The LGBT Center of Central PA recently announced that Amanda Carter is now the organization’s interim executive director. Carter previously served as site director of GLO, the organization’s community resource center for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color.
“I was super happy in my role with GLO,” said Carter. “And I’m super happy — it’s an honor — to be where I am now leading the center.”
GLO, which Carter described as the center’s biggest and newest program, is open to queer and trans people of color as young as 14 — although most of the current people they serve are in their 20s and 30s.
“They have therapists that look and identify similarly to the participants,” she said before listing off the program’s other offerings. These include a food and hygiene pantry, game room and lounge, rapid HIV testing and STI testing, case management support, and a new housing program.
“It just wasn’t even a concept a few years ago,” Carter explained, noting that the program was expanded under the guidance of her predecessor.
“We have been so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Amanda Arbour, our previous executive director for six years,” said TaWanda Hunter Stallworth, who is co-chair of the organization’s board of directors. “She grew the center. She grew the programming. I don’t think we will really ever know the true impact of her leadership.”
TL Waid, who most recently served as GLO’s Housing Case Manager, is filling Carter’s vacancy as she transitions to this new role. Michael Tschop is coming on board as the center’s Director of Finance and Grants.
Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people are some of the region’s most marginalized people, explained Carter, making it especially crucial to develop programming and find resources that specifically addresses their needs.
“There are encounters that I’ve had with people where I’m certain I’m the only Black person that they’ve spoken with the entire year,” said Stallworth, who is a cis-het ally and feels passionate about this work because of her ideals as a womanist. “It’s difficult sometimes to find authentic, supportive places — which makes the center that much more relevant and necessary.”
“We’ve experienced insults, threats — micro and macro,” said Carter, who is a Black, gay woman. “But a lot of us are Black people. A lot of us are queer. So this is not new.”
“We try our best to make sure we’re empowering our participants and empowering each other as staff,” she added. “Because when you step outside of the doors and you walk into the street, we can’t guarantee that anybody will give a fuck about you, acknowledge you, protect you, love you. We can’t guarantee any of that.”
“I love Harrisburg. I was born and raised here. It’s my hometown,” she said. “But I recognize the flaws.”
She said one of the most difficult things for her to witness in Harrisburg is that the Black population largely lives in poverty. When she lived in other parts of the country, Black people of other socioeconomic experiences were more visible.
“As human beings, we become what we see,” she said, explaining that it’s hard for people to imagine that the negative aspects of their lives could change. “If we cannot see it, it is very difficult to actually achieve that.”
But the center is intentional about cultivating a community that helps people feel less constrained by their stressful circumstances. Following a successful capital campaign, the organization was able to purchase its own building. It sits on Front Street — a prominent road that is highly visible to the community and can be accessed by public transportation. The building also faces the Susquehanna River, offering a view of the city’s green space.
The main hallways of the building will feature art installations. One wall will be solely dedicated to the LGBT Center of Central PA History Project, which records oral narratives and houses artifacts donated from queer and trans people across the region.
“Anybody that walks in can learn something — that we have real roots,” said Carter. “And that’s aspirational for anyone.”
“When you have your own home, you can do what you want to do in your home. And when something isn’t right, we can fix it,” added Stallworth, who explained that the community was forced to leave their last rental location due to an issue with mold. “And now we’re able to provide more services.”
The center is undergoing renovations and will soon provide a washer and dryer so people can do their laundry, drop-in opportunities for conversation and community, a kitchen for preparing meals, and ADA-compliant spaces for more accessible programming.
“We had been looking for a place for years — looking for a place that would meet the needs of our community — and refused to settle,” said Stallworth, who explained that allies played an important role in their ability to achieve that goal.
“Since I’ve worked for the center since 2018, I had an idea of how this whole machine operates,” Carter said, but she didn’t realize how many individuals and entities were so invested in helping to ensure the organization thrives. That’s something she learned as she took over as executive director.
“This thing is really intricate, and there’s a lot of people involved that aren’t even employed by the center. They really hold us down there,” she said. “They’re people that are not Black, Brown, or queer. They’re just in Harrisburg and they want to make sure we are good.”
Stallworth hopes people living in Philadelphia remember that Harrisburg is just a short train ride away. “Come, visit! Share resources!” she said. “We’re not this pariah in the middle of the state.”
“I’ve seen sometimes there’s this harmful, divisiveness inside of our own community just by sheer geography. That is entirely unnecessary,” she underlined, noting that people from both cities should form closer bonds as advocates and comrades.
“We all get there together,” she said about the collective work that’s necessary to advance the fight against injustice. “So we might as well get there now together.”
To learn more about the LGBT Center of Central PA, visit centralpalgbtcenter.org