[Update, Nov. 15, 2013, 6:55 p.m. — There has been a lot of frustration — on my part and those of others, built from years of frustrations with center leadership and their responses/actions. At times, this frustration has boiled over. I do not regret nor will I retract anything I’ve said thus far nor any fact that has been discussed. This post below, however, was made in a moment of deep frustration and, though I stand by it, I also apologize now, in particular, for its tone; it could have been written differently. I am now going to be focused in the next couple weeks speaking with others who have frustrations and encouraging them to use these next couple weeks to get their ideas and notes on paper so they can be presented civilly and respectfully in conversation with the center board on Dec. 4.]
On Friday evening, I had the phenomenal joy of attending the Charlotte Business Guild’s second annual fundraising dinner. This local group has done a great job at building its diversity and outreach, all the while remaining true to principles of openness and transparency. In fact, it was just a few months ago that I attended an open board meeting they held specifically for the purpose of soliciting open feedback, suggestions and ideas for their organization’s mission, purpose and growth. And, I’ve been lucky to have had several conversations with this organization’s president about the group’s mission and purpose; each time I’ve felt my ideas were welcomed, appreciated and taken to heart, and I’ve honestly seen some of these suggestions actually put into practice.
To say the least, the organization’s event on Friday was astounding! Their board deserves the utmost congratulations!
Unfortunately, the event was sullied by another community leader’s arrogance and own self-importance.
This particular leader is a former president of the Charlotte Business Guild and a current board member at the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, for which I have often offered my public support, which I was once a years-long volunteer for one of their core partnerships and fundraisers, and to which I have offered much-needed, public constructive criticism over the past nearly two weeks.
This leader had the opportunity tonight to accept an award on behalf of another community leader who was unable to attend tonight’s Charlotte Business Guild event. Instead of simply doing as all award stand-ins should, this leader took it upon himself to use the spotlight to air his own personal opinions, whether or not they actually represented the views of the person for whom he accepted the award.
“There are some people in our community who are bully leaders and there are some leaders that see the good in other leaders,” said this Charlotte LGBT center board member during his short speech. “[The leader on whose behalf I accept this award] was one of these [latter] leaders, and he led silently, quietly and with class.”
There’s more, too. This particular leader not once, but twice snubbed another decades-long community leader who attempted to speak with him. And, when I briefly attempted to strike up a conversation with him, this leader uttered not a single “Hello” or “Good evening” or “Nice to see you.”
This leader — whom I have known since my college days at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro — had once earned my respect as a humble, considerate, open and compassionate leader. But, unfortunately, his actions over the past few years as a close supporter of and board member of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, his treatment of volunteers at that organization, his cold shoulder to constructive feedback and suggestions about that organization and his arrogant actions tonight — when all other people in the room were behaving and speaking civilly and respectfully — have considerably damaged my perception of his reputation and his character.
This leader is right about one thing: there are “bully leaders” in Charlotte’s LGBT community. And, some of them currently hold positions on the board of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. Some on this board, including at times this particular leader at tonight’s event, have:
- Attempted to bully community members into silence by repeatedly equating constructive criticism and feedback as an “attack”;
- Ignored the presence and contributions of volunteers at their organization;
- Recently awarded, despite the very well- and fore-known controversy and consternation it might cause among community members, a straight-identified, former Center board chair who has been accused of, among other complaints: (1) ostracizing LGBT and queer youth activists by calling them “militant” and “radical”; (2) censoring a gay artist’s work because she took personal offense to the subject matter; and (3) purposefully keeping the Center’s board membership small and exclusive because “they didn’t want to have other people join the board because then it would be harder to get anything done”;
- Refused to attend volunteer appreciation events designed to thank those who have worked for them, donating both their time and their energies to bettering the organization;
- Failed to acknowledge the sponsors and donors of their organization and their organization’s once-primary fundraising event;
- Refused to themselves become visibly active and involved in their once-primary fundraising event;
- Refused for multiple years (until this past Monday) to release their bylaws to those who requested them, thereby preventing community members, volunteers, donors and potential donors from determining how the organization operates and functions;
- Refused for multiple years to make their board meetings open to the public, thereby preventing community members, volunteers, donors and potential donors from having the opportunity of witnessing the board’s decision-making processes in person; and, among other complaints,
- Repeatedly refused to quickly and openly respond to my job-related, perfectly-legal and routine requests for the organization’s annual IRS tax return (which is legally open to public inspection by any citizen and resident) without first requiring me to either jump through several hoops or officially informing them of the legal and financial penalties for ignoring such a request.
Ask yourself: Is the person who finally speaks publicly these long-known truths and calls for openness, transparency and accountability the “bully,” or does the title of “bully” truly belong to those whom have repeatedly shown they will do almost anything in their individual authority and power to cast aspersions on those who dare challenge their hurtful and blind “leadership” of our community?
I think the simple and honest answer is the latter.
Whether you agree with me or not — and especially if you disagree with me, since I not only welcome but also appreciate a diversity of thought and opinion — I encourage you to attend the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte’s town hall discussion, where these and other issues will be discussed openly and, hopefully, honestly. The town hall is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 4, 7 p.m. at the center, 2508 N. Davidson St., Charlotte, NC, 28205.
MORE: Want to learn more about these issues and the coverage of the past two weeks? See all coverage in our archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte