Steven Sawyer, Executive Director for POCAAN, talks about Past, Present and Future

by MK Scott

I had a chance to chat with Steven Sawyer, POCAAN’s Executive Director, about his plans for the future.

MK: Since taking over as Executive Director of POCAAN in March 2017, what have been the highlights?

Sawyer: Oh wow, that’s a hard question to answer. My team and I have accomplished so much over the last two years. We’ve added 4 brand new programs and expanded many others to better serve the Greater Seattle community. We started an annual fundraising gala that raised $17,000 in its second year. Since then, we have hired seven new staff and are now launching the first Pacific Northwest Black Pride to further engage the community. My passion is really being in and serving my community.

MK: What are the future plans for the organization?

Sawyer: As we expand, we plan to increase our client intake by 8% in the following year and begin an STI testing program. The expansion will answer our challenges, such as space constraints. This fall we will launch a second office in the South Seattle area (near Renton, WA) and a Trans leadership development institute. We want to make sure that POCAAN is a staple in the black and gay community of Seattle for another 30+ years.

MK: According to your bio, you had your start as a minister.

Sawyer: Yes, I’m a third generation preacher/pastor from Louisiana where my great-grandfather founded my home church. I currently serve in a national role as Auxiliary Bishop in the United Progressive Pentecostal Church Fellowship under the direction of our Presiding Bishop O. C. Allen III. It’s one of the country’s few Affiriming Pentecostal denominations. This summer, UPPC launched a national initiative entitled ‘Prevention from the Pulpit.’ We are seeking to heal some of the wounds and break the cycle of stigma around HIV created by some religious institutions.

MK: Who is your greatest inspiration?

Sawyer: One of my greatest inspirations is Bayard Rustin. Not only was he a brilliant American leader in the Civil Rights Movement, he was an architect of the movement for nonviolence and Gay rights. He advised and provided direction to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen King’s leadership.

Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Mahatma Gandhi’s movement in India, and helped teach Dr. King about nonviolence while living his life authentically.

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