I was surprised to learn that the board had decided to chart a new course for Hudson Pride Center by retiring the role of the CEO on May 14, 2019. As I depart the Center, I wanted to share with you some feelings on my last 100 days, my first 100 days, and everything in between.
Out In Jersey magazine news story on Michael Billy leaving the HPC
Presence in the moment is my anchor. I allow the stillness and peace between the words guide our movement—not anger. Within my tenure, I’d spoken frequently on the vision for our future Center and the proud path we were on to co-create the world we want to love in. This is our time and I’d like to take the opportunity to invite you to be present with me as we remind ourselves of our journey.
Under my leadership, HPC took the biggest step in our 25-year history by providing a connection to quality health care to our clients, the vast majority who live at or below the federal poverty line. Through our milestone strategic partnership with Carepoint Health we faced the challenges and barriers that prevent LGBTQ people access to quality healthcare. We worked with the healthcare community to understand the disparities and inequalities that our community faces within the health care system. Then we began to create a model for health care that would break down those disparities and provide access to care.
We developed partnerships with local businesses to create safe and vibrant spaces to gather and celebrate our lives. We danced, we loved, we laughed, and we united in these spaces at open mic nights, fundraisers, Vogue Balls, Prom Nights, Pride Nights, Friendsgiving, and other events that centered our community. For the first time in Hudson Pride Center’s history, we developed a brand and launched a new logo that the community was proud to wear.
We dedicated ourselves to improving not only individual lives, but also the communities we serve each day through our advocacy efforts and ongoing commitment to social and economic justice. We raised awareness around PrEP/PEP through rallies and unique ad campaigns featuring our own counselors. We stood up for immigrants at rallies and created safe, affirming spaces for our transgender community. We lifted up our ladies-loving ladies community and created a loving community space where they could live as their authentic selves through Lez Fest. Every day we asked ourselves how can we help each other feel loved and cherished. Every day we followed through and committed to ensuring our community is affirmed.
We looked to the future and believed in revolutionizing and loving a community for their whole selves. We partnered with Hudson County to officially make August the county’s Pride month. Through partnerships with Guttenberg, Hoboken, Bayonne, and Jersey City, the entire county became our home and the communities in them a rousing voice. This movement, this community, has been my commitment since I was 14 years old.
I’m honored to have served. Our community has an indomitable spirit and a courage to thrive despite the odds. It’s these moments of spirit and courage I’ll take with me. I’ll remember my second day when the world stopped at the Center to welcome a trans youth who we’d eventually help to find a home. I’ll remember our staff’s faces when they realize time and time again that their work changes lives. I’ll remember feeling a surge of pride as our staff embraced the leaders they’d always been.
If I had a choice to pick a final two weeks to serve as CEO, it would have been the last two weeks. Nearly two years of countless meetings and endless searches for a new space that was the right price, size, and location for the Center finally paid off. Just weeks ago, I solidified a partnership that could meet all our parameters and provide the Center and our community the home we’ve dreamed of. It was a good line to unexpectedly close this chapter on.
I hope that Hudson Pride Center continues to thrive for the people it serves. And to our board, trusting each of you to support and govern this organization was a decision that will surely affect our community for years to come. Many of you are brand new to our movement and to the Center so I wish you the very best. I hope your second terms as board members bring you the compassion and wisdom a lifetime of activism brings.
With love and gratitude to the community we serve,