Guest Opinion: Leading with humanity: Putting the 'H' into LGBTQ+(H)

  • by Griffin Graham
  • Wednesday January 4, 2023
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Griffin Graham. Photo: Courtesy Griffin Graham
Griffin Graham. Photo: Courtesy Griffin Graham

When I think of my life story and the series of events that brought me to where I am today, two words come to mind: adversity and resilience. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York in an impoverished and abusive home environment and in a community where I witnessed devastating trauma. My firsthand experiences with disenfranchisement and difficult life lessons helped me develop a great sense of empathy and inspired a passion for serving.

Rather than be a victim of my circumstances, I used these challenging times as a call to make positive change in the lives of others. I was tired of seeing detrimental suffering taking a toll on people, so I made a commitment to uplift, inspire, enlighten, and support people and communities in need. My story demonstrates that with resilience, people can rise above life's challenges despite extreme adversity.

In 2016, I founded Community Nest Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, and today serve as its co-founder and president. The organization honors the legacy of my brother, Allen Graham, who was prejudiced for identifying with the LGBTQ+ community and was a victim of hateful violence at the tender age of 16 years old. Initially, Community Nest Foundation was actualized to provide support to persons who identify as LGBTQ+ and has grown to be equally dedicated to the betterment of all disenfranchised individuals and communities at large — to the benefit of all humanity.

When people learn I am in the LGBTQ+ space, I am often asked how I identify. Why does it matter what gender we identify as or what our sexual orientation is? We should be focused on the betterment of humanity as a whole, regardless of sexuality, race, color, or any other forms of identification.

I founded Community Nest Foundation, or CNF, with the vision to culminate a society in which everyone is treated with fairness, equality, and respect; a place where individuals can reach their full potential and be able to count on one another to advance forward in life. At CNF, we believe that there will never be equality unless there is an overall focus on uplifting humanity.

By working collaboratively with other nonprofits in the community who vow to provide support and resources to disenfranchised individuals, we hope to put the humanity, or the "H," back into "LGBTQ+(H)." When you lead with humanity and fight to foster long-lasting relationships, you look at the issues these communities face in a new light, come together with a shared goal, and truly make a difference in your community.

To date, we've supported our friends at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and have also worked with Lunch On Me, an LA-Based nonprofit that provides meals to the homeless community. We've also collaborated with Helio, whose educational toys were provided to children at CNF's Engage the Vision event at Martin Luther King Elementary School in Los Angeles.

This past Thanksgiving, we partnered with Los Angeles Mission to hand out 2,000 pairs of leather shoes and socks to the homeless community at the annual Thanksgiving Celebration. This holiday season, we gathered donations for the Los Angeles Mission Annual Christmas Street Outreach in the heart of skid row. Our collaboration with other nonprofits is what I envision as the future of nonprofit work. Working together to serve others brings about more change and more impact.

If we all lead with intentional and impactful action with one main goal — serving humanity — the momentum will start to build. This momentum will lead to productivity and that's when we'll see results. My biggest advice for people wanting to make a difference is to seek opportunities to make active change by serving humanity. If we all act with kindness and serve each other, life will ebb and flow with beautiful continuity.

If there's anything I could do differently, I would have spent more time "watering my plants" — metaphorically speaking of course. This advice stems from a time I visited a friend who moved and upon visiting them I noticed there were three plants that were beyond dead. The lesson is that if you notice something that needs attention, don't wait. Now is the time to invest. If we see something that is dying or needs attention, we shouldn't just pass by with indifference and not act. We don't have any excuses. We can either help disenfranchised communities grow strong or we can watch them wither and become frail. I encourage you, put the labels aside and look at uplifting all of humanity. Together, we can put the "H" into LGBTQ+(H).

Griffin Graham, a straight ally, is the co-founder and president of Community Nest Foundation, which is based in Beverly Hills, California.

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