Troy Parker, Assistant Director of Corporate Relations at United Way of Greater Atlanta, shares with us his passion for United Way’s work in LGBTQ+ spaces, and why it means so much to him.

Tell us about your role at United Way of Greater Atlanta.

I work as a Development Officer supporting the engagement strategies of the Senior Director of Corporate Relations to ensure a smooth fundraising and auditing process for the over 600 high volume-low touch accounts. I also support the entire Corporate Relations team by securing, verifying, and auditing the fundraising results of third-party processed fundraising campaigns. So basically, I work with our corporate partners and educate them on the work of United Way and help facilitate their philanthropic workplace campaigns.

What is the OUT Georgia Impact Fund and what inspired you to champion it?

United Way of Greater Atlanta partnered with the OUT Georgia Business Alliance to create the OUT Georgia Impact Fund. This fund’s goal is for LGBTQ+ individuals, youth, families, and communities across the Greater Atlanta region. I am so grateful that my journey as an LGBTQ+ person was full of support every step of the way, but the fact of the matter is that is still not the norm in the world we live today. It is estimated that 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth aged 13-24 have seriously considered suicide; 80% of young LGBTQ+ people have expressed that they feel severe social isolation; and 42% of LGBTQ+ people have expressed that they are living in an unwelcoming or hostile environment. These are just a few of the statistics out there. It’s because of this that I have been so passionate about the work of this fund.

The OUT Georgia Impact Fund will be guided by a community-led advisory committee to make grants to eligible 501(c)3 non-profit organizations supporting LGBTQ+ youth to be stable, secure, and college and career ready. This fund will go to programs that support LGBTQ+ adults and families address urgent needs and secure resources….and this is only the beginning.

In my 35 years of existence, I have never worked for an organization where I have felt so comfortable to be my most authentic self. I am loved and valued for what I bring to the table, how I bring it to the table, and I don’t have to adjust how it is packaged to make someone else more comfortable. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me about my husband when they walk by my desk and see his pictures. What makes me even more proud is the fact they are putting their money where their mouth is with this partnership and fund. This is not something that only happens during pride month, the fundraising for this fund is ongoing because LGBTQ+ individuals and family need support year-round. United Way of Greater Atlanta has made great strides forward for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion with our United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund and they continue to further this work with the OUT Georgia Impact Fund in a space where this work has not been done before.

What does representation mean to you?

Representation is of the utmost importance. I recently had the pleasure of watching the new Netflix show, “Heartstopper,” based on the graphic novel by the same name. It tells the innocent young love story of two high school aged boys, and some of the challenges faced in coming out, bullying, etc. I was overwhelmed with emotion at how wonderful of a story it was, and it flooded me with memories from my own experiences. It made me wonder if something like this could have saved me and others a lot of heartbreak if it was available back then. You can’t change the past but I’m grateful for it now. It reminded me of the importance of representation for all. As a society, we are blasted with constant noise telling us what success, fun, joy, etc. looks like. If that “success, fun, and joy” doesn’t include proper representation, then it engrains in those not represented that they either can’t achieve or aren’t deserving of those things.

What other talents do you make use of outside of work?

I have been a performer since grade school, and it has stuck with me. I am currently the House Manager for Atlanta Lyric Theatre and I still perform whenever a project comes along that I am passionate about. My husband is a performer too, and we can put on a very entertaining cabaret if I do say so myself 😊.

Milton J. Little, Jr., President and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday, we honored Martin Luther King, Jr. for his life of service to the Civil Rights Movement, his power to strengthen communities, address social problems, bridge barriers and move us closer to his vision of a beloved community. And while we honor his legacy the third Monday in January of every year, the following Tuesday each year marks another important day for our community – the National Day of Racial Healing.

Today, January 18, 2022, marks the sixth year of the National Day of Racial Healing – a day dedicated to healing from the effects of racism. It is a day to acknowledge the stains in our country’s history and bring ALL people together in their common humanity to take collective action and create a more just and equitable world.

At United Way of Greater Atlanta, our longstanding commitment to remove racial barriers deeply impacting communities in our region remains stronger than ever. Our mission is to engage and bring together people and resources to drive sustainable and equitable improvements in the well-being of children, families, and individuals in the community. Simply put, our work is grounded in equity for all and is core to our mission to improve Child Well-Being.

