Who are the true ‘bully leaders’ in Charlotte’s LGBT community?

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

[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

One Response to “Who are the true ‘bully leaders’ in Charlotte’s LGBT community?”
  1. Lainey Millen says:

    Wow! Wow! Wow! No one can ever say that you don’t look at a situation from all angles.

    I know that you want to find a way to see this situation through and I agree that we all have to be good stewards of our organizations, community and more. Without a real, qualified level of transparency, this can not ever be accomplished adequately.

    The Center (and, in fact, all of our groups, organizations, etc.) is about and for the “people” of the Queen City. There may be various objectives of the work that is done, but in the end, it’s about advancement of “us”. It is not about personal agendas, nor is it a place for anyone to over-objectify oneself. I have heard it time and time again throughout my life: serve in silence, obscurity, and without accolades. That is the way to truly contribute, to do it selflessly, without reward, without ego, and with accountability.

    And, I am saying this not about anyone or any organization in particular, nor casting dispersions, but as a collective body of people who simply want a safer, happier, healthier, and fulfilled life. Both Guild Prez Teresa Davis and Former Commissioner Jennifer Roberts shared at the Gala about how far we have come both locally and nationally. It came upon the shoulders of some courageous, unrelenting warriors who would not let “no” stop them. We are forever indebted to them, for their tenacity, for their drive, for their willingness to buck the system, and, sometimes, to do so while being injured either physically or emotionally. What’s so amazing is is that it’s been done is a relatively short amount of time (if one considers 30+ years short). We’ve got more to do, but we sure don’t have to look at some really amazing accomplishments without being in awe!!!

    Sometimes, I think that we don’t take the necessary time to really look at a situation clearly. We jump into the fray, react, and then have to live with the consequences. How often this can be easily avoided? Don’t say “I wish I could have said, done, etc….” in regret. Let’s hear or see statements made first, contemplate about them, look at strategies, resolve, solutions, then launch out on a grounded approach. Talking out of anger or rage serves no one. It certainly is not diplomatic. It does not solve problems, it only compounds them.

    I know that I seem to go back to Cris Williamson’s “When Anger Takes the Wheel” song a lot in communications, but its message rings so loudly, true — you got to kill ’em with kindness — extinguish the flames of discord. Do we want to make war, discontent? Or, do we want to find a peaceful resolve? I hope the latter.

    I have been involved with this community from almost the beginning of when I moved here. I’ve never done it to get public recognition. If I ever did, it was certainly not because I needed the attention. Quite the contrary. I strive to be one of those behind-the-scenes folks, serving quietly, but not in silence. I will speak up for those issues of which I am impassioned. And, rightly so!

    I’ve seen a lot of factionalism over the years as well. Every particle of L – G – B – T. But, we seem to have finally learned, figured out that we can’t do the work at hand in isolation. Finally! Never could understand why this happened, but, maybe, it was part of finding out what made us tick while being surrounded by like-minded individuals, groups, until we were confident enough to enlarge the circle to embrace LGBT together.

    Let’s all look at our service to the LGBT community, and beyond, and find civil, respectable ways to build bridges both internally and externally.

    Back to another song that I heard at a MCC a long time ago — it’s message rings so loudly now:

    Rainbow Made of Children
    (To the tune of folksong ’May the Circle be Unbroken’)
    We’re a rainbow made of children
    We’re an army singing a song
    There’s no weapons that can stop us
    Rainbow love is much to strong
    Now the rainbow made of children
    Working together hand in hand
    At the end of every rainbow
    There is peace throughout the land

    Without creating this circle of sorts, we’ll never achieve full equality. And, after all, is that not what everyone is fighting for in the end? We should not fight each other. We should fight for the cause of equality. That’s the real agenda.

    So, everyone, let’s hug it out and share the love around. We’ve still got a lot of work left to do.

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