In honor of Black History Month, SAGE will be sharing a series of posts from partners and constituents sharing their stories. SAGE's partners at the Diverse Elders Coalition and are pleased to present this guest post from Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging.
The time has come to make a change and support paid family leave for everyone. As President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanics older adults, their families, and caregivers, I will be testifying in a public hearing for the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 on Thursday, February 11, 2016.
Hispanic older adults face substantial challenges to aging in economic security and in the best possible health. Limited education and English speaking ability, combined with a lack of financial literacy, means that many Hispanics enter old age with little in the way of savings. In 2014, 80% of Hispanics lacked health insurance and 23.6% lived in poverty. Hispanics have the second highest labor force participation rate among non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians; however, they are over-represented in low-paying, physically demanding jobs that offer little in terms of health benefits or paid sick days.
Washington, D.C. and its Hispanic population need the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015. Many of the health and economic barriers that Hispanics face could be lowered by access to paid family leave. Not only will this policy encourage the use of affordable preventative health care, it will also keep workers healthy so they do not develop conditions that are expensive to treat. Paid family leave will help intergenerational households by allowing adult children to take time off to care for their parents or to take them to the doctor. They shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and their families.
I invite you to join and support paid family leave for a better Washington, D.C. United, we can make a change!
In honor of Black History Month, SAGE will be sharing a series of posts from partners and constituents sharing their stories. SAGE's partners at the Diverse Elders Coalition and MetroWeekly are pleased to present this guest post from Earl D. Fowlkes, President/CEO of the Center for Black Equity. Read the original here.
Earl D. Fowlkes, President/CEO of the Center for Black Equity
February 7, 2016 marks the 16th National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States and the Diaspora. This year’s theme is “We are Our Brother/Sister’s Keeper: FIGHT HIV/AIDS.” I had cause to take a moment to reflect on the impact that HIV/AIDS has on my life, particularly as a Gay Black Man. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has been with us since 1981, and I have worked in the HIV/AIDS prevention and care field since the mid-eighties as a caregiver, volunteer, service provider, and administrator. I have often referred to those days as the “time of darkness,” as an HIV diagnosis meant pain and heartache, both physical as well as emotional; at that time, there were very few medicines or medical interventions available. My mind floods with the names of friends, clients and loved ones who were taken far too soon.
Several months ago, a close friend who is in his sixties and lives in another part of the United States called to informed me he had tested positive for HIV. I was a bit taken aback: this friend had tested negative for years and understood HIV prevention practices. He was very upset but not for the reasons I would have thought. He complained that he didn’t feel supported on his journey for information and medical care. Most of the staff he encountered were in their 20’s and 30’s and could not relate to him being a sexually active senior. He was concerned about how his HIV diagnosis would impact his senior housing and how his neighbors would react if they found out. He said one younger staffer at the HIV/AIDS service provider treated him as if he was a “dirty old man.” I asked him if he knew about Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and he said he did but thought it was for younger Gay men. He said was shocked to find ageism so rampant as he tried to access care and treatment.
I gave him additional resources, and I also did a little research on the impact of HIV/AIDS on people over 50. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the rate of new HIV infections among people over 50 was 17%. Also, the CDC estimates that by 2020, over 50% of People Living with HIV/AIDS will be over the age of 50. In 2014, 44% of new HIV infections were African Americans, who only make up 12% of the population. These statistics and my friend’s call to me were stark reminders that we must include all parts of our community in our HIV/AIDS prevention outreach efforts, care, and treatment. Many of our seniors are sexually active and vulnerable to the same circumstances of the lack of information and support as the younger and more visible members of the community. On this NBHAAD, remember: we are our brother and sister’s keeper, from our teens to our seniors. Let’s fight HIV/AIDS together!
In honor of Black History Month, SAGE is publishing a series of posts from our diverse partners, constituents and allies. This post was originally published on the Diverse Elders Coalition's blog. Dr. Imani Woody is the Chair and Program Executive for SAGE Metro D.C. and is the Founding Director and CEO of Mary’s House for Older Adults.
I have been thinking about what it means to be me: an older, African American out lesbian, wife, mother, grandmother, caregiver, educator, and CEO, living and working in the United States. In 2008, the words Audacity of Hope and hopeful came to mind, in reference to then President-Elect Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope and my experiences.
