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Albany’s “In Our Own Voices” marks 25th anniversary with big plans for future of LGBTQIA services

Albany’s “In Our Own Voices” marks 25th anniversary with big plans for future of LGBTQIA services
Dave Lucas
Albany’s “In Our Own Voices” marks 25th anniversary with big plans for future of LGBTQIA services

One of the nation's oldest social-community services organizations serving LGBTQ+ people of color kicked off its 25th anniversary celebration on Wednesday in Albany.

“In Our Own Voices” was formed when four activist groups joined forces in 1998 and established a presence on Central Avenue. In 2003 the organization moved into its present location at 245 Lark Street and purchased the building in 2014.

CEO Tandra LaGrone says with the birthday come big plans for the center on Lark Street:

"Through the help of Paul Tonko, Congressman Tonko and the city of Albany, we were awarded combined $1.25 million to build a new LGBT center," LaGrone said.

LaGrone says the new center will include "Rapid Rehousing" units, the first to be offered outside of New York City, providing the unhoused with short-term rental assistance and services.

"So we're hoping a person could come in between three and six months," said LaGrone. "And then while they're there, between three and six months, we can actually transition them into to permanent housing through Albany housing, or through apartments or space through private industry as well. So we'll do the work to really address what is the need that they're needing so they don't become chronically unhoused or homeless."

The short-term tenants would be able to avail themselves of other services including job training and emotional support.

Albany Housing Authority Executive Executive Director Chiquita D'Arbeau says the organization and the AHA are partnering to open five temporary apartments on Green Street.

“I am honored to announce that in our voices will operate a satellite office at 200 Green Street," D'Arbeau said. "I don't know your start date, but, they will be there, increasing their capacity and accessibility to continue their impactful work combating oppression and marginalization which proudly strengthens the voices of the LGBTQ people of color and the surrounding communities.”

Mayor Kathy Sheehan has declared March 30th “In Our Own Voices” day in the city.

“This is a country that celebrates everyone," said Sheehan. "This is a country that loves our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and that loves our people of all races, ethnicities, we ain't going back. And so I think this is an opportunity for us at 25 years to say, you know, what, we're, we're hitting some headwinds that we didn't expect. But we are blowing through it because there are more of us than there are of them. And we have to continue to advocate for one another and stand up for one another, and be voices for one another, and learn from one another.”

D'Arbeau broke into song: “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to “In Our Own Voices” - Happy birthday to you.”

A birthday party is planned for Saturday at “In Our Own Voices” Lark Street headquarters.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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