Group targets issues identified by survey

Voices for a New Tomorrow, a group formed in response to the 2002 needs assessment survey sponsored by Persad Center, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and the Seven Project, has begun working to address the concerns identified in the survey.

Describing itself as “a collaboration of people and organizations focused on GLBT issues,” Voices for a New Tomorrow currently claims about 75 members. Membership is a mix of representatives from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organizations in the Pittsburgh area, as well as individuals from the community at large.

Betty Hill, Persad executive director, said Voices for a New Tomorrow is one “important and exciting” result of the needs assessment, which identified issues of concern to Pittsburgh’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population. In response, Voices for a New Tomorrow has formed working groups in five areas: Action, Advocacy and Education; Community Life; Health; Marginalized Groups; and Religion and Spirituality.

Hill explained that each of the five working groups is tackling a specific set of goals. The Marginalized Groups committee focuses on ensuring greater representation of traditionally marginalized populations within the community, including bisexuals, transgender individuals, youth and people of color. The Community Life group focuses on outreach to new community members, encouraging greater involvement by individuals in local programs and facilitating communication and collaboration between organizations.

Since its inception in May 2003, Voices for a New Tomorrow has offered awareness-training sessions and presentations on the results of the needs assessment survey to members of the general Pittsburgh community, including the staff of former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddy, the Pittsburgh Presbytery and the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh.

“The non-LGBT settings became opportunities” for the greater community to learn about the local gay community, Hill said, adding that many groups became interested “when they heard there was data and research for them to understand [about the GLBT population].”

Persad has used the information provided by the needs assessment survey to develop a strategic three-year plan for the agency intended to help Persad determine how to better serve the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. According to Hill, areas in which services could be improved and expanded include health promotion and well-being of sexual minorities, youth services, religious services and outreach to marginalized communities, such as African-Americans, transgender individuals, bisexuals and men who have sex with men but do not self-identify as gay.

Hill also indicated that the needs assessment showed significant concern over issues of spirituality and religion. In response, Persad has formed two groups focused on spirituality: a religious trauma group and a spiritual exploration group, the latter in conjunction with the GLCC, which “invites people to explore spirituality and consider spiritual life.”

Persad is also continuing a series of educational symposiums on the gay black experience, which began last December. Subsequent lectures are scheduled for February and April.

Meetings of Voices for a New Tomorrow typically include discussion of issues and events of interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, which Hill believes is beneficial. “Being in close touch and knowing what each other is doing, that helps,” she said.

Another goal of Voices for a New Tomorrow is to increase awareness of community issues among the area’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population. “One of the reasons we feel strongly that it’s important to keep working at the community organization level is because it is an opportunity to get community members involved,” Hill said. “Where individual agencies can go off and do their thing—and it’s important they keep doing it—it is important to give community members a more powerful voice and to involve people in being a positive influence in the community.”

“We’re more powerful and effective as a group than we are as individuals,” Hill believes, “and that’s the benefit of being [involved in] community organizing; there are lots of needs, lots of room for people to become involved.”

Voices for a New Tomorrow welcomes and encourages participation by new members. Meetings are scheduled for the fourth Wednesday of every month at the Sixth Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Forbes and Murray avenues in Squirrel Hill; the next meeting will be held Jan. 28 at 6pm. For more information, call the Gay and Lesbian Community Center at (412) 422-0114 or send e-mail to voices@glccpgh.org.