As we are getting ready to celebrate the start of a new decade, I want to thank you for all you do to make our community stronger and our world more just.
As small business owners, I know you work long hours under very challenging circumstances, but it is your commitment to giving back that ensures small businesses and local communities remain vibrant. You are the backbone of our chamber and we are proud to represent your small business voice on a local, county, state, and federal level. To our nonprofit members, thank you for the incredible services, advocacy, and investment in the arts you provide, which gives us the foundation we need, to be able to do our work.
To our corporate partners, thank you for continuing to invest in GSBA, our LGBTQ and allied businesses, and in the education of our students. It is your support that ensures GSBA is able to provide more than 200 free and low-cost programming and advocacy opportunities to our more than 1,400 business members. We are also grateful to the many individuals in our community who retain a community membership in GSBA, demonstrating their support of having a chamber of commerce dedicated to equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Lastly, to our elected officials who passed record legislation in 2019 to address some of the many inequities which persist for marginalized communities, thank you and let’s continue that good work in 2020.
As much as we should celebrate our wins, we cannot forget the painful injustices so many LGBTQ and marginalized people continue to face across our country. Hate crimes against transgender and gender-diverse people are increasing, with over 20 transgender women of color losing their lives in hate crimes in 2019. Most recently, Nikki Kuhnhausen, a 17-year-old resident of Vancouver, Washington was murdered in an act of anti-trans violence. Anti-Semitism has also been on the rise, with eight anti-Semitic hate crimes taking place in New York in December alone, including this weekend’s attack during a Chanukah celebration in Monsey, New York. Washington state has the fourth-highest number of hate crimes nationwide, according to the most recent FBI data.
It is easy to be overwhelmed with all of this news and wants to ignore or turn away from it all. However, that is not who we are. We are activists and we do not give up. Please use this time to recommit the resources of your precious time and money to donate, volunteer, speak out, and stand up for the values you believe in. Turning anger and sadness into action is the best antidote to despair, a well-understood survival trait of the LGBTQ community.
As your LGBTQ chamber, we will be with you as you start 2020, continuing our work and commitment for economic empowerment and equality for all. Thank you for being a member of the chamber, a donor to the GSBA Scholarship Fund, and a partner in advancing equality for all. Together we made a difference in 2019 and, with your support, we will continue to do so in 2020.
Warmest wishes for a safe and happy New Year,
GSBA President & CEO