By Britney Nesbit, Community Organizer/Tzedek Social Justice Fellow, Campaign for Southern Equality
As a self-identified female illusionist, pageant expert, HIV treatment and prevention specialist, Daroneshia Duncan is a one-of-a-kind southern force to be reckoned with. After experiencing a wide range of barriers on her path to coming into her own, she wanted to create a place where others like her could truly feel supported and accepted for being their authentic selves. After almost four years of strategic planning, Daroneshia founded TAKE (Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable EMPOWERING). Since 2013, TAKE has provided support services primarily focused on trans women in the South. In this conversation Daroneshia shares about how the organization is growing, and she gives some real talk about the resources TAKE needs to provide more programming and compensate trans women volunteers.
What experiences motivated you to form TAKE?
I got into the work because as a trans woman I was in MSM (men who have sex with men) and gay male support groups where I felt out of place. They thought that I was disgusting. I had a drug addiction to cocaine, but after 13 long years, I had to gain strength to shake the habit of using cocaine and learn to function everyday and feel normal without the substance abuse. Really the substance abuse was there to numb most of the pain and the oppression that I faced by being a trans woman and the struggle of life and being rejected – all the backlash, the discrimination, and the heartbreak. I wanted to find a way to be a productive person in society instead of another statistic. I wanted to turn it around for other trans women that experience the same thing that I have experienced.
Can you describe to those unfamiliar with TAKE, what your organization does?
TAKE is a support service. TAKE provides any and everything to meet the needs of trans people, especially trans women that are especially trans women of color. We help them on the job hunt, find housing, get HIV testing, get an ID, help them with name changes. Whatever we can do to help improve the quality of life of trans people, we want to play a major role in it.
Is TAKE for transwomen exclusively?
TAKE is open to all transpeople but we focus on transwomen of color because we are the ones that experience the greatest oppression. So I want to make sure the most discriminated people are taken care of.
What is life like for the transwomen in your community of Birmingham, Alabama?
It’s simple. It’s a struggle, it’s a lot of negativity, it’s a lot of hate. They have experienced so many bruises, abuse, neglect. They don’t even know if I am sincere when I am offering them a service. It’s all about shade, the tea, and readin’ but there comes a time in life when [we] need to be loved and helped. We want to be people that have pride and have our own ground to stand on.
What keeps you motivated when building community seems so hard?
If I can help only one person, I am content. That one person will go and tell other people. The good word will get out, and other ladies will come, and they’ll want services, and it will continue like that.
Do you have any advice for other social justice leaders new to the movement?
Go in with an open mind. If you picked this line of work, to be a social justice leader, to be a grassroots leader, an advocate, a human services person, you have to go in non-judgmental. You can’t have any bias. You have to be affirming for everybody, every identity, everything that’s out there.
Tell me about your GoFundMe Campaign.
My goal for 2017 is to open TAKE Resource Home, the first physical center in Alabama focused on serving Trans Women of Color. Our GoFundMe campaign will help me get TAKE Resource Home off the ground. The resource center will primarily serve Transgender women of color (TWOC) and the majority of staff will be TWOC. The resource center will be a drop-in safe space where TWOC can come to access services and be connected with resources. The center will help Trans women of color navigate the Greater Birmingham area and connect them with culturally competent service providers, job readiness training, GED prep, general and transition-related health information, and re-entry programs for sex workers and trans people aging out of the Department of Human Services or the judicial system.
All funds raised will cover administrative fees, getting incorporated, applying for a 501 (c)3, and so on. I have ladies that help and volunteer, but I want to give them funds for support meetings and additional group activities.
TAKE’s work is supported by the Campaign for Southern Equality’s Southern Equality Fund.