These have been difficult days. COVID-19 is further exposing health disparities for Black and Brown communities and the recent police involved deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade and the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, are highlighting systemic violence against Black communities. It is little wonder that the current political climate is tense and that grief and anguish are mixing with rage to bring people into the streets across this country.
Chicago, one of this country’s most segregated cities and one of the centers of the COVID-19 crisis, is both a place in turmoil and a place for hope. Activists such a Ja’mal Green, are lighting the way with the message that accountability is paramount to peace. We here at Center on Halsted are doing all we can to honor that message by being accountable to our community and delivering on our promise to advance the health and well being of LGBTQ people. As our Mayor Lori Lightfoot so eloquently said on Monday, “This is a time for us to unite. We have to turn our pain into purpose in order to get through this moment together and do the work needed to unite our city and move us forward in a way that is more equitable, inclusive, and just.”
This week, we had hoped to return from sheltering in place to honor the opening of the Center on June 1, 2007, 13 years ago. At that time we designed a building as a symbol of hope and strength, with big glass windows and open spaces to welcome people into community. Today, that hope is very much needed and manifested in many ways. Staff have been working from home to respond to people in critical need of help- people who are struggling with depression, fear, anxiety, hunger, lack of shelter, violence, and so much more. And the staff have also been here to be a connection for people who just need someone to talk with and to help them know they are not alone.
Today, if you walked by the Center, you would see that our windows are boarded up. We have been receiving ongoing threats of destruction by anti-LGBTQ groups who are trying to bring harm to the Black Lives Matter movement by creating havoc. Seeing the Center with all the windows boarded up is heartbreaking and far afield of our dreams when we were building this symbol of Pride, but we will rise up because of the faith and trust you have placed in us. The faith that we will continue to serve in face of adversity and the trust to provide care with compassion for all in our community.
Please be safe and continue to raise your voice up to create the change that is needed for equity of Black and Brown people across this country. Please lift each other up, our loved ones and even those we don’t know. That is what community does. And that is what the Center’s mission is — to build community.
Visit our website for resources and opportunities to get involved.
Programming will continue by appointment and through virtual programming using Zoom and other remote platforms.
Modesto Tico Valle
CEO, Center on Halsted