LGBTQ & Gender Justice,Youth & Transformative Justice

Message on Pride, LA Dodgers, and Moving Forward

June 28, 2023
By Courtney Kassel

Progress is messy and inconstant, and it doesn’t happen without difficult moments and tough conversations.

Liberty Hill and its partners have had a positive, productive relationship with the Dodgers Foundation since 2020. The Dodgers Foundation has not only provided important financial support to social justice causes and organizations but has used its powerful voice to amplify important issues such as youth development work in Los Angeles County.

This history made it all the more painful when the Los Angeles Dodgers organization recently uninvited — and then, in response to great outcry, reinvited — the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a stalwart of the LGBTQ rights movement, from the Dodgers’ Pride Night celebrations. In a time of heightened LGBTQ bigotry, this was a harmful error, and while the Dodgers organization ultimately apologized, and the Sisters accepted the apology, the incident nonetheless gave oxygen to anti-LGBTQ forces, as evidenced by Pride Night protests at the stadium that attracted notorious and dangerous bigots.

But it also meant that Liberty Hill was able to convene a very important, and direct, conversation about this troubling incident between the Dodgers Foundation — who was in no way connected to this decision – and the community partners of the Liberation Fund Partnership. This conversation, which also included a number of other philanthropic partners, was able to happen because both the Dodgers Foundation and the community partners trusted Liberty Hill enough to feel that the conversation would be both safe and honest.

It was not a comfortable, or predictable, conversation. Julio Marcial and Lisa Small of Liberty Hill set the table for the community partners to speak, but there was no discussion or agreement ahead of time about what anybody would say. The partners spoke bluntly. Many described the real and even fatal dangers that LGBTQ+ people — and particularly Trans people — face in the current environment of targeted bigotry. They did not even always agree — one of the youth leaders brought by a grantee organization shared that the imagery of the Sisters' threatened her own religious beliefs. Others present were exceptionally clear about the ways that religious beliefs have been touted at the expense of LGBTQIA+ people's safety and identity and reminded the group of the over 30 years of the Sisters' role providing critical protection and advocacy to groups in harm's way. Yet, the youth participant was given the space to speak her own truth and was not criticized for it.

Just as importantly, the partners laid out the steps that they believed were necessary for repair to take place between the Dodgers organization and the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. These included not only resources to support LGBTQ+ work for justice, but also public stances that the Dodgers would need to take and other ways for them to show up and put their power, prestige, and visibility to work in the name of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and against bigotry and oppression.

Since then, conversations with and around the Dodgers organization and LGBTQ+ issues have continued, and work has been done towards more concrete commitments. The repair work is ongoing and will take time, and success is a long and windy road that can take many forms. But, there is no final destination where all the work is finished for good. But it is only possible to make progress on these issues, to repair damage, to rebuild trust, if people are able to talk in settings that feel both honest and safe.

This ability to reach across society and bring people together, to convene, is part of Liberty Hill’s unique value as an organization. It is, perhaps, even more valuable than our ability to raise money and resources and get them to community partners who can make the best use of them. Our convening power enables us to lift up our partners and give them important settings where they can speak for themselves, in ways that nobody could ever hope to speak for them.

That power is rooted in the trust and relationships that we build each and every day, year in and year out. Those relationships and that hard-earned trust is the most valuable thing we have, and we are stewards of it to hand on to those who will come after, intact.

The work of justice goes on, through advances and setbacks. Our partners will never desist from it, and neither will we.