We sat down with them informally to find out more about who they are, what inspires their philanthropy, and why they’re excited to join the Board. Read on to learn more about these fantastic new Board members!
Tell us about one of your earliest experiences of philanthropy or giving back?
Alfredo Cruz: Wow, ok! I grew up in Nicaragua. As a child, my parents were very involved in our faith-based community and cooked for poor families—like the Meals on Wheels program. I remember as a child walking with my sister several blocks from our house to take meals to families. My dad was also very involved with the Red Cross and Governor of Lions Club which aided communities after natural disasters. So, the work of philanthropy in the purest sense was part of the culture of my family. In high school, when we came to the States, my sister and I joined every student club and association. Mom would say, “Why can’t you just be like other kids and just come home?” [Laughing] But we were raised to give back! I can’t imagine any other way of being.
Gabriel Foster: Growing up, my mother instilled in me the importance of ‘giving back’. To this day, she always encourages me to make this a lifelong practice. As a teenager, I became politicized through my involvement with the Quaker-based organization, the American Friends Service Committee and it was there that I learned what it means to be of service to my community. While still a young person I had the privilege to be an application screener for the Pride Foundation and later joined their Board.
Surina Khan: I’ve been involved in philanthropy since I was a kid. My parents were very philanthropic in various ways and it was a closely held value in our family. In my 20s, I got involved in philanthropy professionally when I joined the OUT Fund for Gay & Lesbian Liberation, which was an activist advised fund of the Funding Exchange.
Rye Young: When I was eight years old, I remember going with my family on a trip to Nicaragua to build a school in a very small and very poor town. On the trip, we were given a history lesson about the country. At one point, the Nicaraguan historian said that Nicaraguans are capable people who can build their own schools but who lack the resources to do it -not because of poverty- but because of colonization and the U.S. government’s interventions in the country. That experience really taught me that “giving back” is about asking why things are the way they are and then doing something to change those conditions. This early experience definitely shapes my approach to philanthropy.
What is one of the most overlooked and pressing issues facing LGBTQ communities?
Gabriel: I think it’s hard to pick just one. As Audre Lorde wrote, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”. However, I would definitely like to see more support for incarcerated LGBT communities and those experiencing criminalization.
Surina: Economic security. We’ve made a lot of progress, but people can still be denied a job or fired from a job for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression, here and around the world.
Rye: I think the most overlooked issue facing LGBTQ communities is violence and the ways that violence is most rampant and harsh when combined with racial, economic, and gender inequity. This is why — for me and for my work at Third Wave Fund — racial, economic, and gender justice are LGBTQ issues in a very real way.
Alfredo: Something that doesn’t get enough attention are the mental health needs of LGBTQ people who are just coming out and the impact that stress and family rejection can have in contributing to depression, drinking, and drug abuse. We don’t give enough to mental health and drug treatment and it’s an area we need to do more in for LGBTQ youth, but also older adults, since we know being LGBTQ is pretty stressful, (especially, in many low-income communities where preventative services are not covered by Medicaid or Medicare).
What excites you about Funders for LGBTQ Issues?
Surina: That we have a bold vision to increase resources for LGBT work and that we have so much fun doing it together. The Board, staff and the funders involved with this work are amazing and I love that we are all trying to make a difference together.
Rye: I am so excited about Funders for LGBTQ Issues because philanthropy and the LGBT movement are both at a crossroads of reconciling the passing of civil rights with our need for lived equality and justice that goes beyond rights on paper. Funders is where these issues come together with immense leadership and thoughtfulness.
Alfredo: I was really impressed with the LGBT Southern Funding Working Group. There is a high level of commitment and absolutely no lingering by funders involved, the board, or the staff – we set goals, decide what we want to accomplish, and take action. The Out in the South initiative attracted me to join the Board of Directors. I’ve never gotten to work with queer peers before and I’m impressed with how effective the organization is. It’s amazing how small the staff is because it feels like we have a staff of 20 people. It’s really something I can apply to my own work at Foundation for Louisiana.
Gabriel: So many things excite me about Funders! First and foremost, I respect and adore the staff tremendously. They’re incredibly hard working, deeply committed, open to trying new things and in general, just a solid crew of talented individuals. I’m also excited about Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ focus on the South as a vibrant yet under-resourced region and our more recent dedication to advancing funding for trans communities. Getting to work with the staff and board is a total honor!
When and where do you feel most at peace?
Gabriel: Three words: Pugs of Instagram.
Rye: I feel most at peace when I am cooking. It helps me recharge, open up my senses, and it brings creativity into my life. I am then further at peace when I get to eat what I made in front of a great T.V. show with my partner and my cat!
Alfredo: I feel at peace on my couch with my dogs, Woody and Gromit. Woody has beautiful eyes that show he loves me unconditionally. My other dog, Gromit, is so needy, but when they both put their heads on my lap and look up at me I feel swept up in a feeling of peace and love. All they want is for me to put my hand on their heads, feed them, and love them.
Surina: I like to look at the moon and be reminded that we all look at the same moon every night no matter where we are. It connects us and gives me solace and inspires me that we can make this world a better place.
Who would you most like to go to dinner with and what topics would you hope to discuss?
Surina: I really want to have dinner with the Queen Dowager of the Funders’ Board, Andy Lane and the topics I most hope to discuss are too many to list here.
Rye: I would love to have dinner with Julia Child. We would talk about food and gender!
Gabriel: I would really like to share one more meal with my grandmother. I would have loved to have known her as an adult.
Alfredo: I want to ask Jesus, “Really, what were you thinking?” I live in a predominantly Catholic state, and I want to get to the bottom of whether queers are really left out of Heaven. I have a lot of questions that don’t get answered by the Bible and I’d like to take his answers to people in my family and community who need to hear this. I believe in my heart we’re supposed to be loved, and that how we are is exactly how we’re supposed to be.
About our fabulous new Board members:
Alfredo Cruz is the Director of Programs at Foundation for Louisiana (www.foundationforlouisiana.org) which invests in people and practices that work to reduce vulnerability and build stronger, more sustainable communities in Louisiana.
Gabriel Foster is a Co-founder and the Director at the Trans Justice Funding Project (www.transjusticefundingproject.org), a community-led funding initiative supporting grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people.
Surina Khan is the Chief Executive Officer at the Women’s Foundation of California (www.womensfoundca.org) which trains and invests in women to become policy advocates and philanthropic leaders who strengthen the economic well-being of California’s women and their families.
Rye Young is the Executive Director at Third Wave Fund (www.thirdwavefund.org) which supports and strengthens youth-led gender justice activism focusing on efforts that advance the political power, well-being, and self-determination of communities of color and low-income communities.