Social Justice in 2019: A Year in Review

By Ranelle Porter,

By Michael Givens | December 31, 2019 | 4 Minute Read

From Massachusetts becoming the 16th state to ban a harmful mental health practice to the progress that was made on a bill that can help immigrants stay in the United States, social justice in 2019 has seen many impressive strides forward. As we get ready for the first chapter of 2020, the Join Us For Good campaign and Eastern Bank want to acknowledge the progress we’ve made.

An End to Conversion Therapy in the Bay State

On April 8, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed HR 140 (An Act Relative to Abuse Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors) into law. The controversial practice of conversion therapy has long been used by a small number of mental health providers to attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth through harmful practices that target physical and mental health.

Over the last several years, the practice has become condemned by a number of professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others. Numerous studies have shown that attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth can cause depression and increased thoughts of suicide and lead to more instances of illicit drug use. Massachusetts joined California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington in legally condemning the practice. Just a month later, governors for both Colorado and Maine signed similar bills into law, with Maine becoming the last New England state to ban conversion therapy.

Providing a Clear Pathway to Homeownership

In 2019, Eastern Bank continued its commitment to social justice by working to provide Boston’s low-income families and families of color with the opportunity to own their own homes.

The Eastern Bank Community Development Lending (CDL) program has an impressive track record in this area, investing millions of dollars into affordable housing projects and community revitalization initiatives. Earlier this year, Eastern Bank Senior Vice President Yongmei Chen was honored for her work to ensure that Asian American families have greater access to housing opportunities in Boston.

“Gentrification is a major issue, not just in the Asian American community but in a lot of minority communities in [Boston],” she said at the awards ceremony. “In Chinatown, particularly, with all of the development that’s going on, the pressure of affordability, of people staying in the city and working in the city is getting tougher and tougher.”

Neighborhoods in Boston like Roxbury and Chinatown saw dozens of new homes built specifically for working families. Eastern Bank didn’t stop at affordable housing—it also invested heavily in its Business Equity Initiative (BEI), which provides capital to small business owners. It’s a great way to encourage entrepreneurship within communities of color.

Climate Strike

Climate change was one of the dominant conversations for social justice in 2019 and it’s an issue that affects every single one of us. On September 20, youth around the world participated in climate strikes to call attention to their deep concern about climate change and its impacts. From Belgium to South Africa, Afghanistan to Japan, thousands of young people took to the streets to discuss issues like greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide levels, oil and gas exploration, rising seas, soil erosion, and the ever-fading ozone layer. In the United States, cities like Denver, San Francisco, New York, and Boston saw thousands of youth congregate in public spaces with colorful signs to demand a healthy future for our planet. The mobilization of so many young people across the world is powerful evidence that 2020 and beyond will see lots of social justice activism.

Dream and Promise Act

No year in review would be complete without discussing advancements in immigrant rights. The Dream and Promise Act passed the House of Representatives this summer. If approved by the Senate and signed into law, it will provide a clear path to citizenship for thousands of immigrants living across the nation. Specifically, this act will support immigrants who came into the United States as minors and provides them with conditional permanent status for up to 10 years. It was a major development in social justice in 2019.

As 2020 begins, the passage of bills like the Dream and Promise Act will ensure that our nation will continue to welcome immigrants who are seeking a better life.

Join the movement of doing good things to help people and communities prosper.

5 Things I’ve Learned as a Part of the LGBTQ+ Movement

By Ranelle Porter,

Lorelei Erisis. Photo by Sonja Brenna and Lorelei Erisis.

By Lorelei Erisis | August 15, 2019 | 3 Minute Read

My name is Lorelei Erisis. Maybe you’ve seen me marching in Boston Pride, shouting loudly for trans rights while wearing a glittery crown, Miss Trans New England sash, and Doc Marten boots.

In short (which I definitely am not), I’m an Out, Proud, and Loud Queer Trans Woman. I’m also a Second City trained improviser and a longtime activist and I’d love to share with you several things I’ve learned as a part of the LGBTQ+ movement.

1. Say “Yes!”

Saying “Yes!” is how I got where I am today and it’s something I learned from improv.

I say, “Yes!” whenever I reasonably can and sometimes when I reasonably can’t. Saying yes whenever somebody needed a speaker, a volunteer, or a helping hand took me from a passionate but unknown speaker at a rally on the steps of City Hall in Northampton to the halls of the Massachusetts State House to being invited to The White House and a whole lot of places in between.

2. Listen

Next, but equally important, is listening—another thing I got from improv.

In an improv scene, if you’re actively listening, then you’ll be in the moment and ready to react, say yes, and take advantage of whatever your scene partner might offer. If your partner is doing the same, everyone will be at their best and most effective. The scene will grow and move forward organically.

