Nonprofit Accountability Group is a queer- and trans-led group based in Hartford that is dedicated to creating racial equity by directing resources to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and disabled children and families. NAG was founded in 2020 as an organization with a transformative approach to implementing nonprofit accountability by creating relationships within the community, nonprofits, and their funders.

We believe that drinking water is essential, Black Lives Matter, trans lives should be protected, patriarchy should be dismantled, and no kids should be in cages. Our goal is to facilitate lasting change within organizations by focusing on people-first programming, basic needs care, and antiracism practices. This means disrupting the status quo, comfort, and complacency. NAG’s leadership works to change the narrative of how we create equity by examining power dynamics, intersectionality, and establishing community care. We are a responsive group that consists of volunteers to help fill the needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trans, Poor and Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) are largely exposed to COVID-19 due to lack of shelter, proper nutrition, and economic stability due to job loss. Programs that we offer center healing and wellness within our community. We all deserve food and shelter no matter our race, ability, gender, class status, immigration status, or sexuality. Our Stay Safe Mutual Aid provides thousands of free masks and healthy snacks to free food pantries across Hartford and to families. We create care packages in quart size bags and fill them with things like applesauce, granola bars, socks, and toothbrushes for free. In our Kids Packs there are child-sized masks and also stickers. We provide free art, reading, and teaching supplies, or FARTS, for our virtual arts workshops hosted monthly. Art is a necessary component in healing. We are organizers and advocates but we are artists as well and like to take creative approaches when helping out and giving back to our communities.

In our latest project, Hartford SPACE, we are combining the efforts of mutual aid and organizing to serve as a platform for residents, tenants, and grassroots groups to secure housing for poor, trans, Black Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC). By collaborating with grassroots organizations we are amplifying our message of equity and protecting our human rights. People need food, water, and shelter to survive and our communities are barely being granted that while we live through a global pandemic, housing crisis, and in a food desert.

Our goal is to bring voices to the table that have experienced disparities in the housing sector to spark a larger conversation of housing equity. Our city currently does not have a centralized place where elected officials and residents are openly able to discuss housing issues and work towards solutions. Most conversations around housing default to the city’s Planning and Zoning commission, which is not currently centered on sheltering people but focused on property development for wealthy developers, often leaving poor, Black, and trans people out of the conversation.

Many of us have experienced the struggles of housing insecurity like eviction, staying in a homeless shelter, public or section 8 housing, living on the streets, couch surfing, and living in overcrowded or hazardous apartments. The journey towards secure housing is turbulent and there are barriers we face as a result of these disparities from things like poor academic performance from housing instability to low self esteem and sense identity due to losing everything you own through eviction and chronic homelessness. Many queer folks know what life is like without sentimental items and lost memories because there is nowhere to store them. We are not afforded attic spaces for family heirlooms or garages to start up a business. Our voices need to be heard because space is not being made for many of us.

In our Hartford SPACE project we wish to amplify the realities faced in the eviction and homelessness experience and work towards towards solutions together through safety, participation, accountability, creativity, and education. One member of our team communicated to us that they experienced chronic childhood homelessness and how it led them through the school to prison pipeline, sex work, and life-long health issues. While in their recovery they expressed how art became a means of survival and in periods were they had space to create, they were able to make and sell their art to gain more economic stability to work towards a better life. Some of our families have never owned property but have been property either through enslavement or through the prison industrial complex as Michelle Alexander mentions in her book “The New Jim Crow.”

In our fight for shelter, we have been one of the first organizations engaged in the housing coalition to petition for Right To Counsel so tenants at risk of eviction and homelessness can at least be afforded representation to stay in their homes. We have taken action with organizations like Cancel Rent CT, Black and Brown United, Citizens Opposed to Police States, Black Lives Matter 860, CT Core, Showing Up For Racial Justice, and NB Racial Justice to take up visible space in the streets rallying for justice and relief to cancel the rent and ask our elected officials for aid during the pandemic.

The needs for affordable housing and economic relief are great yet they are still not being met. The spaces we must take up are difficult to navigate and understand but it is important to get the full picture of why so many of us cannot find a home to live, grow, and create.  We must work together making art centering racial justice in disabled, Black and trans communities, if we seek to feel seen and heard in a world that often erases our experiences, labor, and identities. Housing is a human right and we all deserve it. We must all collaborate to build a better future.

Tenaya Taylor is the Director of the Nonprofit Accountability Group.

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