Christopher Cuevas, Program Officer, LGBTQ+ Equality, Laughing Gull Foundation, recently visited Richmond to convene a meeting of the LGBTQ+ Needs and Opportunities Assessment Collaborators and connect with area partners serving the LGBTQ+ community. After their visit, Christopher shared the following thoughts about advancing health and racial equity in our region.
Can you tell us a little about your work with the Laughing Gull Foundation? In what ways does Laughing Gull’s work advance health and racial equity?
The Laughing Gull Foundation (LGF) is a progressive family foundation rooted in the South and committed to justice. We redistribute our resources to repair, rehumanize, and transform relationships, institutions, and systems. At LGF, I manage the LGBTQ+ Equality Fund, one of the three core grantmaking focuses of the Foundation. LGF is committed to supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the South to thrive and live full lives without discrimination. We believe that achieving this level of equity will require multiple strategies simultaneously deployed and ideally coordinated. LGF, therefore, invests in everything from direct services to direct action. We recognize that structural racism is at the root of our society and all the systems in which we work. Thus, we use an explicit racial equity lens in all of our decisions and actions, and we are on a continuous learning journey to do this better. LGF prioritizes organizations that are led by, are accountable to, and build the collective power of Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities and others harmed and marginalized by unjust systems.
You’ve spent some time in Richmond meeting with partners. What do you find exciting and hopeful about the Richmond region?
LGF seeks opportunities to collaborate with other funders to increase funding access in support of work that improves the lives of LGBTQ+ southerners , with particular emphasis on work led by and serving Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities. Growing social and political animus continues to plague the lives of Southern LGBTQ+ communities. During my time in Richmond, I was deeply inspired by the plethora of resilient, visionary, and inspired communities and organizations that are transforming hearts, minds, and systems to improve the material conditions of the lives of Southern LGBTQ+ communities. These dynamic partners are among the most innovative in their approach to reshaping a culture and community toward inclusion and affirmation. I am hopeful that our philanthropic partners have the fortune of engaging with these inspired change agents, who are primed for resourcing from progressive foundations and our partners who believe in their work and ability to change lives.
What are your biggest takeaways from the LGBTQ+ Needs and Opportunities Assessment we co-sponsored?
There are many strengths of the Richmond LGBTQ+ community, and while the community is small, it is incredibly robust and provides important supports for individuals throughout all stages of life. It has become abundantly clear that there are opportunities for coalition building across the region that would not only lend themselves to supporting improvements to the provision of services for LGBTQ+ individuals but also strengthen the overall infrastructure of the region to maximize the power of the collective LGBTQ+ movement in Richmond. Further, we believe that the region is primed for more intentional engagement on issues of race and identity, given the disproportionate rates of discrimination reported by transgender individuals and persons of color, to ensure that spaces are safe for all LGBTQ+ Richmonders, not just some.
Christopher J. Cuevas joined LGF in October 2020. A lifelong peace practitioner, educator, and community organizer, Christopher leads their work for cultural transformation by centering the unapologetic and unwavering power of radical love. A child of undocumented immigrants and a queer person of color, Christopher interconnects their lived experience and drives the necessary heart work of building a culture of peace, compassion, and change through advocating for LGBTQ+, immigrant, and racial justice movements. Through their work, Christopher has led conversations and facilitated campaigns addressing structural racism, health equity, and LGBTQ+ issues. In 2016, following the horrific massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL, Christopher co-founded and served as the executive director of QLatinx, a racial, social, and gender justice movement working toward the advancement of intersecting LGBTQ+ Latinx issues. An avid peacebuilder, Christopher serves on the Board of Directors for the Peace and Justice Institute, a nationally recognized center for peace education. Christopher also served on the Advisory Board for the City of Orlando’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, working to highlight and address the needs of the City’s growing multicultural community. Christopher earned a Bachelor of Arts from Rollins College.