Now substitute “LGBTQ+ movement” for “improv scene” and you have a vital key to my success.

3. Visibility is important

Visibility reminds people that we, the LGBTQ+ community, are here. I made a choice early in my transition that I would be as visible as possible, even if that meant being a little messy about it sometimes.

I like to look good—I like being made-up and I like dressing up. I make TV appearances, model, and have been in the press enough times that I gave up trying to keep track. But I also work as a waitress and I know that as effective as everything else is, my visibility as a diner waitress has its own enormous impact. It lets me meet all kinds of folks and it normalizes the experience of my trans identity.

I think it’s important for people to see me when I’m being a regular person. It helps trans people to know they can just be who they are. And for everyone else, it humanizes me and the identities I represent.

Visibility, both big and small, is one of the most important drivers of change I know.

4. Be kind

Sometimes it can be hard and other times it simply isn’t possible, but it’s still important. I try to be kind to everyone I meet because I’ve seen how it makes a difference and I can honestly say it’s the most effective tool in my kit.

Aside from it just being a decent way to live, I’ve turned adversaries into allies simply by being kind. I’ve made lifelong friends and brief acquaintances remember me positively years, and even decades, later.

5. Self-care is good activism

I generally try to focus on the more positive things about being trans and LGBTQ+ activism and identities. We’ve made a lot of progress and that’s worth celebrating. But trans and queer folks are still under attack.

As relatively lucky as I’ve been, my own life has had a lot of pain and hardships. I’ve faced discrimination and harassment. I know that as bad as it’s been for me, many others have it far worse. That’s why I fight. Why I speak and write and march. Why I’m visible.

It’s also why I try to remember to laugh and enjoy life whenever I can—why I make time to read, cook delicious food, watch a movie, and fall in love. Staying alive, and enjoying life, is the best activism I can do. Our most revolutionary act is simply being here and being ourselves.

Learn a few lessons from trans activist Lorelei Erisis’s experience in the LGBTQ movement and how you can apply them to your own work and life.

Eastern Bank Honored at the Shorty Awards for LGBTQ+ Community Engagement

By Ranelle Porter,

By Lorelei Erisis | August 1, 2019 | 3 Minute Read

The past several years have been a tumultuous time for the LGBTQ+ community. It has often felt like we’re constantly fighting uphill only to be pushed back down whenever we’ve made significant progress. Yet as an out, queer, trans woman who has been deeply immersed in the fight for over a decade now, I know we’re making progress. We continue to score important victories.

And a big part of these successes are the allies who have helped us achieve them—like Eastern Bank. If LGBTQ+ rights are under attack, you can find Eastern Bank rallying behind our cause in support of their customers, colleagues, and communities.

Eastern Bank’s tireless support was recognized at the 2019 Shorty Awards when they were honored as a finalist in the LGBTQ Community Engagement category, where they received the Audience Honor for the most public votes within that category. This recognition further demonstrates the impact their work has had on the movement and individuals everywhere.

Join Us For Good and The Shorty Awards

The Shorty Awards is an annual award show that recognizes impressive work done through social media. This year, Eastern Bank was nominated for their Join Us For Good campaign, which focuses on social justice issues and particularly on spreading awareness and support for the LGBTQ+ community.

As a longtime ally, Eastern Bank has teamed up with local advocacy organizations, businesses, and activists like myself to promote action on key issues. And when transgender rights were being questioned on the Massachusetts ballot in the 2018 midterms, Eastern Bank knew the election results could have a profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community.

I was deeply humbled when Eastern Bank invited me to be a part of the “Good Votes” digital campaign, which was meant to target awareness of question three on the ballot. They felt that using my image alongside the quote “‘This is a person. Not a political argument.’ offered a unique insight into just how important the question was in the midterm election.”

It takes a community of people each doing their part to make sustainable forward progress and when I asked Eastern Bank why they felt the need to be so involved, they said, “It was our duty to step up, speak out, and protect transgender people from discrimination in public places,” adding, “Eastern Bank has dedicated over 200 years to doing what’s right and smart for our customers, colleagues, and communities, and supporting LGBTQ+ rights is one of many social justice causes we are passionate about and wholeheartedly believe in.”

What Progress Looks Like

The most important thing about “Join Us For Good” is the results. With Massachusetts voting 67% in favor of question three, we knew the campaign was a success. The last-ditch attempt by opponents of the LGBTQ community to repeal our hard-won transgender rights in Massachusetts was defeated.

With such a solid success, what’s next for Eastern Bank? “We won’t waiver from our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and from standing up for what we deem is right and smart,” they said. “The public’s response to this campaign serves as affirmation that we need to and will continue to be an ally for LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Join Us For Good and celebrate Eastern Bank’s recognition at the Shorty Awards for their work in support of the LGBTQ+ Community!

