We Need ‘Portraits of Pride’ Because Community Voices Matter

Elaine Ng, CEO, TSNE
Just last week, I learned about the defacement of the “Portraits of Pride Boston” exhibit on the Boston Common.

Just last week, I learned about the defacement of the “Portraits of Pride Boston” exhibit on the Boston Common. This public art exhibit is installed just a brief walk from where I work as CEO at TSNE, a nonprofit that works to strengthen organizations working towards a just and equitable society. The intention of this exhibit is to celebrate the contributions and voices of a historically marginalized group and it’s truly troubling to know that several portraits were vandalized. One of those portraits is of Beth Chandler, president and CEO of YW Boston and TSNE board member. Beth is someone who’s dedicated decades of service to the Boston area, working for equity and racial justice to improve the well-being of others.

Although some of the portraits were vandalized, I am still struck by the people these portraits represent. I am in awe of their stories as members of the LGBTQIA+ community and pillars for change in their community. The “Portraits of Pride” exhibit is a representation of true intersectionality. This exhibition not only showcases members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and what pride means to them, but highlights Massachusetts' top leaders in public service, entrepreneurship, business, law, and more. This is a visible representation of intersectionality at its root in showing that our identities shape who we are and motivate the ways we are committed to building a more equitable society.

Kimberlee Crenshaw, creator of the term of “intersectionality” writes that “intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” This makes me think of the harm that the defacing of these portraits has not only on those in the portraits, but those in our community who see themselves reflected in these stories. This mobilizes me to do more in my role as CEO to foster an intersectional and equity-focused lens in the work I do every day.

What happens in our community matters to me, and matters to the people in our City. We do our work because we believe in a society where all people have the dignity, resources, power, and self-determination to fully thrive; where those in our community feel completely empowered and have the agency to be who they are. I speak for TSNE when I say that we unequivocally stand with those who have experienced harm through the defacing of the “Portraits of Pride” exhibit. We support not only our board member, Beth Chandler, but Alia Cusolito, Derrick Young Jr., and any others whose harm we haven’t heard about. We need to speak loudly for social justice in our organizations and communities. We need to build a just and equitable society through supporting BIPoC community leaders and bolstering organizations that work to ensure social justice and equity.

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