De Ambiente: Grief, Faith, and the LGBTQ+ Boricua Diaspora
Across the centuries, religion has often been a tool for oppressing, colonizing and eradicating LGBTQ+ people. At the same, faith traditions are sources of comfort in times of mourning regardless of sexual orientation and gender expression. Spirituality is a critical lens to understand the the multi-layered grief that queer folks of color are experiencing. Over the past five years, the LGBTQ+ Puerto Rican/ diaspora has become intensely intimate with trauma and loss: the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando followed by the devastation of hurricanes and earthquakes, all of which were compounded by COVID-19 and health disparities. We will explore how communities on the Island and the U.S. are healing, coping and connecting through spiritual and religious practices.
About Table Talk
A Table Talk is an honest, lively, and unscripted conversation among health professionals, spiritual and faith-based leaders, artists and other creative individuals to address this central question: "What does it mean to live and die well in our respective communities?" Every community and culture -- Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American, Disabled, LGBTQ+, etc. -- has its own unique perspective and shared truth. We face tremendous challenges in dealing with serious illness, dying, grief, discrimination, and inequity. At the same time we search for space to connect, flourish, remember, and celebrate.
Many of us describe more than one of these groups as home, and many of us have experienced oppression based on multiple aspects of our intersecting identities: race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and more. At present, we have few spaces to talk about these questions freely, in ways that make sense for who we are. That’s why Reimagine launched Table Talk. While this ongoing series is explicitly created by and for underrepresented communities, we invite people of all backgrounds to join us to witness, listen and learn. Ultimately we are creating space rooted in the principles of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in order for everyone to thrive.
The LGBTQ+ Table Talk series, led by Reimagine’s Senior Programmer Andrew Ingall in consultation with staff and community collaborators, is a multi-hued, multi-disciplinary series that amplifies queer voices in healthy aging, mental health, and end-of-life practices. It honors the queer community’s full spectrum of racial, ethnic, and spiritual backgrounds, and celebrates artistic expression, innovation, and leadership in a time of crisis. Programming will spotlight intergenerational initiatives, new visions for elder housing, and the historical arc of caregiving from the early AIDS epidemic to current mutual aid networks developed by queer and trans people of color. Co-hosted by SAGE, the LGBTQ+ Table Talk series includes the following programs: Make This House a Home: SGL/LGBTQ+ Aging Together (May 25), De Ambiente: Grief, Faith, and the LGBTQ+ Boricua Diaspora (June 1), and Ballroom Has Something to Say...About Art, Justice & Healing (June 8).
Wilfred Labiosa, PhD, (he/him/él) has been a community leader for more than thirty years. He has been working in the public health field for more than 25 years with marginalized communities such as the Latino and LGBT communities in the United States and Puerto Rico. He has published extensively his research with the dually-diagnosed Latino community, mental health and a substance abuse diagnosis; works as a consultant and/ or supervisor on state, national and international projects that focus on mental health, HIV/AIDS prevention, homeless, youth, Latinos, LGBTQ+, people with dual diagnosis or evidence-based treatment modalities. He has worked with LGBT and HIV organizations locally, nationally and internationally for many years, as a mentor, mental health provider or evaluator. Born and raised in Puerto Rico; He graduated with a doctorate degree from Simmons University, School of Social Work, and Master's Degree from Northeastern University's Department of Counseling Psychology, and a graduate certificate from Suffolk University’s management of non-profits. His Bachelor’s degree is from Boston University. He is currently the CEO of Waves Ahead Corp, a non-profit organization in Puerto Rico focusing on the elder and LGBT+ community.
Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera (she/her/ella) is a 35+ year veteran of the LGBTQ and labor movements. Lisbeth has extensive experience organizing and training at the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, racial/ethnic identity, and culture specifically as they relate to communities of color in the United States. Lisbeth has crisscrossed the country training workers and community leaders in organizing, leadership development, and community building strategies from a grassroots perspective. She has also done extensive work supporting LGBTQ leaders in America Latina. Lisbeth is the Organizing Director at Jewish Voice for Peace helping amplify Jewish voices in support of a liberated Palestine. She is also the former Director of Faith Outreach & Training at the Human Rights Campaign, where she worked with people of faith across denominations to ensure we can be who we are, love who we love, and practice our faith free of judgment. A graduate of United Theological Seminary with a master’s in Theology and Social Transformation, and a DMIN Candidate. She also has a background in biology and sociology with a solid Jesuit and SND formation. Justice and equity make her passions flare, and her days move forward. Today Lisbeth lives in Hyattsville, MD, alongside her wife, Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz, and their chosen family, both human and furry!!
Nancy Rosado, MSW (she/her/ella) is a retired New York Police Department (NYPD) Sergeant with over 35 years of combined professional experience in mental health care, law enforcement, community affairs, workforce development and training. She designed the NYPD’s response and training in the areas of police officer suicide prevention and the mitigation of the long-term effects of traumatic stress on personnel. A survivor of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, Rosado created the NYPD’s mental health care response for the Department’s on-scene first responders, and served as a liaison between The American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Response program and the NYPD. As a person with a strong commitment to community service, she has served as both vice president and president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Orange County (Florida), and as the vice president of Misión Boricua, a local not-for-profit dedicated to helping the growing Puerto Rican community. Rosado has also served on Orange County’s Membership and Mission Review Board, the grant committee for the Contigo Fund, and the board of the National Alliance for Mental Health of Greater Orlando (NAMIGO).
Subsequent to the terrorist attack on Pulse Night Club, Rosado along with 3 three other Latinx women founded Proyecto Somos Orlando to insure the delivery of culturally and linguistically competent long-term mental health care services for anyone impacted by the attack at Pulse, as well as the creation of a “safe space” for the LGBTQ Latinx community. She is the Vice President of SOS by Urbander an organization that provides aid to those facing hardship due to natural disasters, personal loss and discrimination and is and co-director of Del Ambiente, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ organization. Rosado is currently employed at the University Central Florida’s UCF Restores trauma treatment program as a consultant and outreach coordinator for the first responder community, survivors and families of the shooting at Pulse nightclub, as well as the victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. University of Florida Press commissioned Rosado to co-author Tossed to the Wind: Stories of Hurricane Maria Survivors (2020).
Rev. RJ Robles (they/them/ellé) is a Puerto Rican queer and transgender community organizer, healer, and Christian minister living in the U.S diaspora. They were born and raised in Humboldt Park, Chicago. Most of RJ’s family is from Barrio Piletas Arce, in Lares, Puerto Rico where they would spend summers reconnecting with members of their family on the island. RJ’s grandparents passed down the fight for liberation through stories about the fight for independence by freedom fighters that led revolts against colonial powers. Their learnings are rooted in the technologies of Boricua survival and resistance to colonization and white supremacy. From this knowledge, RJ has spent the last decade community organizing and supporting grassroots led initiatives on issues of economic, racial, and trans justice mutual aid projects. Their formal education has been shaped by the theories and practices of gender & women studies, trans + feminist theology, and critical social work. In 2016, their work on trans healthcare was highlighted in Nashville, Tennessee as they helped launch the Trans Buddy Program, a program that provides peer to peer support for trans and gender non-conforming patients focusing on increasing access to care and improving healthcare outcomes, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Realizing how much of their gender transition has also been a deeply spiritual experience, they were guided through a 3 year spiritually formative process to become an ordained minister. In 2020, RJ became one of the first transgender ministers in the Christian Church Disciples of Christ in the U.S. They now reside in Chicago, where they continue to co-create tools and spaces for healing that are spiritual and decolonial. RJ is currently a national council member to Disciples Alliance Q, an LGBTQ+ open and affirming ministry of the church. Additionally, RJ is a healing coach for the National Queer and Trans Therapist of Color Network, a healing justice organization committed to transforming mental health for queer and trans people of color. RJ believes a different world is possible with radical love, healing, and organizing.