Affinity Executive Director Announcement

Affinity Executive Director Announcement

For release: December 17th, 2019                           
For more information: Anna DeShawn, 773.324.0377

Affinity Community Services Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon to step down to become the Executive Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights

Chicago – The Board of Directors for Affinity Community Services announces the resignation of Imani Rupert-Gordon as Executive Director, as she leaves Chicago to become the Executive Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in San Francisco.

Rupert-Gordon has served as Executive Director for four years and leaves with significant accomplishments building on the legacy of the oldest non-profit organization in the country that provides a mission focusing solely on Black LGBTQ women. Rupert-Gordon’s last day with Affinity will be February 14th, 2020.

During Imani’s tenure at Affinity, the organization saw an increase in foundation funding, and a 400% increase in individual giving. Additionally, under Rupert-Gordon’s guidance, Affinity hosted the inaugural virtual leadership development program, the Blackprint Summit; increased the number of participants in the HIV prevention education program (COIL); and expanded the programmatic offerings to engage a broader base of younger women. “Imani will be sorely missed at Affinity and in Chicago. We are so grateful for all of her efforts on behalf of Black queer women, and we know she will continue making a difference on the national level at NCLR,” stated Anna DeShawn, Affinity Board Chair.

“I’ve gained so much from working at Affinity; it has been the most rewarding work I’ve ever done,” says Rupert-Gordon. “Being part of Affinity’s legacy has been an incredible honor.”

The Board of Directors is proud to announce the appointment of Christina Smith, PhD as the Interim Executive Director of Affinity Community Services. Chris is one of the founders of Affinity, and brings a combination of community engagement, program management, and executive leadership that will provide great continuity during the transition. As Chris stated, “It is a rare opportunity to be able to build upon work that I helped set in motion several years ago as the organization prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020. I am very proud of all that has been accomplished and look forward to supporting the incoming leader.”

Morten Group LLC, a national consulting firm, has been retained by Affinity to lead the executive search.

About Affinity Community Services

Affinity Community Services is a social justice organization serving the needs of the Black LGBTQ community of Chicago with a particular focus on Black women.

Bodhi Gives to Affinity

Bodhi Gives to Affinity

In the wake of Jussie Smollett and the events that followed Affinity has been highlighted as a resource. A trusted community partner doing the work. Bodhi Spiritual Center was one of the places that reached out and wanted to do something. They decided to give $1,000 to Affinity. We are grateful for their commitment to social justice and equity. 

Our Board President, Anna DeShawn, visited Bodhi to accept this gift and to spread the good news that is Affinity. Click the video and fast forward to 1:12:50 to hear what Anna had to say. 

Affinity Welcomes Our New Executive Director: Imani Rupert-Gordon

Affinity Welcomes Our New Executive Director: Imani Rupert-Gordon


For over a decade, Imani Rupert has worked to advance social justice efforts in higher education and local communities.  

From December 2013 until January 2016, Imani served as the Director of the Broadway Youth Center (BYC), part of Howard Brown Health in Chicago. Under her leadership, BYC was successful in its efforts to obtain a special use permit that allowed the program to continue services uninterrupted. She also oversaw the expansion of services at BYC, improved relationships with the community and local government, and established a more sustainable budget through increased donor participation. 

Prior to coming to Chicago, Imani worked for 8 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, she served as a lecturer and developed campus wide programming. She was also a founder of the incredibly popular Social Fiction Conference that helped students dismantle biases and examine issues of social justice through science fiction, gaming and fantasy. 

Additionally, Imani held a position on the Board of the Billy DeFrank LGBT Center where she focused on expanding programming and fundraising efforts. During this time she also served as a crisis hotline worker on the Suicide Prevention Hotline and a speaker on the Triangle Diversity panel.

Ms. Rupert holds a Bachelors degree in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Masters degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.



