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When Jeffrey Richardson, director of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s Office of GLBT Affairs, is on the clock, his catchphrase might be the same as the District’s: ”One City, One Future.”
But when he’s talking about the campaign he’s founded with Patricia Bory, an old AmeriCorps friend, the mantra is clear: ”time, talent and treasure.” That’s what the two hope to harness with the Queer Youth Project.
”It’s really a campaign,” Richardson explains. ”It’s not a standalone organization per se. It’s really a campaign to draw attention for folks to step up and support LGBTQ youth here in the District.”
It all started, he says, with a piece in The Washington Post about an LGBT youth gang, Check It, which quoted Richardson, resulting in plenty of calls to his office.
”’I’d like to volunteer,”’ Richardson says, quoting a typical call and noting that this was before Peaceaholics founder Ron Moten stepped up to advocate for the Check It youth. ”’How can I help these kids?’ ‘How do we reach these young folks?’
”That gave us an awareness that not a lot of youth organizations are being intentional with regard to LGBT youth. There was really nowhere to send them but SMYAL.”
Richardson adds that sitting down to dinner with some of these youths confirmed as much: that D.C. may be a wonderful place for LGBT adults of means, but not for LGBT youth with few resources.
There’s where the Queer Youth Project is trying to do its part, now working with the Youth Pride Alliance as its primary partner, but also working across the community to connect good intentions with real applications.
”We’re not trying to build a new organization. We’re trying to be a conduit to connect folks with others doing great work. Everybody can do different things. We want to use the brand to encourage folks to step up and be present for our young people.”
It starts with a visit to queeryouthproject.org and filling out a form. From there, Bory and Richardson will look for a good fit.
Richardson reinforces his message: ”It’s really time to get the broader community to step up. We have three targets: time, talent and treasure.”
How did the ”nation’s first giving circle by and for Queer Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities” close out September? By awarding $10,000, that’s how.
At a Sept. 26 event, the Rainbow Dragon Fund split that money between Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Sisters (APIQS), Asian and Pacific Islander Queers United for Action (AQUA), KhushDC, SMYAL, the University of Maryland’s Asian American Student Union and Youth Pride Alliance.
For this new D.C.-based fund, part of an Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) push to create 50 giving circles across the country, that’s not too shabby – also with thanks to $5,000 in matching grants from AAPIP and the Gill Foundation.
”It’s about community taking control of its giving power, exercising its power – not waiting for organizations or government to help support our community efforts,” says Mala Nagarajan, a member of the RDF steering committee. ”It’s about strengthening our community and realizing the financial power that we have, that we don’t always realize.”
Nagarajan says that there is a sort of disconnect when it comes to perceptions of the Asian-American community, and that the Rainbow Dragon Fund is one possible remedy.
”The Asian community is very divided. There’s a really wealthy part with a higher median income than the white community, according to the Census. Then there’s a huge number of people in our community – refugees, immigrants – who have just come, some in dire circumstances,” she says, adding that she’d like to challenge everyone, wherever they may fall on the economic scale, to get involved with this sort of collective effort. ”It doesn’t matter what income level you’re at, the impact is huge. I want to really increase giving in our community.”
Beyond donating, Nagarajan emphasizes that there’s also an incredibly gratifying reward in getting more involved in one’s community – something beyond measure.
”Most of us do not work for foundations, don’t hear always what’s going on in our communities, what kinds of needs there are,” she says. ”But we just know the power of community organizations, people of color community organizations, grassroots organizations – and how much the dollar stretches [with collective giving]. It’s life-transforming to be part of those communities.”
Those interested in being a part of the Rainbow Dragon Fund’s community should visit RDF online at rainbowdragonfund.org.