Sean Coleman

Executive Director, Destination Tomorrow

How old is your organization? 10 years old this year.
What sector do you work in? Nonprofit
How long have you been working in this sector? 15 years
How long have you been with your current organization? I am the founder so I’ve been here the whole 10 years.

If you have worked with CRE in some capacity, what impact did it have?
Destination Tomorrow worked with CRE after being awarded the CRE Rising Fund. The work the team at CRE did with staff at Destination Tomorrow was instrumental in assisting us in building the stable foundation we stand on now. In particular, we worked on budget forecasting which was a first for us. Being a smaller agency at the time, we didn’t have access to such valuable information because it simply was not in the budget. To be able to gain such useful information for free has been the driving force to the agency’s survival.

What has been the most significant development in your sector over the last 40 years?
For me, the most significant development in my sector has been the rise of LGBT programs that are informed by the lived experiences of the community. In particular, watching black and brown LGBT leaders taking their rightful space in the movement, and be compensated for their contributions. I am further excited about the opportunities being presented to those working to build community space within marginalized communities, those who historically have not had a seat at the table. This shift provides an opportunity to hear new strategies, a new way of doing the work that is equally impactful.

What has been the greatest challenge during this same period?
Making community members and leaders understand that things will not magically be better. That changing policies along with hearts and minds is a methodical process that must be carefully thought out. Understanding that the LGBT community, especially those who are black and brown, have to begin developing a political voice that is intentional, is consistent and has a national reach. Too often, black and brown LGBT community members and leaders are left out. Fighting for a seat at the table has been a long, hard process but one that is working. We have to continue to challenge the system that states there’s only one way of doing things. We do this by giving space to diverse community leaders.

How has communication—with staff, clients, and/or donors—changed over the course of the last 40 years?
Social media has completely changed the game. Being able to connect with your clients, community, and donors with a few key strokes has allowed nonprofits to keep their constituents informed, at a very low cost. The ability to share a group, or post a survey for input has been one of the best things for Destination Tomorrow. While this is a good thing, it can also be a curse. Disgruntled former employees or clients can wreak havoc on your public image. Being mindful of messaging, and responsive when things don’t go as planned is essential.

What is the single greatest challenge you face today in your sector?
Unfortunately, the White House and this current administration are the greatest challenge to the LGBT, and more specifically, to the transgender community. With every day more protections and rights are being stripped from members of the TGNC [Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming] community. Black transgender women are still experiencing a disproportionate amount of violence, with little or no media attention or solutions. There is still a huge amount of phobia when it comes to dealing with the trans community, some coming from within the LGB community itself. While TGNC community members have shown we can lead, too many organizations that are designed for TGNC have no input from that community, frustrating their efforts and the movement.

How do you see shifting views on race, gender, sexuality, age, immigration status, educational achievement, wealth, poverty, and health affecting your organization in the future?
Destination Tomorrow is in an excellent position to continue growing, expanding into a national LGBT agency. While this shift has happened in New York City over the last three years, many of our LGBT counterparts in the rest of the country; particularly the south; are still in need of policy reform to truly be able to live in their truth without fear. Discussions around race as it pertains to the LGBT movement are long overdue and I believe Destination Tomorrow is the best suited to foster these discussions.

What will nonprofits need to do to remain relevant and necessary to their clients over the next 40 years?
For nonprofits that work with and for diverse communities, they are going to have to begin to share the wealth. It is fast moving to a coalition building model where we share information, ideas and resources. It is my belief that larger nonprofits will have no choice but to begin true allyship to smaller agencies by offering mentoring programs that build community trust. These agencies will also be asked to utilize their privilege to further the discussions around equity and what that means for those who have been impacted by this sudden shift in policy from the federal government.

In what ways would others say you are a trailblazer?
Destination Tomorrow is the first LGBT Community Center in New York City history managed by a black person who also happens to be transgender. Our goal is to showcase our accomplishments while being an example of what is possible with the proper support and resources. The fact that under my leadership, Destination Tomorrow has been able to mobilize the Bronx around LGBT services in ways that surpass the old center, speaks to our impact. We have stopped requesting equality and begun demanding equity. I think others would agree that I have been able to work across communities to accomplish a common goal, making sure the Bronx is an amazing place to live regardless of who you are.

How do you hire?
Destination Tomorrow hires from the community, providing opportunities to many who are entering the work force for the first time. Working through a trauma informed care model, we work with our staff in obtaining the professional skills needed to be successful. Understanding that the average income for LGBT people of color is around $10,000, with many being unemployed or under-employed, our main goal is to ensure that we are creating a positive work environment that nurtures employee growth while allow clients to see themselves. It is imperative for community members to see themselves in the faces of the people providing the services for them.

Find out more
Destination Tomorrow website

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