Samantha's Corner - Here, the Holidays Are All About Inclusion

It’s the time of year when the days are shorter, the weather is colder, and eggnog is freely available in grocery stores. To some, this time of year means holidays, family, and gifts. I actually have very mixed feelings when it comes to the holidays. Some of us do not have relationships with their family members anymore. Some of us do not have family. And some of us do not feel as if they have any friends. To many, the holiday season means more focus on their loneliness and isolation.

On behalf of the Kansas City Center for Inclusion (KCCI), I want to remind everyone that you are not alone. We are continuing to develop and provide programming to support every member of the community. We don’t want anyone to feel that they are alone this holiday season.

A few weeks ago, on Nov. 20, many of us reflected on the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. I am passionate about this day, and I was proud to participate in this reflection and in memorializing our friends. The organizing this year was a collaborative effort, and I was proud to see so many new folks getting involved.

We hosted a Friendsgiving event on Nov. 22. It was special in so many ways. We had a diverse crowd of about 75 people stop by, many of whom had nowhere to go where they felt welcomed. At KCCI they were welcome, and it was touching. I especially enjoyed coloring and creating art with some of our youngest community members.

On Black Friday, Melinda Ryder and her husband, Kirk Nelson, along with our friends at Hamburger Mary’s Kansas City, hosted us for Charity Drag Queen Bingo. It was a wonderful event to continue our thanks and sharing with our community members.

The next LGBTQIA Leaders Forum will be Dec. 5. As I mentioned last month, Lisa Wright from PFLAG will be organizing this meeting. Even if you have never attended one, please come out. These meetings have become more like town hall sessions, as opposed to forums. They provide an opportunity for everyone in the community to get together, discuss issues that are near to them, and learn about the community.

For me, November was full of end-of-the-year projects for KCCI. We have spent the last two months reviewing more than 25 applications of potential board members for 2019 and conducting interviews. We aren’t finished yet, but I am excited to announce that we will be adding about 10 new board members to our 2019 board of directors. This is going to be a great year!

But as exciting as it will be, 2019 will also be bittersweet as several of our board members are stepping off to pursue other projects:

Athena Horton was instrumental in developing diverse programming and was our committee chair in a successful Equality Teen Prom.

Physician Frances Grimstad has worked diligently in creating a review process for research studies that reach out to KCCI to publish their surveys. It is important that we develop a publishing policy that aligns with our vision and value statements.

Buck Sommerkamp has served for two years with the board. He facilitated the process of making KCCI what it is today. In addition, his tech service and graphic design work during that time have really put us on the map. He will be sorely missed.

Bruce Winter (aka Melinda Ryder) has served on KCCI’s board for many years. His service has been important, as he provides a link to the drag community and the work he does for other charities. Bruce will remain involved with KCCI in an advising capacity and as a member of our fundraising committee.

Lastly, we are planning a holiday gathering as part of a joint effort with B-Vogue Salon & Art Gallery. This is related to one of our ongoing strategies – to expand our programming across the metro. The gathering will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at 11100 E. Winner Rd., Independence, Mo. Hope to see you there, and if not, we all hope your holidays are wonderful and filled with joy,

Samantha Ruggles is the executive director of the Kansas City Center for Inclusion.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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