If you were active in the regional community around 2003 (pre-Delta era) – I’d like to talk with you.
In January 2003, Persad Center published a community needs assessment in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Community Center (now the Pittsburgh Equality Center) and The Seven Project. The researchers were Dr. Sandra Quinn and Dr. Deb Aaron, both of the University of Pittsburgh.
It was a big deal. A lot of research, a tremendous infusion of community input, lots of meetings and discussions and plans laid. But this assessment is lost to the community. There are copies available through some archives. But that is not easily accessible to the typical person in the public. The document is over 250 pages long so even obtaining a physical copy will require a tremendous amount of effort to digitize so it can be shared.
As I remember, Persad had printed a certain number of the assessments that were distributed to the community. They also had a copy online via their website, a link that has since disappeared. I am fairly certain I had a copy of the original but have no idea what happened to it. I did find this summary from Betty and Kathi.
7 areas that respondents expressed their concerns about:
- 1. Religion – the need for welcoming and open churches
- 2. Medical – need for training in LGBTQ competency for health care practitioners, particularly regarding the specific health risks in the community
- 3, HIV/AIDS – the impact of stigma and how to address that
- 4. Seniors – the emerging community and the fact that it is unseen by the rest of the community
- 5. Trans – the fact that they are often not included in Pittsburgh as part of the LGBTQ community
- 6. Rural – lack of LGBTQ specific services and that the population felt invisible
- 7. African Americans – comments that they felt they were not reached out to in any way by the LGBTQ community
Yes, I have asked Betty, Kathi, Rick, Richard, Kat, Lyndsey, et al. Each time I ask someone outside of that small circle, I am referred back to them or to the various archives. I’m not sure people realize that this is not just a historical document. It is a needs assessment and as we near the 20 year anniversary, we have an obligation to revisit this assessment and hold ourselves accountable for what we have accomplished and what we have not. It isn’t just about our history, it is about the efforts of our mainstream institutions and academic bodies to determine the course of our history.
This needs assessment might help us understand how we went from 2003 to a community dominated by Delta and the ancillary organizations that have arisen. It might also have predicted that trajectory. But before we start a new assessment, yet another assessment, we have to ask yourselves – how did we do with this last go-around? The truth is, we erased it. There has been little follow-up outside of some academic pieces. Was it a worthwhile investment if we can’t even find it? Was it properly managed if the community being assessed cannot easily access that assessment?
A colleague has obtained a copy of from the archives and is scanning it so a group of us can read it. We plan to make that scan available as a .pdf for public consumption.
But I am confident that physical copies of this document exist in the community, that others took home a copy of the original book during the 2003 dissemination process. That somewhere on dusty shelves or tucked in boxes up in the attic, people have this needs assessment. I am asking you to take a look at your collection and see if you might be that person. Pittsburgh’s MSA has a population of about 3% out LGBTQ folks, or 71+k people. It is statistically impossible that every original copy has been actively destroyed. It is more likely that they have been misplaced.
And if so, I want you to give a copy to me. I will publish a digital version on this blog so it is not lost again. More importantly, I want to read it and identify what we planned to do in 2003 in response to learning what our community assessed it needed. That’s my personal goal. Voices for a New Tomorrow was important to me, but not important enough for me to keep track of the assessment. I would like to set that right for me and I’m asking you to give a copy to me as an individual.
The process of obtaining a physical copy of this assessment has led me down a winding path of queer archiving that warrants another blog post. Let me share a few quick takeaways
- Relying on a few key people to preserve our documents, our stories, our memories, and our response to critical needs is not rational, effective, or helpful. This discounts the role of the typical community member as a steward of both our history and as a respondent to perceived needs that have been assessed. Many people came to the meetings who are not the go-to folx for all things queer Pittsburgh. Considering that 20 years have nearly passed, it is reasonable to assume that some of them have moved or aged or otherwise had a reason to pack up their community assessments.
- The person taking on the task of scanning 250 pages is Herculean in their efforts to reconstruct this document.
- Your personal archive matters, whether it is carefully preserved in airtight containers or stacked in your garage. It has value for you, perhaps sentimental or perhaps the urgency to document what has come to pass. I hope you have the privileges of time and energy to decide if and hwo to share those archives either personally or with the larger community, but if you do not – that does not erase their impact for you. It is not just the oft-cited community leaders who curate our stories.
- When we publish very large assessments about our community, we need to hold ourselves accountable for what is writ and what is not. Did we do what we set out to do? Have things changed? If so, how? And how can this 2003 assessment inform future assessments?
- Is another community assessment worth the investment of time and money?
Finally, I am part of a body that is considering a community needs assessment. I do not think it is wise to undertake such an endeavor knowing what we do about this 2003 assessment. It was very splashy, but the disappearance leaves us wondering – did it have a true and meaningful impact? I personally remember the meetings more than the documents and the needs that were assessed. The only concrete pieces I know involve a spirituality group and recommendations on SOGI training for law enforcement, something I *think* Persad did implement.
So if you have a copy, please give it to me and I will take care of it. If you have memories of Voices that you are willing to share, please leave a comment or contact me.
Here’s the challenge – don’t ask the obvious folx. I already did that, trust me. Ask the unexpected activists, the folx in your life that may have attended or participated in the meetings. Ask former employees of Persad who are not Betty. Ask the retired advocates. Ask the people who showed up as volunteers for all the things in the 1990s and 2000s.
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