When Sharon Bridgforth moved to Austin in 1989 and discovered Allgo, an organization created by and for queer people of color, she said it felt like coming home.
"Allgo is a space where you can grow, where you can be seen and valued, where you can have instruction and experience and guidance and you can offer things," she said. "That’s what Allgo does. It sees us, it loves us, it invites us, and it walks with us. And that has been my experience in every capacity since day one."
With the organization’s 35th anniversary coming up on Oct. 12, Bridgforth was asked to lead a virtual conversation with some of the organization's founders and longtime members to reflect on how it started, where it’s been and where it’s going.
Allgo, originally founded in 1985 as the Austin Latino/a Lesbian Gay Organization, has a history of creating programming and organizing spaces for LGBTQ people of color in Austin and beyond. In 2006, the organization dropped the acronym but kept the name (which the organization stylizes with all lowercase letters) to recognize the ways in which its work had expanded beyond the Latino community, executive director Priscilla Hale said.
The group is involved in cultural arts work, supporting artists-in-residence and organizing exhibits, performances, workshops and artist/community dialogues. Allgo also focuses on wellness, with dialogues and workshops on topics like spiritual wellness, herbal medicine, HIV/AIDS prevention and safer sex practices. The group also participates in social justice activism, often in partnership with other groups.
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Hale said Allgo is celebrating 35 years with several online events and a fundraising campaign, which she hopes will help sustain the organization for many more years to come. The first event, Bridgforth’s curated conversation, will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday.
Bridgforth said she is looking forward to swapping stories with other early Allgo members.
"My intention is that we talk about the history of the organization, we tell stories, we laugh, we share, we offer insight into how those of us that are supporting the organization can continue to deepen our support and continue to just love each other," she said.
Bridgforth thinks it's important for LGBTQ people of color to tell their own stories. As one of the oldest organizations in the country with an intersectional focus on both race and sexuality, Allgo is in a special position to keep that history alive, she said.
"If we don’t tell our history, then our history will either be left out or there will be lies," she said. "It’s important for us to tell and recount our history so we can see where we come from and so we can gauge, therefore, how to move forward. I think it’s essential that we understand that we are not the first, that there are people who have made a way for us and who are still standing with us, in many cases."
Hale, who has been involved with the organization for more than 20 years, said she is excited to be part of the Monday conversation about what Allgo’s legacy means.
"I don’t ever take the work we do lightly, because I know the sacrifices and what it took to get here," she said. "You want to be right by those folks (who came before). It’s like when your grandmother passes on a recipe to you."
Organizers also planned a virtual "extravaganza" celebrating artists from throughout Allgo’s existence, which will take place at 5 p.m. on Oct. 17. The event, which will be livestreamed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitch, will include recordings by artists across the country with ties to Allgo.
Dino Foxx, the project manager for the events, will emcee in drag as Foxxy Blue Snacks. Foxx, who uses they/them pronouns, said finding Allgo at 19 has influenced much of their career. The event will feature spoken word performances, stand-up comedy musical performances and more, Foxx said. At the end, there will be a live set from Austin’s DJ Chorizo Funk.
"I am excited to share some of my new video content with some of the folks who have known me the longest," Foxx said. "The Allgo crowd is really cute and sexy, so it’s exciting to be on a fun Zoom chat and get to see people that I love that I don’t normally get to interact with on a daily basis."
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The 35th anniversary celebration also will kick off Allgo’s new fundraising campaign. The goal is to build a funding base to support the organization through members who contribute monthly rather than relying on grants and government funding, board member Martha Ramos Duffer said.
"We really want Allgo to be fully sustained by our communities," she said. "We need our financial foundations to be solid in the way that it can be when it’s fully sustained by community members that love, depend on and believe in the organization and the work we do."
Foxx said the events are open to anyone who wants to celebrate and affirm LGBTQ people of color.
"This has been a really tough time for a lot of people," they said. "I want folks to come and feel fellowship and to feel in community, and to feel entertained and to laugh and to maybe dance a little bit even if you don’t turn your camera on. ... I think that’s a huge part of the resiliency and the survival and the tools that Allgo has given us. To laugh and to be happy and to dance and to celebrate and to move and to just be with your people is going to be a huge part of how we get through what we're currently going through as a society."
Bridgforth said she wants people to know that Allgo is a place that is worth pouring love and time into.
"It is a place for people to invest in, to invest their sweat equity, to invest their presence, to invest their curiosity, to invest their dollars," she said. "It is our tradition as queer people of color to party. So I think that it is important that we celebrate that. We eat, we dance, we sing, we laugh. And right now it’s going to happen through Zoom, and you know what? We can do that."