The nation’s first Black Chapter of PFLAG is relaunching – and our new name is Sankofa Collective Northwest.
As an organization, there are many reasons for our new launch, including a need for political self-sufficiency and a passion for Black leadership throughout our ranks.
PFLAG Portland Black Chapter
PFLAG Portland Black Chapter (PFLAG PBC) was founded in 2009 through the collaboration of PFLAG Portland leadership and leaders in Portland’s Black community to address the lack of involvement, engagement, and participation from the Black community within PFLAG Portland and the need to have culturally specific work in the Black community around LGBTQ equality.
PFLAG PBC works to address the multiple layers of discrimination that Black LGBTQ people and their families and loved ones face, and offer opportunities to transform our community. Over the past seven years we have grown significantly from one part time staff and one main program area—to being led by a steering committee, four staff, and providing five distinct areas of programming to the larger community in line with our mission and values to empower Black LGBTQ people and their loved ones.
Moving Forward: Sankofa Collective Northwest
We plan to build off of the incredible success we have had over the past seven years as we restructure our organization to come out of this difficult and challenging transition stronger than over. As part of MRG’s 3-year Capacity Building Initiative: we are ensured the specific support needed for small social justice nonprofits.
Rebranding as Sankofa Collective Northwest, we will continue to be the only organization within the region specifically serving the Black LGBTQ community. Thanks to the support of partner organizations, funders, and individual community members: we have been able to continue our youth programming, equity training’s for Portland Public Schools, prison abolition campaigns and more during this time of extreme upheaval. We have a list of accomplishments and testimony that reminds us how vitally important we are to this community and are prepared to continue fighting for the liberation for the spectrum of Black Queer and Trans people and those who love them.
“We still have at the center of it, lifting up Black LGBTQ families and individuals and working towards liberation of all Black peoples in this country, in this state, in this city,” said Co-Executive Director, Khalil Edwards.
We are a truly invested and dedicated community; our story is not over and we know that the best is yet to come. Visit us here at sankofanw.org to find out how you can engage with our work
How we got here
PFLAG Portland Black Chapter shared 501c3 tax exempt status with PFLAG Portland as a satellite of PFLAG Portland. Each chapter held PFLAG Portland Board seats which served as a place to share information and updates, review and monitor finances, offer technical assistance, and deepen collaboration. At the same time, each chapter operated in good faith as autonomous chapters with agency to carry out their work and operations in a manner that was responsive to the communities they served.
In late June of 2016 the President of PFLAG Portland, Dawn Holt, contacted PFLAG Portland Black Chapter (PPBC) Co-Directors, Khalil Edwards and Leila Hofstein, with concerns regarding finances. Following this conversation multiple decisions were made by Holt without input or consent from staff, steering committee or the PFLAG Portland Board of Directors and on July 15th staff were laid off, and as of August 1, 2016 PFLAG Portland Black Chapter no longer had 501c3 tax status.
Though this is a complex situation with many moving parts: in simple terms, there are a few key things we can point to:
- Grant Reliant: Our organization has been grant reliant since our founding. Any organization relying too heavily on grants is not the most sustainable model or best practice. As a newer PFLAG organization this was not seen as an area of concern or necessarily growth. As our organization grew it became something we were more aware of and that we addressed; but had not reached a point where missing a grant was not an issue.
- Autonomy: Since our founding we have operated in good faith and were afforded complete autonomy over the direction and decision making power of our organization. While our list of accomplishments continued to grow, the recognition for our work spread, the requests for support in replicating our success in PFLAG’s across the country continued, reminders from community of how important and necessary we are, and our reputation for serving Black LGBTQ Oregonians was something to be proud of, we enjoyed autonomy. In this challenging time we found that our autonomy was assumed and not a fact written into any policy, contract, or organizational documents. Maybe because of the assumed nature of our relationship to PFLAG Portland we dragged our feet in becoming a truly independent organization and deserved or not, we are now paying the price for that.
PFLAG Portland Black Chapter was not your traditional PFLAG organization. In addition to having paid staff, which the majority of PFLAGs do not consist of, we offer distinct programming to meet the pressing needs of the communities we serve; Youth Outreach, Faith Outreach, Member Support, Portland Black Pride, and our Policy and Advocacy program. We are indeed a Black LGBTQ organization that is more complex than any PFLAG organization in the country and our work requires dedicated staff and a Board comprised of those most directly impacted to guide our work and provide direction and oversight.
Our heartfelt thanks goes out to the many friends and supporters that have invested their time, energy, and resources in Black liberation and continue to believe in our work. We look forward to the next part of our journey together.