Post the Twelfth or An Open Letter to the Out Youth Board of Directors

This is what you are missing

I love Out Youth. I love working there and I love the work that I do. Out Youth is important to me in ways that I cannot begin to enumerate. Most of all I love the people, the family that I have found there. From the young people that I serve and who teach me in turn to the other interns to the volunteers to the paid staff. In many ways, I feel that we are closer then any family. Certainly we have our squabbles and differences but for all that there is a true sense of love and community that I feel there. And thats because we have all been through similar struggles. Out Youth is the oasis that we find and become a part of. After wandering through a desert world that hates us and oppresses us, we find Out Youth in the midst of it all. With cool water and a place for all, its a haven where we are all safe, staff and young people alike.

And there to greet you when you arrived was Lisa Rogers.

Lisa, with her bad puns and warm heart and strong hands, with her unending energy and her undeniable passion, she was always there. With her amazing ability to inspire young people and her unbelievable commitment to Out Youth, she did everything from orient the new volunteers to write the newsletter to develop programing. She was here the earliest and left the latest.

She was always here. That is until the Out Youth Board of Directors eliminated her position and laid her off in the most disgusting of ways.

With absolute lack of professionalism she was terminated effective immediately with no notice and no chance to not only say goodbye but also to follow up with people she was to meet with and delegate tasks to those who would remain behind. But even beyond that she was treated with out humanity and she was not treated as one would treat a family member. She was not treated with the respect and dignity that you would give to a beloved elder or a badass crazy crone. And we were not consulted or asked or even given the opportunity to work on this as a community. Why?

Because the Board of Out Youth are not a part of this family.

And I wish to Goddess that they were! I want them to be a part of this community. I want them to know the family that they serve. Meet the young people that have been saved because we were here. I want them to know us! I’ve asked young people and volunteers alike if they had ever met a Board member and the answer again and again was no. How can they know what is best for this community when they don’t even know its members? How can they pretend to have executive power when they don’t know us?

They have forgotten that they work for us.

They can mouth at us that it was because of the recession and lack of funds but thats not good enough! There were other ways that this could have been done but even if there wasn’t, we still should have been consulted. We still should have been asked, “What do you think?”

So I say to you, Oh Board. We are on to you. We are on to your lack of organization and ineptitude. We are on to your pompousness and on to your self-importance.

We are on to the fact that you are not doing your job. 

I propose a call to action. It is high time that we hold the Board accountable to us. It is high time we created a culture where young people can empower themselves to be a part of the Board and give themselves voice in this organization. It is high time that the Board met us where we were at and made us a part of the decision making process. It is high time that we steered our own ship and its high time for the Board to get us the fund we need to run effectively.

Beware. For the actions you take have consequences.

And the storm is coming.  

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About witchymorgan

I'm a 22 year old womanist, sex positive, pansexual, polyamorous, queer, bruja, transwoman. Social justice activist by day, social justice activist by night. Fun! View all posts by witchymorgan

29 responses to “Post the Twelfth or An Open Letter to the Out Youth Board of Directors

  • Zan Ray

    Why do you think George Washington walked with his soldiers during the Revolutionary War when times were their hardest? It was so that he could experience what his soldiers were experiencing. You can’t always stay on your high horse if you expect to lead an organization that’s fighting a cause without veering off in the wrong direction. If you stay so apart from those with their boots on the ground who are doing the actual fighting you develop a disconnect. You don’t truly know what works and what doesn’t because you’re not there to experience it first hand. And with that you lose your ability to lead effectively. Your organization becomes disgruntled because they feel that they’re not being heard, ineffective because what you think works well actually doesn’t, and ultimately your mission goes unfulfilled.

    Sorry for the military analogies but that’s where I take all of my experience from. But that’s how I see the board, an aloof and disconnected commander.

    Eff that ess.

  • Marilyn Levin

    I applaud your passion and commitment to holding the board of directors accountable to the authentic mission of the organization. I have had intimate experience with the Out Youth Board dating back a few years when I was hired as Interim Executive Director only to be let go when I began to attempt to address the significant disfunction within the board.

    I have deep compassion for the ravages of internalized oppression and horizantle hostility as this is the only explanation I can think of to explain why such good meaning board members have gone (and stayed!) so profoundly off course from the real work of empowering youth and addressing the injustices in the world that these youth face.

    I believe that first and foremeost it is the obligation of every adult ally to confront what is still not yet transformed within themselves – SO THAT THEY NO LONGER PERPETUATE PREJUDICE AND OPPRESSION ON THEIR OWN (GLBT) OR ANOTHER (YOUTH) OPPRESSED GROUP.

