Nationz Foundation and The Knights & Orchids Society
Serving and building the power of Black LGBTQ Southerners in Virginia and Alabama.
The South is home to one in three LGBTQ people in the United States, and more than four in 10 LGBTQ people in the South are people of color. Contrary to stereotypes about the possibilities for political progress in the South, LGBTQ Southerners are often leading the way nationwide in innovative programming, organizing, and strategies to support their own communities and make meaningful change on their own terms. What can we learn from LGBTQ Southerners on building coalitions & nurturing community? MAP’s blog series on #QueerSouthernStories highlights the organizations featured in Telling a New Southern Story: LGBTQ Resilience, Resistance, and Leadership, amplifying the vital work already being done by advocates, activists, and community organizers in the region.
In the South, many LGBTQ people and organizations are dedicated to creating space for and serving the specific needs of Black LGBTQ and same gender loving (SGL) Southerners. Black LGBTQ/SGL communities have unique experiences, and particularly so in the South where the legacy of racism and discrimination continue to shape life in many ways today. Often, these groups in the South provide not only direct support to their community members, but also leadership and models of effective, creative activism and programming to materially improve the lives of LGBTQ people of color. Two examples are the Nationz Foundation in Virginia, and the Knights & Orchids Society in Alabama.
Based in Richmond, Virginia, the Nationz Foundation “provides education and information related to HIV prevention and overall health and wellness while also working towards a more inclusive Central Virginia for LGBTQIA+ people.” Founded and led by Black transgender women, the organization’s programs include community and support groups for transgender people and people living with HIV, a food pantry, free HIV and other sexual health testing services, a text line service, a computer lab, and safer sex outreach and material distribution.
In addition to these many programs, Nationz has a mobile testing unit and food pantry, which travels throughout the region offering free HIV testing, sex education and health materials, and food to the broader community. Recently, Nationz was also able to acquire a house, which they named the Aim to Inspire House, so they can provide emergency housing assistance to transgender and LGBQ community members experiencing housing instability.
The Knights & Orchids Society
In their own words, The Knights & Orchids Society (TKO) “strives to build the power of the African American transgender, gender nonconforming, and LGBQ communities throughout rural areas in Alabama and across the South.” In 2017, they opened the Black Sheep Relief Center in Selma to serve as a link between the local LGBTQ community and the city of Selma for the purpose of creating positive change in the city overall, particularly among rural LGBTQ youth and young adults.
During the COVID-19 health crisis, they extended their Reproductive Justice Free Store capacity to assist Black, low income, and fixed income families with items like food, diapers, and cleaning supplies. Through their Fair Access in Trans Healthcare (FAITH) program, they also provide nonclinical HIV testing, pantry, medical transition assistance, small group interventions, and prevention programs for transgender and gender nonconforming people of color, LGBQ people of color, and people of color living with HIV in the South. Just since 2019, TKO has given away over 75,000 pounds of food and essential supplies and offered nearly 1,500 hours of peer navigation services to nearly 1,000 people.
- To learn more or to donate, visit www.nationzfoundationrva.org and www.tkosociety.com.
- We want to hear your #QueerSouthernStories! Use the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to celebrate some of your favorite photos, memories, or organizing tips for moving LGBTQ equality forward in Southern states! We’re impressed every day by the gorgeous community of organizers, activists, and storytellers who are here, queer, and ready to make change. We look forward to seeing your stories and amplifying!