December 31, 2016

Dear AFTA Members:

Five months ago, Kiran Arora resigned as President of AFTA, stating that her tenure “has been marred by invisibility, and my vision and leadership style has suffered from a lack of organizational traction.” Less than two months after Kiran resigned, the Board needed to restructure due to financial considerations, and the office of Executive Director, with Kevin George since April, 2015, was eliminated (with a small severance package.) Many in AFTA wondered about the viability of the organization, although at the same time there seemed to be a sense of trust that the elected officers and Board members would go competently forward.

An email was sent out shortly after Kiran resigned stating “The board will be transparent, accountable and responsible to the membership about the implications of this change.” In the ensuing bit of time, there have been several emails pointing to what the difficulties are that AFTA is facing. This message is an attempt both to summarize previous messages and to clarify our commitment, as the AFTA Board, to pursue our values of social justice and to follow our vision and mission.

This message in no way is an attempt to speak for Kiran; that is not within our purview. We are, instead, speaking for ourselves. There were problems in two areas during the time of Kiran’s, Gonzalo Bacigalupe, and Kevin’s tenure. One was in the area of governance. The roles of the ED and the Executive Committee (EC) needed to be clarified, and the delay in doing so complicated communications among the ED, the EC, and the Board. These difficulties are now being addressed, given a stable EC and Board.

Kim Cox is continuing as Director of Operations, and the Board is in the process of hiring someone whom she can train, who can come on board now to help with the transition and with the logistics for the Annual Meeting in June. The hiring of an Administrative Director is currently on hold until staffing of the office is in place. Financial constraints are clearly a consideration. If we think of ourselves as a membership organization, then a strong membership commitment will help us as we decide what administrative functions we can fill.

A complex area of concern is that of diversity and inclusion. Members of AFTA who feel marginalized because of race, gender, sexuality, and other differences, have expressed, both in the listserv and in person, that they have not been heard, that the space for them is small, that invisibility is a common experience. These issues need to be at the forefront for the elected officials who govern AFTA and for all AFTA members. In the months before the transitions in leadership, there were race- and gender- based tensions that EC members acknowledge they were unable to resolve. At the Board retreat held in November, there was a stated commitment to grapple with these complex issues, to acknowledge that they can cause pain, and to keep them visible so we can all engage with them.

Jane Bardavid has taken on the role of president in a competent and confident manner. When Jane vacated the role of vice-president, she appointed Shawn Giammattei, previously a Board member, to the position. The EC is now comprised of Jane, Shawn, Karni Kissil as secretary, John Lawless as treasurer and Vicki Dickerson as president-elect. Jane invited Rachel Dash and Deanna Harris-McKoy to be co-chairs of the Philadelphia annual meeting in May-June 2017, and they are moving forward with plans for a very special meeting.

When the AFTA Board met in New York City the weekend before Thanksgiving, there was a commitment to take action on many fronts, particularly in these turbulent times. This statement to the membership is one action we are taking. Another action is to support members in standing up for our social justice values in the wake of the recent Presidential election. The Family Policy/Human Rights committee is crafting a position statement in this regard. We are also planning on holding several dialogues at the Annual Meeting, with one designated for members only. Planning is already occurring for the 2018 Annual Meeting with the venue set for Austin, Texas, with an interest in addressing immigration issues. The program chair for this meeting is Justine D’Arrigo Patrick.

We look forward to working together to increase our sense of connectedness and engagement with each other. We wish everyone a happy new year. We hope you all remain active as we face the challenges in the coming years of a Trump/Pence administration. We have a lot of work to do together. We will see you in Philadelphia as we go forward.

AFTA Board of Directors