    I believe that the leading members of this board have not done sufficient personal transformational work to lead this organization effectively and I ask the board members who have been around for over 2 years to step aside so that others can attempt to move Out Youth forward effectively.

    I applaud the efforts of the youth to remedy their legitimate concerns about how this board is running this organization. Bring non-violent compassion to everyone in your effort to resolve this situation, stand strong in your convictions and perseverve until you are victorious!

    With love and In solitude,
    Marilyn Levin
    marilyn@marilynlevin.com

    • witchymorgan

      Hey Marilyn,

      Thanks so much. It feels good to know that people are on our side!! We will definitely take the fight to them. One of the Texas QSAers said to me today;

      “Wiithout Lisa, the OY team is damaged severely. We all know that. But what this also means is that a damaged team means a damaged service and a damaged service means damaged youth. What this tells us, and more importantly tells the board, is that without the staff, the volunteers, the interns, parents, and all our energies and histories that lie deep here, they have no youth, no constituency to serve or raise money for. With out us, they have nothing. Quintessentially, they have no power!!!! …meaning our demands HAVE to be met. MY POINT HERE IS… our demands must be as organized as we want the organization to become. Why? Because WE are the leading force in this and we RUN Out Youth.”

      And I think she has the right of it. Its all about keeping momentum and making sure that we are as LOUD as possible.

  • Rifka Reichler

    wait a second, lisa rogers lost her job???

    WTF????

    what can those of us want to support lisa do?

    rifka reichler

  • Zan Ray

    Love you too, honey. Beep boop. See, I’m on your side sometimes…

  • Rifka Reichler

    so what can we do to hold the board accountable and to show our support for Lisa and our concern for the actions of the board?

  • Matt Smith

    Disclaimer – I have history with the org. I don’t know who’s on the board these days, so this isn’t personal in that sense. But it’s personal in that I’m personally invested in the org, its mission and values.

    Something here doesn’t add up. Terminating someone “effective immediately and with no notice” – without a chance to transition her responsibilities, and without a chance to say goodbyes to youth and everyone else – is awful in so many ways, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s so bad for the youth she worked with, it’s arguably unethical. It’s horrific for Lisa herself. It’s obviously bad for the organization’s reputation, continuity of services and operations, and morale.

    It’s so bad, in so many ways, that I hope there’s more to the story than we know. If she committed some horrible sin that required immediate termination, it would justify an abrupt exit. And the recession talk would just be stupid PR spin to avoid the subject. Or if they didn’t trust her to exit professionally, that could explain why this was so abrupt. But that’s probably not something they’d say to you.

    If it really was *only* a money problem, then the board was in a position to see it coming from a long way off, and there’s no excuse to have handled everything so poorly. That would leave the board looking incompetent, plus disrespectful and unnecessarily cruel to Lisa. And that’s obviously how it looks to you.

    It sounds like there are disconnects between you and the board – in terms of values and different views of your respective roles. Those kinds of disconnects have existed for many years – especially between staff/volunteers/youth/board members who are most expert about the org’s mission, and board members who are recruited for other strengths. They’re like fault lines, and in times of crisis, the org splits along them. They’re a big problem. I hope OY will work together to identify and articulate a shared vision, so everyone involved is on the same page about how the org should be.

    • witchymorgan

      It is really bad. And I will say that Lisa hasn’t done anything to warrant it. She is just as shocked, surprised and upset as we are, if not more so. I’m pretty familiar with the mission, vision and values as well as the by-laws. I’m currently interning at Out Youth. Not only does the Board need revamping but the whole organization needs to be restructured. From the mission and vision to how decisions are made to how board members are elected and trained. These are things that need to change and I think we can make it happen.

      • Matt Smith

        Should have mentioned – you’re an eloquent writer. You said some things really beautifully about OY’s culture.

        In 2005-6, we had some problems that sound like yours now. OY ran out of money, and it was a surprise to everyone outside of the board. The board was disconnected with the org’s culture and stated values, and for a long time only the staff knew it. But suddenly the board was making decisions we could see, and we spotted the disconnect for ourselves. Staff were gone, so “we” was vols and youth.

        Of course, the board’s lack of expertise was a blind spot for most of them. They thought they knew just as well as anybody what OY stood for. When you said they seem pompous and self-important to you, that’s what it reminded me of.

        So suddenly there was the money crisis the board was focused on, but also an identity crisis they didn’t recognize. The only people who recognized it were the ones closer to OY’s mission/values/culture. Board members were super stressed about the money, and most REALLY didn’t want to hear from us about the soul of OY. They wanted us to sit down and shut up. That conflict ate up time/energy and burned out some really dedicated people at a time OY couldn’t afford to lose them.