There are a lot of challenges in the City of Chicago and nationally that face us as a community which means there is a lot of work to be done! Through an intersectional lens, civic engagement is the vehicle that drives Affinity’s social justice work on behalf of Black LGBTQ communities.  Our work enables us to bridge communities through action for social justice, freedom and human rights.  As Board President, it is my duty to ensure that Affinity’s voice, the voice of her people is always at the table speaking out against injustices and speaking up for equality.  In a special address to Chicago’s City Council today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly apologized for the police shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and criticized not only what he called decades of city police corruption but also the “shoot first and ask questions later” gun epidemic in the United States.  “I am the mayor,” Emanuel said. “As I said the other day, I own it. I take responsibility for what happened because it happened on my watch. …If we are going to fix it I want you to understand it’s my responsibility.” I agree with Mayor Emanuel when he said, “We have a trust problem, it’s time to change the narrative.”
People, we have the power to change the narrative!  Reciprocal relationships between legislators have to be cultivated and sustained to affect change. As Senator Jacqueline Collins told me after the Mayor’s special address, “Your community needs to come together in a unified front to voice all of your concerns, not solely those pertaining to LGBT.” For many LGBTQ people, the win for marriage equality was the end, but for me as a woman of color, that was merely one of many fights that have yet to be won!  My color does not supersede, my womanhood or my place on  the LGBT continuum, all of my identities are equally important and when one is under attack, I must rise up, speak out and take a stand! I again implore you to stand with me and Affinity in solidarity not only for those whose lives were commandeered to gun violence, but for your life and a seat at the table.
“If You’re Not at the Table, You’re on the Menu!”
They were! You are! I am! We are Affinity!!!!
In Solidarity,
Ebonie S. Davis
Board President, Affinity Community Services

A Letter From Affinity

A Letter From Affinity


As We Give Thanks…

Thanksgiving, currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since a presidential proclamation in 1863.   Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been a day to acknowledge and celebrate the blessings of the year-a joyous occasion when families and friends come together [sometimes in prayer], partake in an elaborate meal, and give thanks. In more recent times, Thanksgiving has also become a time when many Americans vigorously rush to their favorite retailer(s) in hopes of securing Black Friday deals. Even some of the most refined people lose their decorum in the name of “getting a deal”. It is on Thanksgiving Day that many families sit back and watch two people snap the wishbone of the turkey with hopes of receiving the larger piece. Families frequently gather around their televisions on Thanksgiving Day to watch the Macy’s Parade and stare in awe of the various floats. Others use the holiday to gather with their family and friends, wear their favorite football jersey, and enjoy the  action of professional football games on television. For many Americans, these things are the source of their thankfulness, as well as their entrance to the holiday season.

Well, the reality is as much as the Founders, Board Members, Staff, and Constituency of Affinity Community Services share many of these traditions with other Americans, we must acknowledge a very lonely road we take that rarely intersects with others. As women of color, primarily Black women, on the LGBT continuum, many of us are thankful for being simply alive. Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of reflecting over the past year and feeling blessed without our thoughts being embedded in the reality of a systematic genocide of our people.  Our blessings come from the fact that it wasn’t our son THIS TIME or our daughter THIS TIME. We give thanks that it wasn’t our partner THIS TIME or it wasn’t us THIS TIME-and for that we are grateful.

The onslaught of Black lives is no longer imminent; it is contemporaneous. How do we give thanks when as Black women, we fear driving alone because of the uncertainty of being arrested one day and dead the next? How do we give thanks when our sons and daughter cannot receive a college education without having to protest the institutional racism on their campus? How do we give thanks not knowing if we, too, will be victims of inner-city gun violence? How do we give thanks knowing that our babies are being laid to rest from violence at the  hands  of  those  who  have  sworn to  serve  and  protect EVERYONE?   How do we give thanks when the phrase “Don’t Shoot, I Want to Grow Up” is now directed toward street gangs and so many of the boys in blue? How do we give thanks knowing that we live in a society where payoffs are the modern day reparations for murder at the hands of law enforcement?

Our thankfulness this holiday season isn’t for the food we will eat nor the deals of today. It is not from watching football nor a parade or television.  Our thankfulness derives from knowing that the lives of Kaylyn Pryor, Tyshawn Lee, Hadiya Pendleton, Ashton O’Hara,  Michael Brown,

Tamara  Dominguez,  Tanisha  Anderson,  Blair  Holt, Keyshia Blige, Rekia  Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Amadou  Diallo, Ron  Lane,  Sakia, Gunn,  Freddie Gray, McDonald, and so many others were not in vain. We are their mothers, sisters,aunts, grandmothers, and cousins; therefore, they are us!

As you congregate with family, friends, and coworkers this holiday  season, before you sit  down  to break  bread, we implore you to stand with us in solidarity  and  give thanks for those whose lives were commandeered. We ask you to take a moment of silence in their honor. They were! You are! I am!

We are Affinity.


Affinity Trailblazers Represented at LGBT Fund Breakfast

Affinity Trailblazers Represented at LGBT Fund Breakfast
Last week, the Affinity Trailblazers were represented at Chicago Community Trust’s LGBT FUND breakfast. Trailblazers got $25,000 for work with elders in community. Thanks to Kim Hunt and Phyllis Johnson. Good work ladies!
For full coverage of the event see the Windy City Times Article here.