This year’s Ferndale Pride was by far one of the busiest days in Affirmations’ history as thousands of people streamed through the community center to celebrate. We were able to show off the Ringwald Theatre, provide information on COVID vaccinations, and offer respite from the crowds on 9 Mile. People sat in the café to converse with old friends, lounged on our newly furnished Skydeck to catch their breath, and visited with the many organizations that had tables in our gallery (Camp4All, Gift of Life, Free Mom Hugs to name a few). Downstairs, in the youth room, we experienced something amazing and heartwarming: the youth laughing, smiling, and rummaging through clothes in our first ever (but certainly not last) gender-affirming clothing closet. This is exactly what Pride is supposed to be about: Community.
We have held tightly to our mission of Community here at Affirmations and there is much to be proud of over the past few years. We have recently hired three full-time licensed therapists, Zoe, Naheim, and Sara, as well as a full-time care manager, Brenden, who meets individually with community members to discuss their needs and barriers in order to come up with a plan together to help get them the resources and support they need to thrive. We have continued to professionalize our front desk and volunteer program by hiring, Aneesa, Community Engagement Coordinator.
Under Justin’s leadership as Community Engagement Manager, our youth program is the largest in our Center’s history, and our Senior Koffee Klatch (SKK) is now so big that they meet here at Aff and the Royal Oak Senior Center! Under the guidance of a new trainer, Nana, we are expanding LGBTQ+ training for companies, organizations, and healthcare providers around the state to continue to seek equity and inclusion. As an organization, we remain committed to social justice and equity. Still, there is always room to grow and improve. We’ve accomplished all this while remaining fiscally strong and for the third year in a row, our 2021 audit places us firmly in the black. This is our Pride.
It is in this spirit of community that we must remember that Pride was born of struggle. As we celebrate, we cannot forget our past battles or the current destructive threats facing our community. The rights to our bodies and our choices – these liberties – are being stripped away and the consequences of infringements on our basic rights continue to threaten and attack our queer community. This vocal minority will not stop with abortion, as they see that it is only the first step in a long and horrid agenda. They are focused on taking away freedoms rather than protecting actual human life that an epidemic of gun violence continues to take from us. Guns are often used in domestic partner violence, hate crimes, and suicides—three issues greatly impacting our community. So yes, reducing gun violence IS a queer issue.
The current attacks on our community are disgusting. Never has that been made more clear than seeing the new attacks on our children. Our children are now being assaulted with these horrendous bills like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” nonsense, forcing our children to deny their own families or feelings. Our vulnerable transgender youth and their families are being threatened by not allowing them to be their authentic selves. As a father of a transgender child, I am beyond angry that the rights of caregivers to make sure their children grow up safe and happy are being thrown aside for some vocal minority spewing hate, transphobia, and homophobia.
This will not stand.
We cannot let this stand.
If you are angry like me, we must take action
for our children, our community, and our future.
Affirmations, in coalition with many community partners, is heavily involved in the new statewide, “Hate Won’t Win” campaign. Join us. I encourage you to get active in this important campaign and help Affirmations as we launch the “Aff Advocates” project and work to both educate and get out the vote across our state. While Affirmations will never tell people who to vote for, we certainly have a duty to educate on issues affecting our community and to fight back against individuals who mean us harm.
The old fights are still there too: religious exemption laws, conversion therapy, attacks on queer adoption, and continued battles to ensure fair and equal treatment in public housing, healthcare, the workplace, and public accommodation. This is partly why we helped to start the Michigan Community Centers Network a few years back. We cannot do this alone; we all need to learn from and support one another. The network continues to grow and on this past Network call, we had over 30 people representing the LGBTQ+ Centers across the state and other progressive partners. I have always believed that we will all accomplish far more together than apart or fighting one another over territory or funding.
Today, Affirmations works alongside our LGBTQ+ Centers to secure funding and opportunities for us all. We work shoulder to shoulder with SAGE and the ACLU and other progressive partners across the entire state and region.
It will always be a team effort and you are a part of that team. Individual donations are critical to the success and strength of Affirmations. I’ve said it a million times throughout my career… we cannot do the work without you.
Without you, we don’t exist.
It is that simple.
Last week we hosted a youth Pride prom. It was our first since the pandemic began. More than 75 young people came and celebrated and danced and felt safe. You did that. A woman wrote to Justin Bettcher, Community Engagement Manager, about their family member, “I have never seen her smile so much. She met up with a friend who is a member of Affirmations and he showed her around and introduced her to other kids. This was the first time she has felt comfortable and like she fit in.” – You did that.
Everything that happens because of the Center – whether COVID vaccinations, mental health therapy, the theater, the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, the Cyber Center, the Rec Room, the food program, the wine party… YOU DID THAT!
We did it together.
Still, there is so much more work to do. We need your help. Your financial support, time, and talents help to protect us.
We need you now.
June 1st was the start of our 2022 Pride Fundraising Campaign and we are asking you to take part. Whether through the pledge cards attached and/or by joining us on Friday, September 23rd for our Big Bash 2022 at the Dearborn Inn, we want you involved. Big Bash is our fun flagship fundraiser that includes an open bar, an elegant dinner, live entertainment, and laughter with our community and our partners.
For more information, visit GoAffirmations.org/bigbash. Please join us and help continue our mission to change and shape the queer community, Michigan, the region, and the world!
P.S. Our COVID vaccination clinics, which continue to keep our community safe, are now offering pediatric doses for kiddos ages 6 months to 4 years old and booster shots for 5-17 year-olds (Pfizer only at this time). For more information, please visit our website or contact Jules Fisher, Vaccine Outreach Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.