        One volunteer made a suggestion I didn’t understand at the time. Now I think it was a smart idea. He suggested we ask the board to meet with a trained, neutral mediator from the local Dispute Resolution Center to identify our varied interests and seek a path foward together. Because your colleague is right – the org isn’t much good without those at the heart of OY’s mission. And things also won’t go anywhere without the board members. Both constituencies are vital.

        How great is it to have an org so worth fighting for?

  • Megan

    Please let me and others know what can be done to show support. I am so sorry for your loss and admire you passion and dedication to change what has been done. Please let me know what I and we can do.

  • Donna

    WitchyMorgan —
    Sadly, power corrupts even the most well-intentioned. It is a slow process that only those who are watching or have some vested, outside interest, can see. I have not had any ties with Out Youth personally and I’m only seeing this as an outside observer but it sounds so typical of organizations. Unfortunately, as much as anyone does not like to admit it, particularly those who hold the power, organizations become bureaucracies that end up hindering the repair of the very problem they were first set up to fix. It is the life of a successful organization. So, if it is fire you want, open another organization with the intention of closing it down every so often. I don’t meant that to be harsh… not even a little. But it is reality… sorry…
    Donna
    PS I am 60, transsexual, lesbian, blah, blah, blah (you get to be a lot of things when you get to this age!) I am with you, sincerely… start something else… with your fire, it can’t help but to be successful!!!

    • Donna

      PSS I’m sure the people and family will not hesitate to be there. After all, organizations are made up of people (I’m sorry if that scarily reminds you of the corporation thing that Romney said… I did not say they are people… they are made up of people!) If the mission is true and needed, people will go with the group that has the greatest effect and does the most good… just ask, and many, including me, will be there to help, ok?

    • witchymorgan

      Why reinvent the wheel? I think that if we restructure the organization to create sustainable leadership then things like this can be prevented. If we make sure that we always have all people at the table, then we can always keep things current.

  • Donna

    Well, not meaning to be argumentative, but… that is reinventing the wheel, so to speak… if you’re restructuring the organization to fix flaws, you will be changing… to keep with the metaphor of the the wheel, there is an old song that goes, “Some say the heart is just like a wheel. You can bend it, but you can’t mend it.” So bending the wheel is making something new, which, since there is a history, emotional entanglements, anger (it seems) and a whole bevy of bits and pieces flying around, may prove to be difficult. A new wheel is always preferred, if possible… and that is the caveat. If it isn’t possible, the thought that you will be creating another entity, maybe with the same name, is what creates the fire in others. Like the “New and Improved” marketing technique, it gives new life…
    Please, also, understand, I make a lot of suggestions as food for thought. Only you and the organization you are attached to, know all of the realities… but, sometimes an outsider can add a spark to an otherwise and seemingly dismal situation… that is what I mean to do here… again, I am with you…
    And, you express yourself very well… bravo!!!

  • Kate

    Morgan,
    Another time I will try to express all that Lisa has meant to me, but right now, I want to address the organizational challenges. Thank you for giving us this flag around which to rally.
    Out Youth suffered almost irreparable damage the last time it faced a similar crisis in ’06. Youth, staff and volunteers suffered then, too. What the Board seems to have forgotten, among other things, is that the reputation and stability of Out Youth was so damaged that we are still feeling repercussions in the difficulty of fundraising and grants.
    This Board has acted irresponsibility, and not in accordance with even the Bylaws that they pushed through regardless of the input of stakeholders, whose amendments would have brought OY structure in line with nonprofit best practices.
    I speak from experience. I was a CAL (organizational) intern at Out Youth for my Master of Social Work degree at UT. I worked for eight months on my report to the board, but they never had room on the agenda for me to present it. That was more than a year ago, and little has changed.
    When I had been at OY a few months, I decided I would like to serve on the Board and serve OY in a different way after I left. By the time I finished my internship and observations of the Board, I would rather have chewed broken glass that continue anywhere near that toxic environment, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the supportive and loving safe haven that OY has provided for so many of us. So instead, I stayed on as a volunteer.
    Recently, Jake interviewed me for his project. He asked something like, “Looking five years down the road, what’s your biggest fear for Out Youth?” I said,” That it wouldn’t be here anymore, that there’d be no money, we’d lose the house, and Out Youth would be gone…” until I realized that none of that mattered; we would simply meet in the parking lot, or the park, or a church basement. And, like the phoenix, rise again. With Lisa. Because the heart of Out Youth, what matters, isn’t the house, or the money, or the Board. The heart of Out Youth is the people, and, like a family whose house burns down, we are together, we are strong, and we aren’t going anywhere.
    I agree with Donna that the easiest way to start over would be to start over. I do not believe this Board has any willingness or interest in changing to meet the needs of the organization as it could be. The Bylaws do not allow for ousting the Board. I question what would happen to the grants that are already funding us and the ones that are in the pipeline. I question what support we would have from our partner organizations, our supporters and donors and the community. These things can not be thrown away, and I am doubtful that they would be sympathetic to a revolution. These entities are generally more interested in stability.
    I am also not so cynical to agree with Donna that a well-put-together, well-run organization needs to be shut down every few years. There are far too many long-standing organizations who are highly effective, as well as having a heart.
    Most of all, I loved Matt’s comment:
    “How great is it to have an org so worth fighting for?”

