Attic Youth Center issues statement amid mixed reactions to allegations - Generocity Philly

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Mar. 20, 2019 10:21 am

Attic Youth Center issues statement amid mixed reactions to allegations

The nonprofit's board says it will have a third-party reassess its organizational structure, and will be appointing an acting executive director soon.

Attic Youth Center dancers at the 2016 Philly Pride Parade And Festival.

(Photo via facebook.com/TheAtticYouthCenter)

Almost two weeks after former staffers made public allegations of racism, unfair pay and other grievances against Attic Youth Center Executive Director Carrie Jacobs and Director of Programs Christina Santos, the nonprofit’s board of directors has issued its first public statement about the situation.

“Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of the youth we serve,” reads the statement posted March 18 on Attic’s website. “As has been reported, we have retained a prominent law firm with local ties to conduct a thorough investigation of a serious incident, as well as any lapse in protocol, with the goal of having stronger processes in place to ensure everyone’s protection.”

"Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of the youth we serve."
Attic Youth Center board

The statement continues: “We will be engaging with an independent third-party to help assess our organizational structure to ensure equity among our staff. … Our actions towards organizational change include the appointment of an Acting Executive Director, who will work collaboratively with staff, partners and others to develop inclusive and appropriate policies while keeping the Attic services open and accessible to the youth we serve. We will have an announcement on that shortly.”

A significant part of the statement also reiterates the mission of the nonprofit — which serves LGBTQ+ youth — and points to its 25-year history in the city as a testament to its commitment.

In that, it is reminiscent of the March 14 column on the topic, written by Mark Segal, the publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News.

“The center has not had one blemish in the 25 years it has been serving mostly LGBT youth of color,” Segal wrote. “Especially given that clean record, any allegation needs real information, not simply rumor or embellishment.”

“It seems like we’ve been here before with the same litany of accusations,” the column continues. “Taking all of them into account, a pattern appears. They all start the same way, with claims of some form of harassment. Next, the racist labels are applied. … Almost all organizations have disgruntled staff, past and current, and for various reason, not just racism.”

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Segal’s take is markedly different in tone and perspective than the one Elicia Gonzales, the executive director of Women’s Medical Fund, took in her open letter to fellow executive directors, CEOs and presidents of nonprofits, written immediately after the allegations came to light.

“What are we doing,” she asked, “when we bring in consultants and trainers to address oppression in the workplace and racial bias — yet fail to hold ourselves accountable to our own anti-blackness, transphobia, and adultism? What are we doing — when we cannot own up to our blind spots and actively work to dismantle white supremacy coursing through our veins? What are we doing — when we refuse to step out of our leadership positions because we cannot fathom that the role belongs to a person of color?”

In its statement, the Attic Youth Center board seems to try to encompass both Segal’s and Gonzales’ points.

“To our current staff,” the statement reads as it nears conclusion, “Thank you for your continued hard work and dedication. As Board members, we promise to support you.

“To [Black and Brown Workers Cooperative] and former Attic Employees: We acknowledge and respect your voices and experiences, as well as your expertise. We are committed to making change, and including our Black and Brown staff and young people in this process.

“To our community and those with whom we work and have worked closely: We thank you for continuing to open our eyes, hold us accountable and lifting your voice. In doing so, you are helping make us all better in service of our youth.”

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