I was born in segregated Washington, DC in a time when nonwhites couldn’t eat in dining establishments; when people of color were treated at two medical hospitals, Freedman’s, the hospital for Negroes, or DC General, the city hospital. It was a time where my parents would have to go back “home” to North Carolina to vote for President, where a retired professional was found living in a chicken coop, and being outwardly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or anyway same-gender loving carried a mentally ill diagnosis from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I).
Fast forward to the 1960s, which are indeed a time of hope. Mary Church Terrell has won her lawsuit and leads a successful movement to desegregate public facilities in Washington, DC; Ethel Percy Andrus, after finding a retired woman living in a chicken coop, leads two organization to create decent living conditions and financial stability to elders, and Bayard Rustin, an openly, gay, Black man and confidante to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is one of the key organizers of the 1963 March on Washington. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 becomes the law of the land. The audacity of hope – things can change.
The 70s bring marriage and a son, and I open an independent Black school for young people to learn African history; DC has its first gay pride march and the APA removes homosexuality from the DSM. The 80s bring the enactment of the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in DC, and I join more than 5 million people to make a chain in the Hands Across America campaign to fight hunger and homelessness. Me, I recognize my love for women, come out to my son, and divorce my husband.
In the 90s, Clinton signs “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law; I find an increased commitment to advocate for people of color, elders, women, children and people who identify as lesbian and gay. I volunteer and sit on boards and committees of organizations to promote the health and wellbeing of people who look like me. The audacity of hope – things can change.
Early in the new millennium, Washington, DC adds sexual orientation and gender identity to its Human Rights law, Massachusetts is the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and I start working at AARP, joining the small, dedicated and growing movement working to embrace LGBT into the meaning of its “whole person” inclusiveness. At AARP, I work to change policy to include domestic partnership for staff and members, organize the first AARP LGBT 50+ reception at a LIFE @50 event, and sponsor Services and Advocacy for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders’ (SAGE) 30th Birthday Conference Celebration. I become the chair of SAGE Metro DC, an affiliate of SAGE, in part to reflect the presence of older, gay, Black people. Older out LGBT people are visible at AARP. Older, out Black LGBT people are visible at SAGE. The audacity to hope – things can change.
However, the more things change the more things remain the same. Black elders as a whole are still over represented in the lower economic strata. Elderly Black people are being pushed out of the public housing that they have lived in for decades. The Supreme Court voids the formula that protects voting rights. LGBTQ elders are going back into the closet because it’s too hard to be old and gay. Workers are still marching and campaigning to receive a decent living wage. Black men, women and children are being killed by the police in record numbers. LGBTQ people continue to be killed at an alarming rate and the murder of Black transgender women is still the highest.
This brings me again to the audacity to hope, that things can change and that things do change. Amid racial tension and atrocities, a Black man is completing his second term as the President of the United States of America. A police officer was indicted for killing an unarmed black person – in Georgia. Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with other white, Black, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, Spanish, female, male, Transgender, older, younger, middle class, working poor, retired, truck drivers, teachers, students, professionals, housekeepers, parents, children, politicians, actors, undocumented residents, and citizens created a hue and cry to remind everyone that Black Lives Matter.
As an older, African America, out lesbian, wife, mother, grandmother, caregiver, educator, and CEO, living and working in the United States, I have witnessed events that give meaning to Jesse Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive.” I am forever grateful to stand on the shoulders of Black folks like Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a Woman Too?” W.E.B. Dubois: “Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.” Fannie Lou Hammer: “…And whether you’re from Morehouse or Nohouse, we’re still in this bag together.” Maya Angelou: “And Still I Rise.” Nikki Giovanni: “Show me someone not full of herself and I’ll show you an empty person.” Audre Lorde: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Barbara Smith: “One of the greatest gifts of Black feminism to ourselves has been to make it a little easier simply to be Black and female.” And Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (“You can’t win what you won’t fight for”) audacity to hope, to advocate for action that leads to change. Such change, in turn, leads to an audacity to hope.
Note: This is an adaptation of a piece written in 2008 for The Spectrum Newsletter Fall/Winter Vol II Issue 3.
After the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality in late June, 26 million friends of the LGBTQ community showed their support — at least on that issue —by putting a rainbow filter over their Facebook profile picture. Ultimately, the freedom to marry and #LoveWins became a “sexy” way for new allies to express their solidarity en masse. It was easy — by clicking a button the supporter and supported both could feel good basking in the glow of new equality and community. I won’t critique the value of the effort– – I have to admit that when I saw the rainbow over the face of my staunchly Catholic straight cousin, it meant a lot.
But the gritty work that forges equity at the deepest crossroads of disenfranchisement and marginalization in our society often isn’t so sexy. What it takes to be an ally isn’t as easy as momentary solidarity and the click of a button. It takes commitment and sacrifice — putting a real stake in the ground. That’s why it’s noteworthy that at SAGE in recent years we’ve seen the emergence of true new leaders in the struggle for dignity and equity for LGBT elders. Even more importantly, some of the most game-changing new leaders have come from outside LGBT communities.
These stories of new leadership are a tribute to the courage and vision of new leaders for our cause — individuals who know how to “connect the dots” of social justice and are willing to do so. The stories also reflect emerging strategies of SAGE and other diverse elder communities — strategies that recognize how systems of oppression and privilege intersect, and turn that recognition into powerful action for change and greater equity.
Stepping Out for LGBT Elders of Color in New York It’s not surprising that the country’s first full-fledged senior center for LGBT elders is located in Chelsea. The historical roots of New York City’s modern LGBT community, and of SAGE itself, are located right down the street in the West Village. Many elders from the Stonewall generation still live, as they have for decades, in the rent-controlled walk-up apartments that remain in these neighborhoods. While this is SAGE’s historical backyard, we also recognize that many of those who most need senior center services are LGBT elders of color — who live at the intersection of LGBTQ identity, race, advanced age, and in many cases poverty. Yet, for the most part, that’s not who was using the SAGE Center in Chelsea. The fact is that, apart from the valiant efforts of GRIOT Circle, the country’s only LGBT elders of color organization, the needs of LGBT elders of color have largely been disregarded. Most elders want to age in place — by continuing to reside in their neighborhoods and communities. For the vast majority of New York City’s LGBT elders of color, that means Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens — not Chelsea.
SAGE’s recent advocacy efforts on behalf of low-income LGBT elders of color across New York City have attracted important new leaders to our cause. Support for our work historically has come predominantly from older white gays and lesbians and a small group of New York City Council members who make up the LGBT Caucus and understand the needs of the city’s LGBT communities. The successful advocacy for public funding for SAGE Centers across New York City broke the mold in part because the advocacy effort was led by Councilmember Ritchie Torres. True, Councilmember Torres is gay and a member of the LGBT Caucus. But he’s also young (at 27, the youngest member of the City Council), of Puerto Rican descent, a lifelong resident of the Bronx, and a champion of the city’s public housing that he was raised in. As somebody who connects the dots and understands the value of services that reflect the needs of diverse communities, Ritchie Torres clearly represents an important new leader for the cause of LGBT elders.
Even more striking is the crucial political support for the citywide LGBT elder initiative that came from the New York City Council as a whole, led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The speaker is not a member of the LGBT community. But she is a progressive Latina leader who has become a powerful and visible champion for a New York City that prioritizes the needs of low-income people of color and who has argued forcefully for an equitable allocation of resources across the city’s neighborhoods. The combination of the speaker’s intersectional values and SAGE’s intersectional strategies resulted in the City Council making an unprecedented $1.5 million investment to open five new LGBT senior centers in Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
Diverse Elder Communities Stand Up for Each Other at the National Level Fortunately, this isn’t just a New York City story. In 2010, SAGE joined with leading people of color aging organizations like the National Hispanic Council on Aging and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging to form the Diverse Elders Coalition, a national collaborative that engages in policy advocacy and community education on behalf of low income LGBT and people of color elders. For participating people of color organizations, the formation of the Coalition represented a decision to formally embrace LGBT older people and their needs as an important part of a diverse elder agenda.
For SAGE, joining the Coalition meant that issues like immigration reform, language competency in aging services, and disenfranchisement of Native American elders needed to become part of our advocacy agenda. Thus, when the National Indian Council on Aging and other people of color aging organizations confronted serious threats to elder workforce programs for their communities, SAGE made protection of those programs one of our policy priorities.
Similarly, people of color organizations in the Diverse Elders Coalition have strongly supported SAGE’s efforts to make the federal Older Americans Act LGBT-inclusive.
Here again, new leaders from beyond the LGBT community have emerged to take up the cause of LGBT elders. Dr. Yanira Cruz, the head of the National Hispanic Council on Aging, has personally championed the first-ever needs assessment of Latino LGBT elders and has participated in LGBTQ conferences across the country. Quyen Dinh and Doua Thor, the present and former heads of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, have been powerful and vocal advocates for LGBT-inclusion in national coalition work in the aging sector. These new leaders for SAGE’s cause have emerged not only as a result of their personal courage and values, but also as a consequence of an intentionally intersectional approach by SAGE and our sister organizations in the Diverse Elders Coalition.
So, we celebrate the 26 million rainbow profile photos on Facebook. But at SAGE, we save our deepest awe and respect for leaders like Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Dr. Yanira Cruz, and Quyen Dinh, who have put a powerful stake in the ground for LGBT elders living at the intersection of sexual and gender identity, race, age, and class.
Yesterday SAGE celebrated the launch of the SAGE-GRIOT Innovative Senior Center of Brooklyn, a new partnership with GRIOT Circle. The partnership is part of a citywide expansion of services for LGBT older adults funded by the New York City Council. SAGE now serves community members in Brooklyn, Harlem, Midtown Manhattan and Staten Island--a major increase in its reach that means better services and supports for thousands of New Yorkers!
The SAGE/GRIOT Circle partnership enables both organizations to serve a larger number of participants with a greater breadth of programming, including exercise classes, support groups, case management and more.
The event was commemorated by a proclamation from New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, a member of the Council's LGBT Caucus, as well as remarks from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado, GRIOT Circle Board Treasurer Rev. Janyce Jackson- Jones, as well as GRIOT Circle members, who performed an original poem for the crowd. GRIOT Circle Executive Director Katherine Acey and SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams celebrated the collaboration, the potential for growth, and the beginning of a new chapter for both organizations.
"Sounds of Conversation," allowed SAGE to bring LGBT older adults and youth together for an artist workshop that allowed each of the participant an opportunity to exchange personal narratives and create a theatrical piece for their respective communities. The workshops were conducted over a series of Saturdays in the summer of 2014 at the SAGE Center Harlem location. The theatrical piece was performed on September 11th at the Producers Club, which is located within the famed theater district of New York City. This video highlights the process and the performance of "Sounds of Conversation." To view another video of this workshop, visit our YouTube channel.
Today's post is from Ben de Guzman, the National Managing Coordinator of our partner organization, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC). It was originally featured on the DEC's blog here. Follow the DEC on Twitter for more updates.
On Tuesday, November 25, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), in partnership with the U.S. Department on Health and Human Services (HHS), hosted a briefing on the Affordable Care Act and diverse elders. As the new National Managing Coordinator for the DEC, I was excited to open the event by welcoming the audience and introducing Michael Adams, Executive Director of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), a DEC member. Michael provided a wealth of data on health care challenges faced by diverse communities, including Latinos, American Indians/ Alaska Natives (AI/ AN), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), African Americans, the LGBT community, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS. Some of the highlights of these data include:
AAPI Older Adults: Health disparities within a diverse AAPI elder population and the need for disaggregated data (eg. Disproportionate rates of breast cancer among Japanese and Filipino women).
Hispanic Older Adults: In 2009, 32.4% of all Hispanics and 5% of Hispanic seniors lacked health insurance.
LGBT Older Adults: Significant physical and mental health disparities: high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and more.
HIV Positive Older Adults: 50% of those who are HIV+ will be age 50+ by 2015—70% will be 50+ by 2020.
With this baseline of information in place, Michael introduced two important partners in the DEC’s work, Matthew Heinz, who serves as HHS’s liaison to the LGBT community and providers, and Kathy Greenlee, Administrator for the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Both Mr. Heinz and Administrator Greenlee emphasized their agencies’ commitment to maintaining and expanding their responsiveness to diverse communities as we enter the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment.
The discussion moved to a panel format, which included Mr. Adams, Vicky Gottleich, Director of the ACL’s Center for Policy and Evaluation, and Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), another DEC member. The conversation expanded to include disparities that women face in accessing health care, as well as specific experiences Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees are having with Covered California, that state’s health insurance exchange. A vibrant Q&A session drilled down further into the issues.
With the second round of enrollment just beginning, the pending transition of political leadership in the Senate, and important conversations happening across the country around race and LGBT equality, this is an important time to be having this discussion for older adults across the spectrum. The DEC and its members continue to be at the forefront of this discussion and are committed to the wellbeing of all older adults, their families, and their communities.
