(Photo via facebook.com/MazzoniCenter/)
Amid claims of racial bias and ineffective leadership, Nurit Shein, the CEO of the Mazzoni Center, an anchor of the city’s LGBT community, stepped down this week.
“In light of additional information that was brought to their attention, the board of directors felt that asking for Nurit Shein’s resignation was the appropriate course of action,” Senior Communications Manager Elisabeth Flynn told Generocity. Mazzoni Center also published a brief public statement on Sunday regarding the issue.
Tensions at Mazzoni became public in January, when a Change.org petition circulated demanding Shein’s resignation amid allegations of organizational racial bias, including “Increased or imbalanced supervision or monitoring of vulnerable staff especially Black and Brown Trans-women.”
In February, the Black and Brown Workers Collective (some members of which are former and current Mazzoni staffers) staged a protest calling for Shein’s resignation at a Mazzoni awards event, and on April 11, about 30 current staff members walked off the job following news that the organization’s medical director was being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct. Then, on April 20, another 60 or so staff members walked off, again calling for Shein’s resignation.
From our Partners
As of this Friday, board leadership was still publicly stating its “confidence” in Shein.
Flynn also confirmed via email that Board President Jimmy Ruiz had resigned alongside Shein, emphasizing that it had been Ruiz’s choice to do so.
“In terms of the concerns within the organization regarding racial equity, we do want to acknowledge that we understand these concerns are very real and we are committed to working together with staff to evaluate and address them,” Flynn said.
It’s clear a lot went wrong here. According to several sources who requested anonymity, tensions had grown between staff and Shein in the past few months.
But it ought not be dismissed as only a Mazzoni problem.
“The fact is that at Mazzoni, it was rare for a person of color to get a senior executive position,” said a nonprofit executive familiar with the internal issues who was granted anonymity due to their ongoing nature. “And there were other problems but we can’t ignore that that is the case at a lot of LGBT groups and a lot of nonprofits.”
Black and Brown Workers Collective cofounder Shani Akilah told us last week that it’s essential for activist organizations to consider the voices of the marginalized — which is similar to what we’ve heard time and time again from nonprofit leaders across the city, that social justice and advocacy work must include input from those being served.
That frustration is brewing in other cities, too. Nonprofit leaders need to consider their own ranks: Do their staffs, including direct care and executive leadership, look like the populations they serve?
For most the answer is no, and that’s the lesson from Mazzoni.
What to do about it? Consider mentorship and professional development for young people of color.
“We have a new generation of strong, young leaders of color who aren’t going to wait for the change that needs to happen,” said the nonprofit executive. “This is a very serious and ugly national problem. Philadelphia is ahead of the curve there … but that’s not enough.”
This story includes additional reporting by Generocity Editorial Director Christopher Wink.-30-
From our Partners
New grant programs infuse Philadelphia’s nonprofit and arts sectors with $6 million
PAN wants to create 500 local apprenticeships by 2025
AP changes crime reporting practices to ‘do less harm and give people second chances’
On June 17, First Person Arts and EMOC launch a virtual event they hope will shatter misperceptions of men of color
Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger
SNAP Outreach & Hotline CounselorApply Now
Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP)
YSRP Policy DirectorApply Now
Reflect back, reimagine forward: How Ben Franklin Technology Partners is investing in regional impact
Boards pay nonprofit CEOs less when they’re not in the room for compensation discussions
Good Pitch Local is happening tomorrow
Good food + good people + good cause = good times
United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey
Seasonal Campaign AssociateApply Now
Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity