Lucie’s Place is proud to welcome our new Executive Director, Xejeia Freelon of Houston, Texas. It is with great joy that we embrace a new addition to the team at Lucie’s Place, as well as a new direction.
The new ED selects to be called x by the folks around them, and uses they/them pronouns.
Lucie’s Place has historically been responsible for providing LGBTQ young adults experiencing homelessness in central Arkansas with the tools needed to ensure lifelong stability and success. While Lucie’s Place intended to operate under this standard, recent events outlined a need to reconcile with patterns of harm perpetuated by our organization’s former leadership.
Lucie’s Place was born from the solemn acknowledgment that queer and trans youth face dispropotionately high levels of systemic and social violence that creates barriers to living whole, well, and sustainable lives. Both the Board and Staff of Lucie’s Place recognizes where we have fallen short in our commitment to our youth, and the ways in which we have directly caused and contributed to placing queer young adults, along with members of our organization’s team, in unsafe situations. The former serving leadership recognizes a deep need for transformation within the organization’s principles and practices as we take steps towards a restorative process.
We at Lucie’s Place feel confident that Xejeia Freelon is the best person to guide us on this journey with transparency and accountability.
As Executive Director, x utilizes their knowledge and years of experience as a healer, youth advocate, community organizer, and interdisciplinary artist to guide and ground their leadership in compassion. x feels that in order to effectively show up on behalf of the community, we must practice “listening to the heart of matters.” For x, this means placing the voices and experiences of the most vulnerable amongst us at the center of our efforts.
Born in the Delta and raised in the Deep South, x is personally familiar with the impact of queer- and trans-phobia, and incorporates their lived experiences as a black, non-binary femme in all aspects of their work. x was brought to Little Rock through love, art, friendship, and a passion for black and queer histories.
We at Lucie’s Place believe that we must always lift as we climb---and we want to embody this core belief in our practices. Only a year ago, our drop-in center was an office space exclusive to members. Now, our location on West 7th Street operates as an LGBT community center, with events and workshops hosted by local allied organizations. In addition, we are excited to announce that several of our youth now have housing, secured through our grant-funded Rapid Rehousing Project.
Lucie’s Place recognized need for change during our Summer of Transition—now, we’re adapting once again as the COVID-19 pandemic affects shelters across the nation. We want to thank the endless generosity of our local community—from our allied organizations inTRANSitive, the Center for Artistic Revolution, and the CAHR Project, to our individual donors, volunteers, and community members who have offered up their homes to our youth during this crisis.
x and the Lucie’s Place team would love to hear back from former members, friends of Lucie’s Place, past and present volunteers, and those previously employed who are interested in sharing their experience and participating in our new vision and reparative process.
x moves with the words of Assata Shakur’s declaration of love as their guiding principle of leadership:
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
The Lucie’s Place Team
We hope you are doing well and keeping safe! Lucie’s Place has been busy, and we want to let you know what we’ve been up to these past weeks during our Summer of Transition, as well as how you can get involved.
As Central Arkansas sees COVID cases rise, the services Lucie’s Place provides are becoming more and more essential. In order to meet demand, Lucie’s Place restored the hours at our Drop-In Center to be open now 5 days a week, from 10:30 am to 4 pm. At the Drop-In Center, we provide case management and referrals for members as well as food, supplies, bus passes and much more. Check out here to learn more about the Drop In Center. If you have food, clothes, masks, gloves, sanitizer, or other materials you’d like for us to distribute to our members, you can click here.
In the meantime, the search for a new Lucie’s Place Executive Director is ongoing as an Advisory Committee of community stakeholders has begun interviewing prospective candidates. This team of seven representatives and advocates from LGBTQ and homeless organizations as well as community partners has spent many hours reviewing more than 60 candidates who have applied for the position. They’ve brought their insight and experience to the process and review of candidates making sure Lucie's Place, the greater Arkansas community and most importantly our members have the right leader for the future. The Advisory Committee includes representatives from organizations including Our House, The VAN, Center for Artistic Revolution, and Intransitive, among many others. Feedback from the Advisory Committee will be invaluable as the Lucie’s Place Board interviews the finalists for the Executive Director position.
