Destination Tomorrow, a Black Trans-led LGBTQ+ center in Atlanta, is a grant recipient of the City of Atlanta’s largest investment in the Transgender community.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced $55,000 in funding to be allocated to three on-the-ground community organizations. With the ongoing attacks on the Transgender community, specifically seen in the recent murders of Trans Black women in Atlanta, there is an urgent need for governing leaders to be held accountable for implementing safeguards for the community.
Destination Tomorrow’s Mentoring Program
Sean Ebony Coleman, the center’s founder, and executive director and the only Black Trans Grantmaker nationally, will be using these funds to open a new LGBTQ+ mentoring pilot program to provide critical support for Transgender individuals who are notoriously underrepresented in the region.
Coleman said receiving the grant from the city after a year of operations was “surreal”.
“We came down with a purpose and we wanted to work with local community members and government/administrative elected officials,” Coleman said. “To be validated in a way of being the first Trans organization to receive funding from the city, it’s really surreal. It shows that we’re doing the right thing, being received well, and the direction that we’re going in is correct.”
With the developing LGBTQ+ mentorship program, Coleman said the beautiful thing is they can develop and partner with local community members.
“We’re going to do a small cohort of LGBTQ+ young people and possibly match them with some of the elders or seniors in the community and look to our community partners as we build out what the mentorship program should look like,” he said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but we also want to make sure we are addressing the needs to have already been identified with regards to young LGBTQ folks and where the gaps in services are. That may mean we partner with schools and talk to guidance counselors to see if there are young folks there who may be candidates for the mentorship.”
Destination Tomorrow, Coleman said, will also reach out to other community-based organizations.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to other LGBTQ organizations; it just means we’re going to go to organizations that cater to young people and see if they have any young people who would be a good match for this program,” he said.
Also, Coleman said he wants to ensure young people receive some of things and services that he didn’t.
“As a 55-year-old Trans man, I wish there was a basis that affirmed me as an individual but also gave me guidance on my career and my education. So, I want young people to see that as a possibility and Destination Tomorrow’s economic empowerment is something we want to give our community the tools to be successful,” he said. “We want to make sure our young people are connected to an academic advisor, if they want to do higher education, they can do that and still live in their truth and authenticity. Our goal is to set them up for life and be successful and still being able to present who they are.”
What is Destination Tomorrow & it’s purpose
Destination Tomorrow has two centers located in the South Bronx and Atlanta, serving the community through educational, financial, housing, health, and personal support programs. The grassroots organization puts an emphasis on providing support to vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community that takes them off the path of requiring emergency care, focusing on economic, social, and mental empowerment on a holistic level.
Destination Tomorrow started in New York City in 2009, according to Coleman.
“If you’re familiar with New York, there are the outer barrows and there’s Manhattan and a lot of the LGBTQ+ services were centralized in Manhattan and for Black Trans men, I didn’t feel like myself or others should have to leave their barrow to receive the services they needed,” he said.
Additionally, Coleman said Destination Tomorrow was created because he wanted to make sure Black and brown individuals had a space, they could call their own, which wasn’t the case at that time.
“There were spaces were Black and brown folks may be welcomed in, but we weren’t at the leadership, directing, drafting, or developing programs and services, although we technically were, we weren’t receiving funding for it, but we’ve been putting programs and services for our community for a long time, so I just wanted to make sure that we were represented as well,” he said.
With an increasing rate of Transgender assaults and deaths, Coleman said Destination Tomorrow continues to raise awareness around “Black and brown Trans women are still experiencing a high wave of violence and we want to get to the root cause of what the violence is.”
“Sometimes, it’s as simple as cracking on off-putting joke about someone who may be Trans, gender non-confirmative, or non-binary, and the innocence of just that joke and how violent it can be because it serves to dehumanize people,” he said. “The minute you can laugh at folks and see them as less than or not worthy of protection, safety, or love, it’s easy to cause harm to us. We want to raise awareness about that and going on platforms that aren’t historically LGBTQ platforms to bridge the gap. I think we really need to start having discussions around how violence impacts our community, the root causes are, and producing some solutions.”
Destination Tomorrow provides many services rooted in economic empowerment such is GED, job readiness, financial literacy, professional development, HIV testing, counseling, case management, support groups, food pantry, housing (they’re in the process of opening two shelters in New York City, they already have one up and running).
“We’re a Grantmaker for Trans initiatives partnership with Gilead Science,” he said. “We do a little bit of everything and the good thing about Destination Tomorrow is that it’s community focused. Community members can give us feedback and tell us what they need, and we do what we must do to reach out to our election officials or our neighbors.
During the pandemic, food insecurity was one of the biggest things people experienced, so Destination Tomorrow opened a food pantry and it’s still open.
How can the community help?
Coleman said often when someone says “help” they automatically think of money, however, he said that is not the most important way to help.
“Money is always good, but disability, partnerships, collaborations are better. The community can help by volunteering and drop by the center to see what’s going on and if we need assistance,” he said. “Communities can also help by utilizing your platform in a way that shares of being a true ally. If you’re going to show that kind of allyship then perhaps share your platform so we can have discussions.”
For community advocates or elected officials, Coleman said if there aren’t any LGBTQ+ individuals in their spaces, then the rooms need to change.
“Perhaps you can be a catalyst for that change by highlighting the fact that there are folks that should be at the table that are not,” he said. “There are voices not being heard because when you think of all the issues that are happening whether it’s homelessness, food insecurity, lack of transportation, medical/health disparities, reproductive rights, and so many others intersects with members of the LBGTQ community and if you’re having those discussions, we should be at the table and if you’re at the table and we’re not, perhaps you can help us get there.”
Coleman said Destination Tomorrow plans to “keep doing what’s necessary” as they plan on continuing to help and assist LGBTQ+ community leaders. He also said he is hopeful the mentorship program will lead into other conversations such as mental health and wellness.
“If we’re going to build community, then we must do it, one step at a time. We’re going to have to push the envelope because the thing that’s happening is there are forces that don’t want many people that are marginalized to survive so it’s not just about LGBTQ folks, it’s about the micro population and those economically not doing well,” he said. “There are so many things that we should be working on together because they intersect, so we are just going to keep raising awareness. We are community members and constituents, and elected officials have to start listening to their LGBTQ constituents”.
For more information about Destination Tomorrow, Sean Coleman, and how you can help, visit https://destinationtomorrow.org/dt-south