    Kate Cronkite, MSSW

    PS What can we do with the parade float??? Can we have loudspeakers blaring the Beatles Revolution, Glee Don’t Stop Believing, Springsteen…? Maybe the phoenix says it all.

    • witchymorgan

      It would take volumes to encompass what Lisa meant to all of us. I have hope that with enough people behind out voice that we can force the Board to change. We have to have hope otherwise the battle is already lost. We can do this. We just need to stay organized and stay united.

  • Alex Sturman

    I can not agree with you more, and thank you for writing this.

    The part that I would like to stress a little more is about the Board choosing not to be a part of the Out Youth Family.

    When I was a part of the Board with Lisa Rodgers in 2006-2007 we were apart of the family. We had to be! We choose to and continued to involve ourselves in the daily operations of the organization. We arrived early, opened the doors, greeted youth and volunteers who had weathered the storm of 2006.

    We decided out of personal attachment as well as out of need that we would be involved in the gritty of Out Youth. We were able to re-open the doors and begin youth programing if only in small ways. We consulted youth (who are the most important customers) we asked for their input addressing concerns and ideas of grandeur. Most importantly, we listened. Ok well at the very least, Lisa and I listened. I like to believe that the youth were heard by the rest of the board as well.

    I began my involvement with OY in 1994 as a youth, and in 2006 when I became an elder member of the Out Youth as a member of the Board I swore that I would never let the past repeat itself.

    I am saddened by the recent developments at our home away from home. I am angered that this board has failed to heed the warnings of the past. I am driven to assist, in anyway that the youth will allow my assistance, in recreating the OY that is inclusive to all members not just board members. An organization that respects, requires and honors the involvement of the Youth. The way Lisa has always wanted it to be!

    Lisa has been the stone that has held Out Youth together through each storm we as a family have weathered. This storm will be no different! Regardless of the way this board chooses to allow the family members to be heard. Lisa Rogers will continue to be the rock we all turn to to advise and leadership in our growth as humans and contributing members of society.

  • Tracy Deagan

    A severe legal or ethical violation on the counselor’s part is the only action that justifies “walking” a therapist – making them leave immediately and denying them the ability to appropriately terminate with and transition their clients. The decision to abruptly terminate should only be implemented by an experienced clinician or mental health professional who can truly understand the potential harm to clients and mitigate that damage – it is not a decision that can be intelligently made by a non clinician, in my opinion. The damage an abrupt termination of services can do to clients is severe. As noted, it also impacts the whole agency and the community it serves. If the termination of Lisa Rogers was indeed done without the proper steps I believe it is a violation of professional ethics, mental health “best practices,” and community care. My opinion has been formed by 22 years as a psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and director, and program manager in community mental health agencies in Austin, Texas.

    Tracy Deagan LPC-S, LCSW-S
    Director and Principle Practitioner
    Violet Crown Counseling Group

  • Mark Morrow

    A colleague forwarded the link to this blog concerning Out Youth’s Board of Director’s actions to terminate Lisa Rogers’ employment. I have been a volunteer with Out Youth in the past, and am deeply saddened by our community’s loss! I cannot imagine Out Youth without the vivacious energy Lisa pours into the organization daily. Lisa gives more than 100% of herself in service of Out Youth! She is a fearless leader that reaches Out to Youth and not only listens, but recognizes the value that every individual youth possesses! It is a rare quality for a leader to recognize their role is primarily to learn from other’s strengths, and that healing is promoted by the youth just as much as any volunteer, intern, or clinician. Lisa’s humble wisdom and zany energy has made Out Youth a home for our community. Please keep me posted with any opportunities to help the Board of Directors recognize what a tremendous asset Lisa Rogers is to Out Youth, and what a grave mistake it is to lose her services.

