On July 14th, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) welcomed Imara Jones and Malachi Garza to their Board of Directors. Jones, recently announced as a Nathan Cummings Fellow, and Garza, organizing director of Solidaire Network, join a robust team of educators, funders, and educator advocates devoted to creating affirming educational environments for LGBTQ+ youth.
Founded in 1990 by a group of teachers who identified educators’ role in creating a safe and learning-conducive environment for LGBTQ+ students, GLSEN leverages educational activism, extensive research, and student-led movements to uplift evidence-based solutions for LGBTQ+ youth.
In addition to their work in the social sector, GLSEN also advocates in the legislative sphere. The Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act both benefited from GLSEN record support, and since the organization’s founding, GLSEN has fought discriminatory legislation in over 15 states.
“Our mission is to ensure that every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” the organization declares in its mission statement.
GLSEN’s programs mix student-led initiatives with research campaigns, educational events, and more. Here are just a few of their leading initiatives, some you may have participated in yourself:
- No Name-Calling Week. Utilizing the hashtag #SafeToBe, GLSEN organizes an annual week in partnership with K-12 educators and students to end name-calling and bullying in schools. Over the course of the week, participants use GLSEN tools and resources to disrupt anti-LGBTQ+ harassment and bias-based bullying, inviting LGBTQ+ students to assert what they want to be called.
- Solidarity Week. Initially called Ally Week, Solidarity Week is a student-powered campaign dedicated to building collective support for LGBTQ+ students and educators. This week-long program helps people learn about and practice solidarity with different identities.
- Day of Silence. The GLSEN Day of Silence is a national student-led demonstration where LGBTQ students and allies all around the country—and the world—take a vow of silence to protest the harmful effects of harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ people in schools.
Additionally, GLSEN coordinates education and leadership programs for educators. These programs empower teachers and activists to “act in allyship with LGBTQ students”.
Meet the New Board Members
GLSEN’s latest growth came this July, with the induction of Imara Jones and Malachi Garza, two leaders in LGBTQ+ social justice, into the GLSEN Board of Directors.
“Imara and Malachi each have such a powerful voice in our movement and bring new expertise in organizing and community building to GLSEN’s work to support LGBTQ+ youth, and build K-12 schools that powerfully educate all students,” said Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, Interim Executive Director at GLSEN. “I’m proud to work with such a talented and diverse board, and Imara and Malachi will be incredible additions to this team.”
Imara Jones, TransLash Media
Imara Jones is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist, storyteller, and media personality. Recently selected as a Nathan Cummings Fellow, Jones is known for her inclusivity-focused projects, including the journalism and narrative change project TransLash Media. Her WEBBY-nominated podcast, TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones, presents content and interviews designed to eliminate hostility toward transgender people in the United States, starting with media representation and social justice awareness.
Jones’s work resonates with the Philanthropy Women team for its intersectionality, empathy, and story-centric narrative focus — and we’re not the only ones to notice. In 2020, Jones earned a spot on the front page of Time Magazine for her article “Why Black Trans Women are Essential to Our Future”. She was also the chair for the first-ever UN High Level Meeting on Gender Diversity, a six hundred person plus event attended by world ambassadors, UN agency leaders, NGO representatives, and activists from around the world.
“LGBTQ+ youth deserve the opportunity to thrive and grow to their full potential, and I’m thrilled to join GLSEN in their work to build an inclusive future for all young people,” said Jones in a GLSEN press release. “There’s no place for anti-transgender policy, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, anti-Black sentiment or any other hateful forms of discrimination in our nation’s schools and we each have a responsibility to help confront these inequities. I’m proud to join GLSEN in this work.”
Malachi Garza, Solidaire Network
Malachi Garza’s extensive career in social justice work stretches from campaign activism to fundraising and everything in between. Currently the Organizing Director at Solidaire Network, a community of donor organizers who mobilize quickly to get critical resources and unprecedented amounts of solidarity to the frontlines of social justice movements, Garza is a leading voice in radical giving.
Over the last 20 years, Garza’s work in public education and community organizing has led to recognition, most recently as a Rosenberg Foundation Leading Edge Fellow. Garza is also a founder of the Brown Boi Project, a community campaign launched in 2010 to transform the way communities of color talk about gender. In addition to their work with GLSEN, Garza serves on the boards of SONG Power and Auburn Theological Seminary.
“The liberation of LGBTQ+ people is closely tied to all of our futures, and GLSEN supports the LGBTQ+ youth at the frontlines of the movement with the tools and network they need to spark change,” Garza said in the GLSEN press release. “I’m inspired by the work of these LGBTQ+ young people and eager to uplift them by becoming more involved in GLSEN’s work.”
To learn more about GLSEN and their upcoming campaigns and programs, visit their website at GLSEN.org.
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