Lucie’s Place hopes to welcome a new Executive Director in the coming weeks, and we look forward to sharing that news and having you join in the excitement when it happens.
Lucie’s Place is proud to announce our sponsorship of Little Rock Black Pride’s celebration this year, taking place July 24th-26th! Little Rock Black Pride is doing essential work for our community here in Central Arkansas, providing and creating spaces for Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people. This year’s event will include a series of workshops, as well as a focus on health and wellness, including free HIV, STD, and Hep-C testing and counseling. For more information on the event, see Little Rock Black Pride on Facebook.
Finally, if you’d like to find a way to relax and get creative, consider joining Americana Creative’s Paint Party on Wednesday, July 29th at 7pm. Part of the proceeds will go to Lucie’s Place. You can watch, or join in yourself and paint your very own rainbow butterfly canvas. To sign up, see the event on Facebook here.
If there’s a clear message that Lucie’s Place has received in the past several weeks, it is that change is needed. Change that benefits our members. Change that leads to improved outcomes. Change that leads to greater connections and accountability to the communities we serve. Many have heard about the challenges Lucie’s Place has experienced, particularly around the closure of our transitional housing program in late April, and its impact upon our members. Seeing the closure of our house for the second time in the last three years has the organization taking a step back, listening and learning, in order to make wiser decisions with the trust our supporters and our members put in our organization.
However, there’s another message that’s clear. Our young homeless people need housing, and need a program and organization like Lucie’s Place to do what it can to tackle those issues.
That’s why we’re on a journey this summer – a Summer of Transition here at Lucie’s Place. And we at Lucie’s Place want to share over this summer the journey our organization will be taking to be responsible, to work and learn from our mistakes, and to change and grow into the organization we’ve always wanted to be and what our young people need us to be.
Much like how our namesake, Lucie, a young Arkansan transgender woman boldly sought to be her authentic self and bring others along with her, being Lucie’s Place is going to take boldness, braveness, and a willingness to change who we are. Change is hard, but Lucie serves as our inspiration for the change we need. If our young people are brave enough to be who they need to be, shouldn’t we do the same?
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll share what’s taking place during the Summer of Transition and how you can help take part. For now, your gifts are deeply appreciated as we put them to work to revitalize Lucie's Place. You can make a contribution here.
Already this week, Lucie’s Place has welcomed the expert guidance of group of local community stakeholders ranging homeless organizations to LGBTQ organizations to take part in its search for a new Executive Director. Working side by side with community, Lucie’s Place hopes this search will bring about the leader Lucie’s Place and its members need for a stronger future and stronger community. Those who are interested in the position are encouraged to apply very soon here in order to receive full consideration from the advisory group.
Please continue to follow us here our blog as well as Lucie’s Place on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more about Lucie’s Summer of Transition in the months ahead.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed what Lucie’s Place and its supporters already know: LGBTQ people should be allowed to work without the fear of being fired simply because of who they are or who they love. This ruling, which states that gender identity and sexual orientation are protected under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, brings us a step closer towards the goals we have laid out in our mission. Monday’s decision will be an important piece in our mission to “ensure lifelong stability” for our members.
“Securing employment is so important for Lucie’s Place members,” said Andrea Zekis, Interim Director at Lucie’s Place. “Finding, getting and keeping a job provides our young people an opportunity to save money, build confidence and personal responsibility and work towards independent living. Independence may come down to one’s ability to secure a living wage, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling demonstrates what we’ve always known, that our members should have every opportunity available to anyone else when it comes to finding valuable work, building their lives and pursuing their dreams. The ruling should serve as a message to Lucie’s Place and other LGBTQ organizations moving forward to take employment support more seriously, especially among transgender and non-binary populations, in order to reduce outcome disparities that may continue despite the ruling.”
See our Interim Executive Director Andrea Zekis talk about the ruling here.
One of our most important responsibilities at Lucie’s Place is encouraging our members to find jobs. The ruling today means that members have explicit protections, reducing the worries that an employer will fire them--or refuse to hire them--simply for living openly. Lucie’s Place has historically helped and referred members for the services they need to find and retain a job. That can be everything from resume help, mentorship, interview skills and accessing clothes for interviews.
