the state legislature be held accountable, and produce real recommendations and actions that will benefit the lives of all Black people. We should expect more from the most powerful nation and we should expect more from the richest state in that nation. 

Please sign the call for Reparations Task Force Accountability, and share the news widely in your networks.

In 2021 we need to be talking about more than just surviving. We need to talk about celebrating Black people and making sure Black people are thriving. I want to be able to walk down a diaper aisle with my child knowing that he will also be affirmed and see faces that look like his and not be constantly reminded that his name and face do not matter.

With your help, I want to ensure that our organization truly serves Black families – because uplifting Black people is uplifting LGBTQ+ families. 

I am the first Black person to lead this organization as Executive Director, and I do not want to be the last.  

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