In July of 2020, we launched our United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund. The fund was created to address the racial disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and to build on the new momentum from 2020’s civil unrest to address racial inequities and to advance deep and widescale changes. This fund invests in structural solutions that address the root causes of racial inequity.

Across the Greater Atlanta community we have seen immense support for the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund. Donations to-date of $3.1M have enabled us to provide multi-year grants to 19 partners. We have also seen a widespread commitment to learning about racial equity and healing through our 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. Through the challenge, we were able to engage more than 4,500 people across 36 states representing more than 1,200 organizations. Douglas, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties participated in the challenge with a variety of public sector partners such as school districts, county commissioners, corporate partners and Chambers of Commerce. Last year, Gwinnett County officially proclaimed the Tuesday after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day the National Day for Racial Healing in Gwinnett County. The breadth and depth of insights that have informed our work in racial equity could not have happened without the convening of a diverse and talented group of volunteers, advisory board members and thought leaders.

Healing is an integral part of the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund’s title. According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, racial healing is a process we can undertake as individuals, in communities and across society as a whole. In healing, we recognize our common humanity, acknowledge the truth of past wrongs and build the authentic relationships capable of transforming communities and shifting our national discourse.

As we reinforce the mission of achieving the promise for a more equitable Greater Atlanta, to improve Child Well-Being, healing is top of mind. United Way of Greater Atlanta recently provided grant awards to 8 nonprofits who not only have a racial justice lens but are also focused on healing and restorative practices that are rooted in place and grounded in community. In order to have both thriving and resilient communities, we must respond and invest in solutions that transform the systems that have disrupted so many lives in Black and Brown communities. Through these grants, we are committed to learning alongside our partners to better understand the role “healing” plays in creating a brighter future for children, families and communities and inspiring collective action.

Examples of funded partners are as follows:

  1. Sistercare Alliance – SisterCARE Alliance is a network of professionals, mothers, sisters, entrepreneurs, activists, self-care advocates, and leaders who believe that protecting Black women and their well-being is fundamental to ensuring family and community.
  2. Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiatives(PAD)– is an initiative born out of the work and vision of Atlantans directly impacted by policing and incarceration and committed to a new approach to community safety and wellness.
  3. Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective – is a network of healers, health practitioners, and organizers in the U.S. Southeast, began using the term “healing justice” as a framework to identify how communities can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence.
  4. JustGeorgia Coalition – was formed in 2020 by the Georgia NAACP and the Southern Center for Human Rights to form a racial justice advocacy coalition following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

In honor of National Day of Racial Healing and beyond, we honor these organizations and their leaders for their longstanding commitment to advancing racial equity and healing for our region. Together, we can do MORE to achieve the promise to be an equitable Greater Atlanta for all. For more information on the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund, click here.

 

This story was previously published on SaportaReport.com.

The section under race on my mother’s birth certificate says white. That struck me because although my mom is fair skinned and probably could pass for a white woman, she was far from white. In fact, my mother is a third-generation Latino woman whose parents, my grandparents, migrated from Puerto Rico. If anyone were to pull race statistics from the 1940s to better understand demographic shifts related to something like housing policy or healthcare utilization, the numbers would be skewed. My mom relayed that during that time, the option to select “Puerto Rican” was not a possibility. Digging deeper, we discussed our culture and the experiences my grandmother had as a Hispanic woman navigating an environment that failed to recognize us as a people. Too inconsequential to be categorized on one of the most important documents you first encounter in life. As you can imagine, there was many layers to this story – some painful, and some laughed through to mask the shame of being invisible. Her story and her experiences, navigating her proximity to whiteness and how she felt about the erasure of our existence would never make it into anyone’s headline.

