Youth Pride Inc.’s New Executive Director Has Big Goals

Rush Frazier channels background in social justice activism to create space for LGBTQIA+ youth in Providence

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As a queer adult, Rush Frazier considers protecting LGBTQIA+ youth part of their personal mandate. Stepping into the role of executive director of Youth Pride Inc. (YPI) this past December only furthers Frazier’s work and commitment to the cause.

YPI is a Providence-based non-profit dedicated to meeting the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth and working to end homophobia and transphobia in the environments in which they live, work, and play. A drop-in center offers a safe space for queer youth to meet one another and use in any respectful way they see fit, and the center hosts a variety of in-person and virtual programming. 

Taking the helm at YPI was a full-circle moment for Frazier, who grew up queer and Black in a conservative working-class environment. Frazier recalls first attempting to create a Gay-Straight Alliance in their high school. “Just how much intolerance there was to our one little after-school group – where we ate cookies, read teen mags, and dreamed about prom together – helped me identify how important it was to create and maintain spaces where others like me could have the freedom to be ourselves,” they explain.

Frazier brings a background of organizing for myriad social justice causes. Their first experience in grassroots organizing began with antiwar veterans serving in Iraq. After graduating high school, they moved to the southeast, living in Tennessee and Georgia for about ten years. During their time there, they developed a passion for nature and food justice and subsequently became an instructor in
permaculture design. 

Frazier moved back to New England in 2015 and since has worked to repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire and organized with the Yes on 3 campaign in Massachusetts to defend nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public spaces. “It was the first time transgender rights were on a ballot, and we won with close to 68 percent of the vote,” they share. The Worcester native also worked with parents, doctors, clergy, and other concerned residents to bring comprehensive sex education to all Worcester Public School youth K-12. 

Now, as the executive director of YPI, Frazier does everything from community building with other local organizations and businesses to developing new programs for queer youth and setting goals for the organization’s future.

One goal is elevating youth voices within the organization. “When I came on staff, we had no youth present at the board meetings,” says Frazier. “The first people I worked to bring on the board were a former youth board member and a longtime attendee of YPI programs, both women of color.”

They also worked with adult board members to bring back stipends for youth board members. “Because youth voices are so important, we are always doing what we can to check in with our youth to make sure we are meeting their basic needs, as well as maintaining our center as the fun, safe space it was meant to be,” says Frazier.

Frazier also emphasizes the importance of uplifting BIPOC voices in queer spaces, which are often white-led and consequently do not always make queer people of color feel welcome. “In my brief time here, I have done what I can to make our small team more reflective of the community we serve,” says Frazier, whose recent hires include BIPOC employees.  

Frazier has witnessed the way nonprofits have done harm to marginalized communities, particularly communities of color, through what is often referred to as “the nonprofit industrial complex,” or the problematic relationship that can exist between organizations and the entities funding them. One of Frazier’s key goals is to ensure that YPI’s staff and board continue educating themselves in order to create and maintain a space that is welcoming for all youth and volunteers. 

“Resisting white supremacy and all of its branches isn’t something one achieves by taking a workshop,” says Frazier, “similar to the way that coming out as queer or trans is not a one-time event. It’s continuous conversations; it’s being strong in your convictions when standing up against oppression.”

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