Previous studies have shown the far majority of Arkansas support LGBTQ protections against discrimination in employment.
Though this decision is an important step forward, and a significant victory for LGBTQ rights, it does not do enough. Therefore, Lucie’s Place calls for the passage of the Equality Act, which will codify protections for LGBTQ Americans not only in employment, but also in prohibit discrimination in housing, public education, public accommodations, the jury system, federal funding, and credit. We celebrate today’s ruling, and commit ourselves to the rest of the work ahead.
The staff, management, and board of Lucie’s Place mourns the death of George Floyd and supports those working towards justice and ending the serious, unresolved issues of police brutality, white supremacy and systemic racism in our country.
As the calendar moves into June and Lucie’s Place reaffirms its mission to serve young LGBTQ homeless people in Central Arkansas, our organization acknowledges that the safe living environments, lifelong stability, success, and equality we seek for our members are not available for communities of color, especially Black communities, in Arkansas and America due to systemic racism. Many of our members live at the intersection of racial and LGBTQ identities. Many members have experienced trauma as victims of oppression and violence. Many times we worry about the safety of our members knowing most will encounter worlds which will not value or accept them. Our staff, members, and supporters, particularly those who are Black, have felt
deep pain, fear, and anger during the past days.
We at Lucie’s Place stand with #Black Lives Matter and say #Black Trans Lives Matter. We honor the pain, courage, and power of those who protest for justice and change, and we join you in doing so. The lives lost to state-sanctioned violence, white supremacy and anti-Blackness cannot be replaced. We remember not only George Floyd in Minnesota, but also Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Tony McDade in Florida, and countless others. Justice for Black Americans must be realized in order for the brighter futures of all victims of hate, oppression and violence to be realized, therefore Lucie’s Place stands in
solidarity with those actively working to promote change.
The fight for LGBTQ rights, which we commemorate and reaffirm each June, grew directly and indirectly through the work of prominent LGBTQ leaders of color and from the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for Black Lives. As we seek change and fight for justice, we remember that the first Pride was a riot--an uprising--against police brutality and oppression. We can honor the spirit of that first June by acknowledging that Black trans people face disproportionate rates of violence, by acknowledging that trans people and people of color are over-represented in our young LGBTQ homeless population, and by acknowledging that that means our work together is far from over.
As you may know, Lucie’s Place is undergoing a period of transition, but one which points towards change. We’ve begun our search for a new executive director, a process which we have committed to incorporate the diverse voices of our community stakeholders and center the needs of our most marginalized members, many of whom are trans people of color. We’re also committed to our members’ needs now, reopening our drop-in center for hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons and actively working to assist those impacted by the closure of our Transitional Living Program. Lucie’s Place is prepared to listen and learn in order to do better by our members and community so that we may do our part for change.
While there may not be many celebrations this June, standing for long-needed structural change towards justice in our society is a Pride we can all be proud about.
The Staff, Management, and Board of Lucie's Place
Do you want to create possibilities for young LGBTQ homeless Arkansans? Do you have the passion and vision to lead as well as transform lives and an organization, all while promoting change in the community?
Well, Lucie's Place wants to hear from you.
Lucie’s Place is seeking a new Executive Director. Check out what the position entails and apply here.
Lucie’s Place is committed to providing equal opportunity to all employees and applications without regard to race, color, culture, ethnicity, sex, gender identity or presentation, religion or spirituality, age, national origin, ancestry, immigration status, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, marital status, pregnancy or parent status.
by Greg Adams, Lucie's Place Board President
We, the board of Lucie’s Place, understand the responsibility we have to our members, our staff, our supporters and the greater Central Arkansas community, a responsibility we take seriously as the stewards of a crucial resource for LGBTQ young adults and a beacon of hope for the greater LGBTQ community. We also understand that important role and duty to our young people and our community begins with trust. In the previous days, we’ve heard from many community members, stakeholders, our staff and our members about matters which have challenged that trust, matters we do not take lightly.
