The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s ACTIVATE & ELEVATE fellowship programs are operating at a time where our transgender and non-binary family, particuarly Black and Brown transgender women, finds itself in a unique and often incredibly frustrating and daunting social and political time.
The ACTIVATE & ELEVATE programs are designed to advance the leadership skills of BIPOC leaders in the trans and non-binary community. These programs are similar, but the ELEVATE fellowship advances the leadership of Black and Latinx transgender women in the South by effectively increasing their capacity to navigate and improve public health systems. In turn, ACTIVATE is a professional development program designed for Black and Latinx transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary, and POC community leaders with two years or more of advocacy and community organizing experience. ACTIVATE is an expanded version of the ELEVATE fellowship.
For the over 2 million transgender and non-binary people in the U.S., many of whom identify as either Black or Latinx, programs like ACTIVATE & ELEVATE are incredibly dire as the community continues to endure brusque attacks. 2020 was a year which coupled discrimination, transphobia and violence with the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This country is currently facing an epidemic of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially Black transgender women,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Foundation’s director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “In the midst of this crisis, lifting up the voices of trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary people of color and helping them develop the tools to advance their powerful work has never been more critical.”
ACTIVATE provides an in-depth, comprehensive training curriculum that addresses the core skills needed to achieve and thrive in leadership roles in the LGBTQ non-profit sector.
Naomi Green from Garland, Texas, a fellow in the ACTIVATE program, says the program has taught her a lot about “self-empowerment” and the importance of “economic justice.”
“As someone who identifies as trans, I have learned that it is important to have programs such as this fellowship to teach you things that are not always taught in this industry,” said Green. “The skills and tools I’ve learned are imperative in learning how to advocate for self, network and set and achieve personal goals. It has also taught me the power that I have as a Black transgender woman and that there is space for me at the table, and that I shouldn't be sitting there without being compensated for it either monetarily, or via exposure and future opportunities and potential. Without programs such as ACTIVATE and ELEVATE, it can be very hard or almost impossible to get these sort of trainings and resources because most of us do not have access to other Black and Brown trans and non-binary leaders to turn to. There are very different issues that Black trans leaders must face and deal with than many others in this industry such as stigma, transphobia, discrimination and sexism.”
The ELEVATE program advances the leadership of Black and Latinx transgender women in the South by effectively increasing their capacity to navigate and improve public health systems. This program, rooted in skills-building and professional and leadership development, consists of one intensive digital training and three interactive webinars, increasing competencies and improving health outcomes among Black and Latinx transgender women.
Nevaeh Burton-Anderson from Denver, Colorado, is one of this year’s ELEVATE fellows and recently relocated to Atlanta, Georgia. She said the ELEVATE program’s fellowship helped her secure a job.
“The ELEVATE program helped me make professional connections on a national scale,” said Burton-Anderson. “When I moved to Atlanta, this program helped out with obtaining the job that I have now. I can't wait to see how else it manifests itself.”
The ACTIVATE & ELEVATE fellows are currently in the mentorship phase of the programs, which will last until August 2021. The mentorship program partners the fellows with established professional leaders in the transgender community. The expectation is that the fellows from both programs will now go forth and establish themselves in professional leadership roles responsible for perpetuating prosperity and progress in the transgender communities throughout the country while also combating transphobia, stigma and anti-trans violence.
For more information on HRC’s work with the transgender community, visit hrc.org/transgender.