    • witchymorgan

      We are doing everything we can to make sure that we get her back. The best thing to do would be to write a letter or show up on the 12th for the board meeting to say how disappointing and upsetting this is. I have another post detailing some talking points that should be in the letter and where to send it to. Thank you so much for your solidarity.

  • David

    I’ve known Lisa Rogers for about 20 years. She IS OutYouthAustin. I was a volunteer coordinator when OYA was up on Guadelupe street, facilitated groups etc. etc… and again out in that warehouse across from St. Eds.
    I now live in Dallas, served 3 years on the Youth First Texas Board of Directors …
    My only question is when will BOD’s learn that their job is to perpetuate funding, and let the ED run the show? Let’s see, isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again with the same outcome?
    I’m sure Lisa and Candice were doing their jobs, and could have weathered through whatever board-manufactured crisis this began as. All stakeholders in the community need to be at the board meeting on the 12 – please get the word out on fb to all those of us who have benefited from being part of OYA over the years.
    David Grelle
    Dallas TX

  • Kate

    I’d love to see a Mr. Smith moment, gathering all the letters, physically, on paper, and dumping them in front of the Chair at the meeting. Any chance? Would the people who have written posts here send a paper copy, or even an attachment we can print? Can we recruit youth, volunteers, parents, friends, friendly teachers, other members of the community, even donors? (I have mine ready to go.) We can use my PO Box if needed.

  • Marilyn Levin

    Below is my letter to the Board.

    My invitation to all of us is to come to the meeting being the space of love and compassion. MLK and Gandhi used this approach to accomplish so many miraculous things. If we contribute to the negativity we will not suceed in our bold goals. We must be the change we want the board to be. We must be willling to be everything we are asking the board to be. This is a tremendous opportunity for all of us to step into our greatness and to cause a miracle.
    Love,
    Marilyn

    September 9, 2011

    Dear Out Youth Austin Board of Directors,
    Knowing that you have been truly doing what you believe is in the best interest of Out Youth because you authentically care about the well being of LGBTQ youth, I appeal to what is deeply good and decent inside of each of you. You would not have devoted so much time, effort and resources
    and weathered so many challenges if you were not truly committed. Thank you!

    Standing in this deep commitment that you have to LGBTQ Youth, I implore you to LISTEN – to listen to the YOUTH of Out Youth as they communicate to you with conviction and clarity that in their view you are not effectively upholding the mission and values of Out Youth Austin.

    The youth of Out Youth Austin have been telling you this for over 6 years. Numerous LGBT adult allies, who are experts in the field of LGBTQ youth services have repeatedly said the same things to you over the last 6 years.

    PLEASE-LISTEN TO THE YOUTH NOW!! They know what they need. They know what a viable, thriving Out Youth looks like. They know how to get there. They know how to effectively work with adult allies to get things accomplished. And we do this work in their name so it is ludicrous to blatantly and consistently ignore their wisdom!!! It is time to let them lead the way and be the most effective and powerful allies we can be.

    The youth have some powerful requests that they will bring to you at the next Board Meeting. At this meeting you have an EXTRAORDINARY OPPORTUNITY. I invite you to access your courage, your deepest convictions for the well being of LGBTQ youth, and the humility it will take to cause a BOLD transformation in the Out Youth family.

    If you can step into your greatness, you can cause a massive healing transformation for the entire Out Youth community. What a beautiful thing Monday night can be!!!

    Here is the future I am living into:
    Monday night, we miraculously find our way together. We let the youth lead us into a new course of history for Out Youth, like so many youth are doing in the Middle East and many parts of the world. If youth can count on our COURAGEUS allied partnership anything is possible.

    Imagine – on Tuesday everyone associated with Out Youth gets emails, calls and social media messages saying that Out Youth had a miracle happen Monday night and the youth and the board, donors and supporters are all thrilled with our new pathway forward.

    The power of this kind of miracle would be very healing on the entire LGBTQ Austin Community. To demonstrate that in the face of serious breakdown in relationship – we can reconcile and find a powerful pathway forward is EXACTLY what is needed right now.

    YOU CAN DO THIS!! WE CAN DO THIS AS A COMMUNITY!! IT IS WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS OF US NOW!!!

    With Respect,
    Marilyn Levin, MSW

    Founder of GLBTQ Youth Program in La Crosse Wisconsin (NYAC Awarded)
    Founder of State-Wide Coalition of GBLTQ Youth groups in Wisconsin
    Founding Member of LGBTQ Youth Development Advisory Council (state wide think tank)
    Out Youth Volunteer and Donor (off and on since early years)
    Out Youth Interim Executive Director and Consultant (Jan – June 2009)

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