http://www.watermarkonline.com by DAVID THOMAS MORAN
ORLANDO – A newly formed, $1.4 million fund launched in the aftermath of the Pulse hate crime wants to invest in local organizations that advocate for LGBTQ people of color – particularly the Latinx community.
Meet the Contigo Fund – which means “with you” in Spanish. The fund stands out in that it is not looking for money to provide services in response to the Pulse tragedy like many local other agencies and nonprofits whose resources are already stretched thin but rather to funnel money and resources into Central Florida to support such groups.
“The special thing about the Contigo Fund really is that it’s a fund that seeks to invest… resources in ways that no other fund will. We’re bringing in resources into the community that wouldn’t otherwise be here – through private, national foundations…working to create lasting, transformative change in the community,” program director for the Contigo Fund Marco Antonio Quiroga says.
As a Trump presidency looms on the horizon promising to target immigrants and Muslim Americans as well as the LGBTQ+ community, the Contigo Fund’s formation couldn’t be timelier. In Central Florida, activists and organizers are no longer just thinking about recovery and healing in the midst of the Pulse hate crime but now more than ever – protection.
“After Pulse, many were left shell shocked, traumatized and in a state of uncertainty. The morning after the elections, those feelings resurfaced. The Pulse shooting targeted LGBTQ people of color. Many who lost their lives and were hospitalized were undocumented. For our undocumented families, friends, neighbors, and their loved ones, fear and uncertainty of what will become of their lives come January is overwhelming. We are in a crisis,” Quiroga says.
There is an increasingly urgent need to build and sustain a community infrastructure that protects LGBTQ people of color in Central Florida who have been and continue to be targets of Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and proposed discriminatory policies.
“The xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism that was promoted on the national stage has spread into our local community. Hate speech and violence have been normalized,” Quiroga says.“For all those who stand against this bigotry and for all those living this marginalization and oppression, the Contigo Fund wants you to know that Estamos Contigo – We’re With You.”
Quiroga says this is why continuing to “build bridges between the LGBTQ and Latinx communities in Central Florida is essential. “Also building a bridge with the transgender community, the black community, the Muslim community, the immigrant community,” Quiroga says. “There’s still so much work to be done.”
And for Quiroga, the work started with the Contigo Fund by engaging the Central Florida community one person at a time.Shortly after the Pulse attack, Quiroga conducted an extensive LGBTQ+ Latinx Community Assessment. The first thing Quiroga noticed as he talked to folks is how much they desired a sense of belonging and connection with others like them who they trusted.
Another emerging theme Quiroga discovered during his interviews is that people who belonged to both the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities felt neglected and misunderstood – particularly during the response to the Pulse tragedy.
Moving forward, the Contigo Fund has already formed a local grant committee and launched a Request for Proposal search to begin distributing funds to applying organizations. The Contigo Fund Grant Committee is composed of 12 local community leaders, more than 50 percent are LGBTQ Latinx-identified individuals and at least 25 percent who are not formally affiliated with existing nonprofits or foundations. Contigo Fund is an initiative of Our Fund Foundation – a South Florida-based philanthropic organization dedicated to advancing LGBTQ issues. The $1.4 million in donations came from several funders including: Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Arcus Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color, and Our Fund Foundation.
“It’s unfortunate through a tragedy that the doors to opportunity are opening but it’s a compassionate showing of support for these marginalized communities. We hope to support them in any way possible,” said Quiroga. “If they have aspirations to create something of their own, we would want them to take initiative to start that for themselves and apply.”
Looking forward, Quiroga has a vision for Orlando as a sanctuary where all are welcomed and affirmed in spite of the uncertainty of Trump’s America.
“No matter the color of their skin, the language they speak, the faith they practice, or the person they love. The Contigo Fund is committed to supporting the resilience of those living at the intersection of these marginalized identities and building on their power. And I believe we will win because we are on the right side of history,” he says.