What is clear: the dignity and safety of our members and our staff must always come first. The mission of Lucie’s Place says it provides LGBTQ young adults experiencing homelessness in Central Arkansas with safe living environments. We have become aware of incidents when our members and staff did not feel safe at Lucie’s Place, and this is troubling and disappointing. How can we “ensure lifelong stability and success” or “promote equality and acceptance” for our young people without being certain we are meeting those essential human needs first? Our board believes deeply in our mission, and we know the young people we serve, our staff, our supporters and greater community do as well. This is why we believe moving ahead to a better, stronger Lucie’s Place will require looking outward and forward and working together. We have already started those conversations with stakeholders and other community members, which have led to the following actions, and know moving forward there will need to be more to help bring Lucie’s Place where it needs to be.
In order to help move towards that dialogue and future, Lucie’s Place Board of Directors has taken the following actions.
1. Accept the resignation of current Executive Director Rev. S. Johnette Fitzjohn, who has served in that role since 2018. Rev. Fitzjohn will help in transitioning her position to new leadership. We thank her for her efforts to help the organization grow in recent years to where it is today. Lucie’s Place will immediately begin the process to find a new Executive Director.
2. Hire former Lucie’s Place board member Andrea Zekis as Interim Executive Director to help guide the organization through this transition. She is a founder of ArTEC, the Arkansas Transgender Equity Collaborative and a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. She’s a veteran of the LGBTQ movement with stops at Human Rights Campaign Arkansas, Basic Rights Oregon, National Center for Transgender Equality and the ACLU of Alaska.
3. Welcome two new members to its board of directors, Justin Sarlo and Dr. Bee Kelley.
Justin Sarlo is the prepress manager for a local commercial printer. He is a US Army veteran, former board member of Renegades for a Cause (a group dedicated to giving back to the community at large), a transgender activist, and mentor to many young transgender men, nationwide. Additionally, he has won many performance titles and is the current reigning Mr. Classic Arkansas USofA MI
Bee is an associate professor of chemistry at Philander Smith College in the department of Chemistry teaching organic, inorganic, and biochemistry. As a recent member of the Little Rock area she is always looking for ways to help in the community. Bee has been a frequent HRC Arkansas volunteer and is an HRC Elevate Fellow.
4. Voluntarily recognize the right of our remaining staff members to form a union, and enter into the negotiation process with them. At the same time, the board also decided to continue to support the hours and pay of remaining staff during this interim period while our house is closed.
Lucie’s Place has come long way since our founder’s vision a decade ago to support and empower LGBTQ young people experiencing homelessness and instability. Because of the time, energy and valuable support of those who shared that vision, Lucie’s Place now has a dedicated housing facility and drop-in center where young people get valuable services. Unfortunately, these are also challenging times due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, as these facilities are currently being used on a very limited basis due to concerns over safety. Our shared housing facility has gone from eight residents to currently zero. We know we are not alone, as many LGBTQ community centers and homeless shelters have shuttered their doors or reduced their hours and services throughout the country out of concern for staff and the safety of the young people they serve.
Lucie’s Place also knows these closures and reductions of services come at a time when our young people need us most, often finding themselves relying on unsafe, unsustainable and unsupportive resources or living environments in order to survive. According to the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, between 20% to 45% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and this public health crisis doesn’t go away in the middle of our current COVID-19 public health crisis. Since we know Lucie’s Place might be the only place some young LGBTQ people can count on, our commitment at this time is to continue to do what we can at this time to provide resources and assistance to LGBTQ young people experiencing homelessness or insecure housing.
We will actively seek, plan and prepare for ways Lucie’s Place can meet the demand. Lucie’s Place, and those who support it and believe in it, have also long understood one person or one organization doesn’t do this alone, and that getting through this time will depend on the strength of the connections within our community, our networks. We are grateful to those who are taking on their own efforts to support Central Arkansas’s LGBTQ homeless youth. Much like Lucie’s Place started in community, so will many of those solutions at this time, and as directed by our mission, we seek to be a part of those solutions.
Much appreciation to all who have supported Lucie’s Place in the past and today. We ask for your continued support in the days, weeks, months ahead as we transition to a more effective and sustainable provider of services to LGBTQ young adults experiencing homelessness. If you have suggestions, questions, or concerns about these efforts, we hope to hear from you.
The Board of Directors of Lucie’s Place.