The Campaign for Southern Equality is thrilled to announce the most recent round of grantees of the Southern Equality Fund. Last month, CSE awarded $3,350 to nine groups and individuals working to support Queer youth across NC.

This round of funding was inspired by Kat Williams, a Grammy-nominated musician living in Asheville, North Carolina and a dedicated advocate for LGBT youth. The contagious energy she brings to her music—a mix of jazz, soul and blues hits—has brought her a loyal fanbase across the region, and she has been performing at a variety of small and large fundraisers for decades. When one of her regular gigs, Catholic Charities, told her they’d no longer be needing her services for their annual fundraiser because they learned that she had once been married to a woman—she turned to her community to ask for support and to respond with love.

The same day of the Catholic Charities fundraiser in March of 2016, Kat held her own fundraiser in Asheville and raised over $1,500 which she dedicated to the Southern Equality Fund for a round of funding to support Queer youth in NC. With this round of funding, Kat wanted to send a message to all youth across the state—gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual, queer, gender non-conforming, black, brown, undocumented, disabled—that we see you, we value you, and you are worth investing in.

CSE matched Kat’s donation and formed a selection committee of diverse leaders from across NC to review applications and award grants of up to $500 each. The selection committee – Kat Williams, Rebby Kern with Campus Pride, AJ Williams with the Freedom Center for Social Justice, Mani Mejia Lopez with the Red Ribbon Society and Felicia Blow with CSE – awarded $3,350 to nine groups and individuals doing a wide range of incredible work. Read more about their projects below:

Birds ‘n the Butts (Chapel Hill)

The Bird ‘n the Butts was started as an independent study project by two UNC Chapel Hill graduate students in the department of Health Behavior who believe that effective sex education should reflect the young people it is meant to educate. The goal of the project is to develop youth-friendly, inclusive sex ed pamphlets and posters that address sexual health, drug use, and healthy relationships from a harm reduction framework. The materials use inclusive language and imagery that represent the spectrum of gender, race/ethnicity, and social identity in evidence-based materials. With funding from the Southern Equality Fund, the organizers plan to augment the series and expand distribution to more organizations across the South. Their ultimate goal is to continue the project on an ongoing basis and to regularly incorporate stakeholder feedback in material edits and updates.

El Cambio (Yadkin County)

El Cambio (Spanish for “The Change”) was formed in 2010 in Yadkin County, NC by a small group of LGBTQ and immigrant youth who convened together to pressure local elected officials in supporting the DREAM Act. Since then, organizers have worked tirelessly to create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth, especially LGBTQ youth of color, to meet, learn organizing skills, and practice running local campaigns, such as monitoring police checkpoints and providing Know Your Rights trainings. El Cambio also serves as the single LGBTQ-specific organizational resource in the community and surrounding rural counties. Funding from the Southern Equality Fund will support efforts this summer to build relationships between local LGBTQ youth and the Board of Education through hosting an LGBTQ Youth Town Hall and regularly attending Board of Education meetings. Their plan is to provide adequate informational and educational resources to decision-makers and to ensure more robust protections for queer and trans youth in schools before school begins in the fall.

Mitchell County GSA (Mitchell County)

The Mitchell County GSA is a community gay straight alliance that formed in 2011 to fight against Amendment One. Following the passage of Amendment One, they have remained active to advocate for full equality of all LGBT* people in and around Mitchell County. LGBT* youth in Mitchell County and surrounding areas live in a very rural, isolated and conservative community. Funding will support monthly discussion meetings for LGBT* youth and allies in and around Mitchell County. These meetings will serve to provide a safe space for the youth and to raise awareness of LGBT* issues by inviting service providers, educators, and public servants to attend workshops about how to build a safe community for LGBT* youth.

Porch Light Counseling (Western NC)

Heather Branham is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Asheville, NC, and is passionate about making the world a safer, kinder, gentler place for gender creative people of all ages. In her free time, she has been organizing play groups for gender creative kids under the age of 12 and their families in Western NC. Funding from the Southern Equality Fund will enable the project to expand its scope and impact and to serve more families across WNC. Play groups provide a space for participants to build community and share resources. Parents of gender creative kids will learn from each other and from professionals how to navigate the systems their children interact with (medical, educational, religious, cultural, etc.), and the community in WNC will learn that these children not only exist — they will learn about who they are as individuals and how to support them.

Pride GSA Owen High School (Black Mountain)

The mission of Pride GSA Owen High School is to create a safe environment for expression, exploration and education for all students attending Owen High School, a community that — like many schools in rural NC — struggles with heteronormativity, homophobia and transphobia. Pride GSA Owen High School coordinates weekly activities for LGBTQ students as well as workshops for staff, faculty, and administrators to learn how to create safe spaces for all students. Funding will support ongoing weekly activities, student attendance at conferences, staff training and guest speakers.

QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer) (Durham, Greensboro & Asheville)

QORDS is a week-long, all volunteer-run, music-focused summer camp for Southern queer youth and youth of queer families. At camp, youth join together to form bands and attend workshops including song-writing, self-defense, Southern history of LGTBQ organizing, plant identification, consent and sexual health, organizing for change and more. QORDS aims to nurture intersectional spaces and claim music as a vehicle of queer empowerment. Funding will make it possible for more campers from rural communities to attend camp by providing partial scholarships to one or more campers.

Radical Intimacy Project (Charlotte)

The coordinators of the Radical Intimacy Project are Queer community organizers who strive to create community change and social justice through activism, art and healing. Tamika Lewis is an organizer for The Tribe, CLTQPOCC (Charlotte Trans and Queer People of Color Collective) and NCQTPOCC (NC Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition). India works for Duke University as the Program Coordinator for the Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity. The Radical Intimacy Project will use various mediums of art to explore how intimacy impacts marginalized communities and individuals’ lives on various levels. Additionally, workshops will be offered to teach community members techniques of self-care and healing. Because Black, Brown, Queer and Trans bodies are being criminalized, murdered, and are openly subjected to state-sanctioned violence, these issues make emotional and physical self-care a REVOLUTIONARY act. Funds will go toward securing space for the exhibits and community workshops, compensation for the Queer artists, and to purchase health and wellness supplies.

Trans and Queer People of Color Collective (TQPOCC) Charlotte

The Trans and Queer People of Color Collective in Charlotte is committed to intergenerational community building and promoting conversations across the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and gender identity. TQPOCC plans to train organizers to provide trans 101 workshops for community organizations, churches, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions. Through these workshops, TQPOCC hopes to build participants’ organizing skills and to cultivate radical self-care among folks who already do organizing work in Charlotte. Funds will be used to secure a safe space for the training, pay facilitators, and to host a TQPOC Town Hall for Trans and Queer People of Color to be together in fellowship and to support one another.

TransAction (Boone)

TransAction is a student-run club at Appalachian State University that advocates and provides support for trans and nonbinary students and community members. TransAction educates faculty, staff and students about the trans community through panels and training seminars, participates in worldwide events like Trans Day of Visibility and Trans Day of Remembrance, and provides community support via weekly club meetings for trans and nonbinary individuals and their advocates. Funds will be used to support the fall social for incoming students on August 27, 2016 and to purchase a screen printing press to make banners and T-shirts to be sold at this and future events. Funds raised from T-shirts will go to support the 2016 Trans Day of Remembrance activities.

Please join us in celebrating these leaders and supporting them in every way we can. Read about their work. Learn their stories. Donate. Together we can build a better South.