10 Leaders You Should Know About
Continued from previous page
New Orleans, La.
New Orleans’s police force is notoriously corrupt. That much was obvious to the world in the years following the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when five former officers were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for shooting unarmed civilians after the storm. But the city’s long history of exploitation has forced many residents to be on constant alert, and that’s especially true of the city’s LGBT community. In 2011, a Department of Justice investigative report named discriminatory policing toward the LGBT community as one of its top concerns. That’s where BreakOut! steps in. The group is one of the city’s only LGBT youth-led organizations and their goal is clear: to protect themselves, their friends, and their families from police harassment.
7. JA’BRIEL WALTHOUR
There isn’t a big out transgender community in Hinesville. But thanks to Ja’Briel Walthour, the small city that’s about an hour west of Savannah is having an ongoing dialogue on gender identity. Last year, Walthour organized a panel discussion on transgender issues. The event brought together local religious leaders, health care experts, and mental health professionals to help shatter myths about what it means to be born into the wrong gender. In addition to planning another panel for later this year, Walthour is also working on a series of children’s books about a transgender girl who struggles to navigate her identity in hopes that kids dealing with similar issues will one day have a book to which they can relate.
8. YOUNG WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT PROJECT Chicago, Ill.
The young women who worked in Chicago’s sex trade were fed up. They were tired of being studied and prodded by researchers, social workers, and the media. They wanted to tell their own stories, without judgement, and show that the hardships they faced were bigger than any one person. The Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP) has played a crucial role in helping to develop the self-determination of Chicago’s queer and homeless youth, especially those who trade sex for survival. The group organized a taskforce to help develop Chicago’s first ever Street Youth Bill of Rights. And this month, they released their second report written by and for young women in the sex trade called “Bad Encounter Line.” The participatory research project explored how youth in the sex trade are often turned away from social services and detailed how they’re fighting back.
9. GRACIELA SANCHEZ
San Antonio, Texas
The women who stated the Esperanza Center for Peace and Justice had a goal. They weren’t interested in bringing parts of themselves to the struggle for justice; they were women, queer, and of color, and artists, and those identities couldn’t be separated. Over two decades later, they’re still going at it under the leadership of founder Graciela Sanchez. Recently, they hosted ¡Queers, Presente! an exhibition of LGBT art that’s been featured at the center.
10. KEZIA CURTIS
Kezia Curtis wanted to learn more about bikes, but she wasn’t quite expecting to make a community out of it. Her interest took her to Fender Bender, a Detrot-based bicycle and education training program. While the program isn’t exclusively for queer women of color, it has become an important safe space for queer and gender non-conforming cyclists to give a more bicycle-friendly image to the city’s car culture. Curtis became eager about the program after taking classes this year, and is getting ready to co-teach bike mechanics classes to high school students in Detroit this summer.