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  WINDY CITY TIMES

After 30 Under 30: MAP Executive Director Naomi Goldberg
by Andrew Davis
2024-03-25

This article shared 9609 times since Mon Mar 25, 2024
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NOTE: In this series, Windy City Times will profile some of its past 30 Under 30 honorees.

Windy City Times started its 30 Under 30 Awards in 2001, presenting them each year through 2019. This year, the media outlet has resumed honoring Chicagoland LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who have made substantial contributions to the LGBTQ+ community in the fields of entertainment, politics, health, activism, academics, sports or other areas. Many honorees have gone on to great success in their professional and educational endeavors. One past honoree became the mayor of a major U.S. city, and many others have achieved success in the arts, law, academia and other areas.

One such individual is Naomi Goldberg, who was honored in 2012. She was recently named the executive director of Movement Advancement Project (MAP), a think tank that tracks the landscape of communities, including the LGBTQ+ demographic. Goldberg recently talked about MAP's mission, leading the organization and more.

NOTE: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.

Windy City Times: Let's talk about MAP itself. It's a think tank—but it's more than that. Tell me about what MAP does.

Naomi Goldberg: Yes. MAP is a think tank that started in 2006. At our core, the LGBTQ+ movement is still really important to us. But we also have a Democracy Maps program that's open to all. With all of our work, we're certainly focused on policy change, whether it's at the federal, state or local level; it can be business, public policy—any of those pieces.

That's what's important about our work: We're always thinking about how to center collaboration. The "how" of our work is just as important as the output. We think that working together with other organizations [will result] in the work becoming better and stronger, and it will result in everlasting change.

WCT: Could you talk a bit more about these collaborations?

NG: Sure. The Open to All program started from the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in 2017. It was designed to promote the idea that businesses that are open to the public should be open to all. That program brings together large retailers, like Sephora and Old Navy, and thousands of smaller businesses to promote this idea of nondiscrimination—not just for LGBTQ+ people, but also persons of all ethnicities, races and abilities.

We also have a policy side. Most of our policy reports and analyses deeply center on collaboration. So, in my time at MAP, several report series that I've led involved partnering with LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ organizations. There's this series I did on criminal justice. In 2014-15, there was so much of an effort [involving] criminal-justice reform. Organizations were doing a ton, but what we knew in the queer space—particularly, with trans people and people of color in prisons and jails—is that the organizations weren't really thinking about the unique experiences of our community. At the same time, our folks knew about the disproportionate representation that was not being included in the broader reform effort. So by bringing together LGBTQ+ orgs and criminal-justice groups, we have learned from them and they have learned from us. This has allowed for better advocacy and better, more inclusive change.

When organizations are talking about conditions concerning confinement or jail, they must be thinking about trans people and access to healthcare and placement. They must be thinking about queer women and the means they have. Similarly, when our organizations think about the experiences of queer people, they can think about anti-profiling and the issue of police in schools, because queer kids are affected.

WCT: When you talk about police affecting queer kids, do you mean in a positive or negative way?

NG: [Smiles] It's complicated—especially when we know that queer kids endure higher levels of bullying and harassment in schools. We have to think about what introducing police into schools can mean, especially for queer kids of color as we know about racism and profiling. It kind of cuts both ways, as we think about what school safety looks like and the models that will protect queer kids. But we also need to recognize that there are other identities that come into play.

WCT: What's the biggest difference that you've seen within MAP over the years?

NG: We've grown immensely. We have a staff of 13 but when I started at MAP in 2010, I was employee number three. [Smiles] It's exciting and I think we've grown really smartly. When I think about MAP's future, I think, "What issues do we take on? What organizations are also doing that work?" Our growth has been very thoughtful.

Also, in 2010, we were solely about LGBTQ+ issues. We did not have a democracy program or the Open to All program. Efforts to undermine LGBTQ+ equality often have a higher goal, such as discrimination based on race and gender. We need to be in constant conversation about that.

WCT: You've succeeded Ineke Mushovic. Tell me about her legacy.

NG: She co-founded MAP in 2006 and became executive director in 2010. I had worked with her since I joined MAP.

There are a few things I'd say about her. First of all, she's incredibly smart and strategic. She has navigated MAP through a lot of interesting times in the LGBTQ+ movement and I think she's helped the organization build incredibly strong relationships. Regarding my own career, the opportunities that I have had at MAP are because she has been incredibly committed to helping all of us grow in our expertise, skills and knowledge.

She's really incredible and I think it's a loss for the movement—but she is staying with us in an advisory capacity. I'm thankful for that and we've been working together since November with this transition. I continue to learn from her—and I hope that she keeps me on her phone. [Laughs]

WCT: To ask you something I've asked other people over the past year, what is it like for you to be part of the queer community in today's America?

NG: I think being a queer parent and taking on this new role [make for] an incredible opportunity.

There are two ways to think about it. One, it's incredibly hard. This work is hard and the moment we're in is hard. And having worked in the movement for so long, I have incredible optimism that animates me and MAP. We truly believe that, through deep listening and deep conversation, we can make a difference. So, yes, this moment is incredibly challenging and I am concerned and fearful about November [when the presidential election is] and what that will mean for the most vulnerable people. But I think we have what we need to endure and to get to a better place.

It reminds me of 2004, when all of those states had [initiatives] banning marriage equality. Millions of Americans voted. [Note: Those initiatives passed.] It's long-term hard work and I think we can do it. We just need to remind ourselves that we can and we will.

WCT: But when you see a development like Arkansas rolling back the third-gender option for driver's licenses, that has to be frustrating.

NG: It can be incredibly frustrating, because we know that the majority of people don't agree with the actions or stances of some far-right politicians. Most people agree that there should be some sort of identity document that best reflects who they are—and yet the will of people is not being put into policy, which is frustrating. It looks insurmountable—but it's encouraging that it's not what the voters want. It's a reminder that we have to continue to have those conversations to get us there.

Windy City Times' 30 Under 30 Awards will take place Thursday, June 6—and the deadline to nominate individuals is Friday, April 12.

Individuals, organizations, co-workers, etc. can nominate a person by emailing Windy City Times Senior Writer Andrew Davis at syntax3733@gmail.com . (Be sure to put "30 Under 30" in the email's heading.) Self-nominations are welcome.

For more about MAP, visit www.lgbtmap.org/ .


This article shared 9609 times since Mon Mar 25, 2024
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