Funders for LGBTQ Issues mourns the passing of Urvashi Vaid
. We honor her legacy and are committed to carrying on her vision for justice.
An activist, lawyer, and author, Vaid championed an intersectional vision of liberation that profoundly shaped American LGBTQ movement-building spanning decades. Whether marching for abortion rights or demanding our country reckon with its silencing of people with AIDS, Urvashi Vaid was a connector of movements and a leader whose impact is difficult to overstate.
“Urvashi was a mentor and friend to me and so many of us, especially queer and trans people of color,” reflected Rickke Mananzala, Funders for LGBTQ Issues Board Chair. “She showed us that we can and should dream of LGBTQ liberation in the same breath as racial, economic, and gender justice. She brought her relentless commitment to movement-building into philanthropy and paved the way for those of us committed to breaking down silos in grantmaking.”
Vaid served our movement in countless ways, through the positions she formally held, the relationships she nourished, and the ideas she shared through writing and activism. In addition to roles at the ACLU and her decade of leadership at the National LGBTQ Taskforce, including as the organization’s executive director, Vaid harnessed her commitment to liberation to increase resources directed to LGBTQ causes. From her leadership at the Ford Foundation, Arcus Foundation, and her most recent work to cofound the Donors of Color Network, Urvashi has had an enormous impact on social justice philanthropy. Some of our most impactful work at Funders can be traced back to conversations with Urvashi suggesting we do the research to demonstrate funding gaps for LGBTQ communities. Her commitment and courage radically shifted practices in philanthropy and broke ground in the field.
“Urvashi blazed a path forward in philanthropy that demanded funders show up with greater rigor, care, and precision. She pushed the entire sector to not only articulate their commitment to intersectionality but to practice it in grantmaking,” said Saida Agostini-Bostic, President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues. She continued, “As I reel from the brutal impacts of white supremacy and terrorism in Buffalo and California this past weekend, and the loss of Black and Asian life, I am grateful to return to the lessons Urvashi offered in her life.”
Funders is holding on to the lessons of breaking silence, speaking what is needed, and never letting go of our vision for a future where we are all free. We return to the words Urvashi delivered during her address at the second March on Washington
in 1993. Responding to the conservative forces standing in the way of freedom, Urvashi admitted that “the Right may be right about something […] We call for the end of the world as we know it.” She continued, “We call for the end of racism and sexism and bigotry as we know it. For the end of violence and discrimination and homophobia as we know it. For the end of sexism as we know it. We stand for freedom as we have yet to know it, and we will not be denied.”
What her legacy has taught us is a practice that will stay with our movement forever. We remain deeply grateful for her vision, generosity, and rigor. As we move towards freedom, Urvashi’s wisdom will continue to guide us, and light the way towards what is undeniable.