Several years ago, Miramar Dichoso, a New York native, moved to Dallas with her partner Sheree. But the city did not seem a good fit for the young, enthusiastic urbanite, particularly because Dallas seemed far too apolitical to Dichoso. Consequently, she became unhappy with her new home. Luckily, a trip to Austin changed all that.
During their visit to the capital city, the couple attended an event hosted by ALLGO, a nonprofit organization focused on bringing together queer people of color. The event, an arts-based extravaganza orchestrated by artist- author-teacher and all-around creative guru Sharon Bridgforth, instantly touched Dichoso, reminding her of the Audre Lorde Project, a New York City-based community organizing center for GLBT people of color.
“It was so inspiring,” Dichoso says. “Attending that ALLGO event felt like coming home to me because it was so reminiscent of the Audre Lorde Project that focuses on queers of color. And here was an organization doing that in Austin. That really affected me, and I think that one of the reasons I moved here was because of ALLGO.”
Now co-chair of ALLGO, Dichoso is intent on helping the organization grow and thrive in the face of some significant challenges.
Founded in 1985 by a group of Latina and Latino activists, artists and scholars, ALLGO (originally Austin Latino Lesbian and Gay Organization) was established to be a network of culture, creative expression and activism for the gay community. Heralded nationally for its innovative approach to issues such as health, the arts and community organizing, and for its comprehensive programs, the non-profit quickly became the model of ingenuity.
But in 2005, the group – the longest-standing queer people of color organization in the country – re-evaluated its mission and goals. It was decided that ALLGO would focus more on developing relationships with other groups throughout Texas with similar missions, and redefined itself solely as a social-justice organization. As such, the nonprofit set its sights on becoming a statewide group, establishing a presence in towns where just such an organization is most needed.
“We’re now focused on a statewide model with outlets in Dallas and San Antonio, and we’re working on Houston and Laredo, and specific places where you wouldn’t think there’s much community support for queers of color,” Dichoso says. “It’s really about collaborating and hooking up with other organizations in various communities so that we can work together to further the same cause.”
However, growth has been difficult for ALLGO with so many changes in so little time. In previous days, ALLGO was led by an executive director, but now has only three staff members who work on everything from community building and development to organization and the arts. Several years ago the group took a risk, transitioning away from much of the government funding it received, and dismantling its Case Management Program for people of color living with HIV/AIDS. (ALLGO still offers educational wellness programs including its breast cancer awareness and early detection program, and Brother to Brother, part of the group’s HIV and AIDS prevention and education efforts.)
Moving away from social services in favor of becoming more community-based means garnering more community support, and ALLGO hopes to do that, in part, by recreating its parties and fundraisers.
“It’s important for people to understand that ALLGO is a resource and we need to support it,” says Dichoso, who focuses on fundraising and events. “Being a grassroots organization, we’re being ambitious, and fundraising has certainly been a challenge. ALLGO had gotten a little comfortable with its place in Austin. Now, as a statewide organization, it’s shown us how much work we have to do, and that’s why we’re calling out for support from the community.”
Dichoso says ALLGO would eventually like to become a national organization with satellite offices throughout the country offering programs that inspire people and enable them to effect change in their own communities. But for now, the group is proud to be the first and only statewide queer people of color organization in the United States.