Over the past decade, SAGE's Harlem contingent has grown from a small group of dedicated community members to an energetic, engaged community of dozens of older adults with a full-time gathering space for case management, classes, discussion groups and socializing. On a typical Friday night, SAGE Harlem participants can be found discussing politics, reminiscing, watching movies or playing games.
To mark the occasion, nearly 200 Harlem community members, SAGE staffers, volunteers, and local leaders gathered to celebrate with food, conversation and good company. For more images of the event, visit the SAGE Flickr page here.
Harlem Program Manager Chris Jones addressed the crowd.
This expansion wouldn't have been possible without the help of SAGE's Harlem Investors Circle, which raised an extraordinary $100,000 in just one year--an impressive feat that will make a huge impact! SAGE applauds their visionary support of our programs, services, and facilities in Harlem. These supporters serve as champions for the LGBT elders of color that we serve.
In Fall 2013, SAGE launched a visionary strategic plan to guide its work over the next three years on behalf of LGBT older people. Among several top priority mandates, such as growing SAGE’s national impact and expanding best practices in aging services, we committed ourselves to a new campaign to decisively strengthen SAGE’s diversity and inclusion efforts. As aptly described in our strategic blueprint, “SAGE will integrate diversity and inclusion strategies into all of our internal and external functions. We’ll also develop culturally competent service models that target more vulnerable elders, and we’ll share this learning with our peers in the aging and LGBT field.”
This summer, we wrote and in-depth article in SAGEMatters about the importance of this mandate, as well as how SAGE has historically worked to address exclusion and create community for all LGBT older people.
Additionally, in early June SAGE's board of directors enacted a diversity statement that's meant to solidify and guide SAGE's work on diversity and inclusion. The statement reads:
“SAGE believes that we have a responsibility to make the principles of diversity and inclusion a centerpiece of our purpose, our people and our work. Such principles will:
Allow us to continually grow our relevance to SAGE’s stakeholders in a diverse world;
Utilize the contributions of diverse individuals to strengthen all aspects of SAGE’s work, as the country’s leader on LGBT aging;
Provide us with a larger pool of shared understanding, thus enabling us to make better decisions; and
Increase our ability to recognize our biases, and thus reducing the likelihood that we will be influenced by those biases.
SAGE is committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion in providing services to our constituencies; in creating our Board; in hiring, training and advancing our staff and volunteers: and in all that we do.
SAGE will ensure that our commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion is realized by:
Incorporating the principles of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of SAGE, including its Board, staff, programs, and initiatives,
Holding ourselves accountable to our principles of diversity and inclusion by establishing and monitoring measurable outcomes, and
Sharing our commitment to diversity and inclusion so that our actions create greater understanding of the importance and benefits of diversity and inclusion, and in doing so, demonstrate SAGE’s commitment as a role model for the LGBT and aging communities, and beyond.”
A webinar is a presentation and discussion that takes place over the internet. Participants can interact with the presenter through polls, Q&A, and video or audio connections. Webinars are a great way to reach people working in remote or rural communities, as well people with jobs or hours that make it difficult to attend in-person trainings.
Why are we focusing on LGBT older adults of color and transgender older adults?
First, we want to draw attention to the fact that while the LGBT population is just as diverse as the non-LGBT population, the needs of LGBT older adults of color are often under addressed by both LGBT and aging network organizations. The webinar begins with video interviews to help participants understand the experience of LBGT older adults of color. Next, we learn about pioneering LGBT people of color in order to question our own prejudices and misconceptions around race and ethnicity. Finally, we discuss ways to create organizations that welcome and include LGBT older adults of color.
Second, many people may know or work with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, but have much less experience working with transgender older adults. Transgender Aging: What Service Providers Need (and Don't Need!) to Know introduces participants to the basics of the transgender experience, with a focus on how to provide respectful and affirming care for transgender older adults. Some of the topics include what it means to transition, how to ask about transgender status in an appropriate and respectful way, and a set of best practices for working with transgender older adults.
These two webinars join our highly successful Introduction to LGBT Aging. Launched in January 2014, Introduction of LGBT Aging has already reached service providers in 12 states. It is our hope that these easily accessible and highly engaging online presentations will continue to educate people across the country.
For more information, or to schedule a live webinar, please contact Tim R. Johnston, Manager of Education and Training at 212-741-2247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.