Eight years ago in 2015, AFC welcomed two of its strongest assets: Pride Action Tank (PAT) and its executive director, Kim L. Hunt. In celebration of Kim’s journey, recent promotion to Vice President at AFC, and the success of PAT, let’s take a look at how it all began.
“Pride Action Tank came to AFC with me, eight years ago in October,” Kim says, “It’s a think and action tank focused on LGBTQ+ issues, where the ultimate goal is to improve outcomes and opportunities for LGBTQ+ folks.”
A think tank is a group of experienced thinkers who come together to trade and examine ideas on current political and economic problems. Similarly, an action tank is defined as an organization dedicated to the progression of changes in policy.
According to Kim, “Pride Action Tank has six issue areas: aging, security, health, housing, safety, and youth. We look at these as intersectional issues, all of which came out of the 2012 LGBTQ+ needs assessment that was commissioned by the Chicago Community Trust as they were about to launch their LGBT fund.”
“We use LGBTQ as the lens,” Kim affirms, “but a lot of the work that we're doing is also helpful for other marginalized communities. All the work we’re doing is helpful for other communities.”
Pride Action Tank is all about bringing these different communities together through a vision for change. “We’ve done a lot of work that brings regular folks to the advocacy and public policy space,” Kim says, “and there are many tools we use to achieve this. Some of it’s done through storytelling. Some of it is done through training, and some of it is done through public policy change. But it all starts with convenings, like summits or roundtables, where we're bringing many folks together, those who are impacted or touched by the issue, or who are already part of the planning.”
Some of these PAT projects and summits include the How I see myself, How I want to be seen: LGBTQ+ Older Adults Photo Project, the Community Restroom Access Project (C.R.A.P), The Connection to Care Learning Collaborative, which improves LGBTQ+ and HIV cultural awareness in Chicago health centers, and Co-Creating Futures: A BIPOC LGBTQ+ Policy and Practices Summit.
“That's our secret sauce,” Kim explains, “to co-create these spaces where folks can show up as who they are and help us develop solutions together, to some pretty gnarly problems.”
With Pride Action Tank’s rich history, it is difficult to believe that Kim L. Hunt has not been in the policy and advocacy game her whole life. However, “I’ve been on a long journey,” Kim says, “there were a lot of zigzags. I started out in urban planning, transportation planning specifically. Then, I decided to go back to school at the age of 40, at University of Chicago’s Harris School for Public Policy Studies. I also had a stint as an entrepreneur - I had a consultancy that focused on community and economic development for about five years. And then I went into the nonprofit world through becoming the executive director of Affinity Community Services, which is on the South Side of Chicago. That brought me into partnerships with a lot of different organizations. But also, we were one of the organizations that were part of the marriage fight.”
Throughout her career in the nonprofit field, the fight for marriage equality remained a priority for Kim. She recalls the moment friend and colleague Tracy Baim, publisher of the Windy City Times, invited her to aid in the 2013 March on Springfield for the cause. “I was on the planning committee, and me and twelve or thirteen others just started mapping it out and executing and doing the thing. We were filling up buses and ordering more and then, when the day came, there were 5000 people participating in this March. It was certainly the largest LGBTQ demonstration Springfield had ever seen. To see something like that come to fruition and to see the joy, see people wanting to be engaged, to see people have such an emotional response - I mean, that was just amazing.”
After marriage equality was officially the law of the land, Kim remained determined to contribute to change, and began planning her next steps outside of Affinity Community Services. It was here that the construction of Pride Action Tank began.
“I was working with Tracy Baim. We did this summit in 2014 on LGBTQ youth homelessness, and that became the model for Pride Action Tank. We were focused on lifting up people's experiences, but also their dreams for the future and how to get there.”
Also in 2014, Kim met AFC’s current CEO, John Peller. “We had a couple of meetings with some leaders in Chicago, and John Peller was in one of those meetings,” she says, “John heard about what we were trying to create, and at the time, he was the interim CEO at AFC, soon to become the CEO. And he said, ‘I think this would be great under AFC.’ So, we had several conversations over what felt like a long time. Next thing I know, we’re at AFC!”
Pride Action Tank is not the first project Kim has helped create. As an entrepreneur, Kim built a consultancy from the ground up alongside her business partner, which continues to exist today. “To take something from your head and put it out into the world,” Kim says, “I’m blessed to have been able to do that a number of times, and to have had people around me who believed in me and the idea and its ability to move forward. John Peller was one of those people with Pride Action Tank.”
To Kim, these friends, peers, and partners are crucial. In reference to PAT’s Community Restroom Access Project, which utilized both AFC lobbying and support from her community, Kim says, “It takes a lot of people to make change. If you look at our restroom work - that started around people's homes as a discussion, meeting every month around dining room tables. It was an eight-year fight, but we succeeded! The Chicago Human Rights Ordinance was changed, and a bill passed at the state level requiring all single stall restrooms to be gender inclusive. And then this past Legislative session after a couple of tries getting a bill passed, that was signed by the governor last Friday to allow businesses and other entities that want to have all gender multi stall restrooms to have them. That project inspires me over and over again.”
In taking on multiple fights for her community, however, Kim also dedicates her life to joy. “I talk about joy whenever I do trainings or presentations, because it's important to note that even in the midst of all of this, people are laughing. People are sharing stories. People are connecting. People are helping each other and that’s part of what we call resilience,” Kim says, “But I think we need to go to the joy and not talk so much about resilience, because that's always the picture - that your back is against the wall and you have to fight, which happens too. But we're complicated beings, and we can laugh in the midst of horrible things that are happening and still be serious about them.”
Kim has found joy, love and kinship at every stop of the path she’s taken, and encourages others to “go on that journey to figure out what you want. Know that life isn’t static.”
As for where Kim’s journey will take her next, she reveals that, “We're slowly working on Pride Action Tank 2.0. We haven't quite figured this out, and that’s the thing about creating something that's so near and dear to your heart. How do you sort of pull out the parts that make the thing unique? They are parts of who you are. But these are things that I want to pass on. Eventually, I won't be around, and I would like Pride Action Tank to continue, for the next person to build upon what has been created. I don't think it has to stay exactly the same, but what that looks like, I just don't know yet.”
To learn more about Kim L. Hunt, Pride Action Tank, and the rest of the PAT crew, visit https://prideactiontank.org/projects/.