In my role as a leader at United Way of Greater Atlanta, I have been working to ensure that the voices and stories of community are an integral part of what informs our work and thinking around neighborhood change efforts. Resident stories are utilized as a tool to shape and drive solutions to many complex issues. And if we are to ensure the well-being of communities, we must consider each other’s lives and find ways to humanize its complexities. Otherwise, our failure to do so will create a power dynamic that reinforces what Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiek, calls “the danger of a single story”. She tells us how deeply power is embedded in the act of storytelling. From “how they are told, who tells them, when they are told, to how many stories are told. How do we increase the opportunities that communities have to tell their stories? What do we miss when we leave out the experiences of whole populations? These are all important questions that should trigger us to persistently think about who gets to tell the story and who is missing. To address this gap in understanding, we partner with organizations like Canopy Atlanta who focus on resident storytelling.

Our investment in Canopy Atlanta is designed to help us achieve collective community change by scaling efforts that center community voice and create continuous learning exchanges between residents, community stakeholders and our philanthropic peers. United Way’s Brighter Future strategy, Resident Leadership and Learning is designed to uncover solutions through deep and empathetic listening and documentation of lived resident experiences. This has helped us in gaining an understanding of how our political and social systems at a pragmatic level, simply do not work for everyone. The bureaucracy imposed in the name of accountability or process misses the mark of who these services are intended to serve or frankly, designed to exclude. A community with deficient and lackluster social, political and economic systems will prevent us from reaching our goal to improve child well-being.

In true partner fashion, Mariann Martin with Canopy Atlanta will discuss how her organization’s work intersects with United Ways vison to expand and strengthen resident storytelling.

The importance of diverse voices and nuanced perspectives is what informs community engagement work at Canopy Atlanta. We believe story telling begins with people and their own voices. As we worked in Clayton County, we listened to the stories of Vietnamese immigrants putting down deep roots in Forest Park and the Hispanic population advocating for a more equitable policing approach. We heard from many voices – Black, brown, white, and immigrant – how they wanted a more transparent government and better food options. Each of these voices helped to tell the broader story of Forest Park.

In addition to listening, at Canopy Atlanta we equip communities to tell their own stories. We provide journalism training for community members and pair them to work with more experienced story tellers. What emerges out of this process is complex and nuanced and sometimes messy and beautiful. It is a picture of a community as they see themselves, not as they are seen. This process also allows residents to view their own communities differently. They are more aware of what is happening down the street, and sometimes they begin to attend neighborhood meetings or continue to write and work in their communities. Many times, the relationships that happen throughout the process are more important than even the story telling. As Darryl Holliday, cofounder at Chicago’s City Bureau notes, “Journalism isn’t just a career path, or a business, or a ‘pillar of democracy’; it’s the best tool we have to shape civic infrastructure and fuel the equitable revitalization of our communities.”

This story was previously published on SaportaReport.com.

Partnering for Health Equity

Local churches are partnering with United Way of Greater Atlanta as part of a faith-based initiative to expand testing, education and other resources for communities of color across South Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.

Choose Healthy LifeTM (CHL) is a sustainable, scalable, and transferable approach to public health. The initiative partners with Black faith-based organizations to offer education, outreach and free COVID-19 testing, as the church is considered one of the most trusted institutions in community. Read about Choose Healthy Life at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Choose Healthy Life aims to raise awareness and educate the Black community on COVID-19 and other health disparities; and proactively engage the community in a COVID-19 testing campaign to reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

Learn more about the Choose Healthy LifeTM initiative.

Register for an upcoming COVID-19 testing event.

 

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Upcoming COVID-19 Testing Events
Date of Event Hours of Event Name of Participating Church Church Address
3/14/2021 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Impact Church 2323 Sylvan Road, East Point GA 30344
3/17/2021 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam 560 Fayetteville Rd SE, Atlanta, GA 30316
3/20/2021 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Gateway Restoration Church 4981 Phillips Dr. Forest Park, GA 30297
3/21/2021 9:00 a.m – 1:00 p.m. Impact Church 2323 Sylvan Road, East Point GA 30344
3/23/2021 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Ebenezer Baptist Church 101 Jackson Street NE Atlanta, GA 30312
3/25/2021 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Salem Bible Church 2283 Baker Rd NW Atlanta, Ga 30318
3/27/2021 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Debre Bisrat Saint Gabriel Church 3518 Clarkston Industrial Blvd Clarkston, GA 30021
3/28/2021 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Impact Church 2323 Sylvan Road, East Point GA 30344