Celebrating Pride Month in New England

By Ranelle Porter,

By Lorelei Erisis | June 20, 2019 | 4 Minute Read

This year’s Pride Month marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which took place on June 28, 1969. The initial commemorations of which evolved into the Pride events that are now held around the world annually. While Stonewall wasn’t the first time the LGBTQ+ community rose up and took to the streets to resist repressive and abusive treatment, the community members who fought back at Stonewall that night lit the spark that exploded into the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.

Throughout the month of June, we observe Pride Month with marches, festivities, and events. We remember these protests and celebrate our unique identities and common bonds as community members. By marching, celebrating, and living our lives Out and Proud, we pay homage to those who first fought back at Stonewall, including trans women Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson as well as lesbian Stormé DeLarverie.

We remember the hardworking organizers who picked up the fight and kept up the momentum, laying down the groundwork for the rainbow-filled celebrations we know today. People like Brenda Howard, a bisexual rights activist who is known as the “Mother of Pride” for her work in coordinating that first New York Pride March, are honored.

As part of its long-time commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, Eastern Bank will be marching alongside us at multiple Pride celebrations throughout the month—which started on June 2nd at Quincy Pride and then Boston Pride on June 8th. You’ll also find a proud Eastern Bank presence at North Shore Pride and Cape Cod Pride on June 22nd as well as the Nashua Pride on June 29th.

Though Pride has evolved over the years from a protest march to a celebratory parade, it’s kept that revolutionary spirit at its core. As LGBTQ+ community members, we have made great strides in terms of acceptance and basic protections, but the fight continues as Pride remains vital in that struggle.

Regardless of the Pride celebrations, there are still queer and trans kids across the country who feel alone and outnumbered. For many of them, Pride is their first opportunity to find belonging and community, and to see others like themselves living proud, authentic lives.

Though it’s first and foremost a celebration of LGBTQ+ folks, Pride welcomes everyone. Whether you’re trans, bi, gay, lesbian, queer, or a cisgender and straight ally, you’re invited. Dance, shout, sing, march, celebrate, show the world your support and love for LGBTQ+ lives.

Throughout Pride Month, take the opportunity to wear all of your best rainbow gear! Whether it’s a simple rainbow pin, an elaborate rainbow dress, a trans or bi flag, or a vintage “Silence = Death” button, showing your Pride is easy and it helps more than you might realize. This simple act can make others feel less alone, inspire a trans coworker to come out, start a conversation, and perhaps even change the mind of someone who isn’t so accepting of LGBTQ+ folks. Whether it’s your first time or your 49th, this is the year to get out!

Celebrate Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising by finding a 2019 Pride event near you.

2018: A Year of Social Justice Movements in Massachusetts and Beyond

By Ranelle Porter,

By Michael Givens | December 28, 2018 | 4 Minute Read

From the Yes on 3 campaign in Massachusetts to the successful efforts of supporting citizenship applications for immigrants, social justice movements have made this a year full of achievements. It’s crucial for us to take time to celebrate these important milestones as we look to another year of good in 2019. Here are just a few of our 2018 accomplishments:

The Yes on 3 Campaign in Massachusetts

Yes on 3, a coalition of LGBTQ and other social justice advocacy groups, spent two years educating Bay State residents about the public accommodations law and the importance of voting “Yes” on ballot question 3 during the midterm elections. The ballot question sought to dismantle legal protections for transgender people in Massachusetts. A “yes” vote would keep the law intact and protect the rights of transgender people in public spaces. Eastern Bank, a champion for transgender rights, lent its name to the campaign along with other corporations, faith leaders, small businesses, and several sports teams. The campaign proved successful when nearly 70 percent of voters in Massachusetts’ midterm elections voted “yes.”

Protecting New Hampshire’s Transgender Citizens

Until June of this year, New Hampshire was the only New England state that did not provide legal protections for transgender people in several key areas. In June, Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill providing legal protections to transgender people in public spaces, housing, and employment. This incredible win for the trans community in New Hampshire moves us one step closer to ensuring that all trans people are treated as equals.

A Historic Midterm Election

Civic participation will always be the cornerstone of any strong democracy. Voter turnout in the November 6th midterm election was the highest it’s been since 1914. Roughly 49 percent of the voting population in the country, or 116 million people, voted in the midterm elections. Twenty-five states reported having 50 percent or more of its eligible voters show up at the polls. The message is clear—voting is important, even in non-presidential years.

Diversity Matters

The historic midterm election turnout also gave way to a diverse pool of female elected officials. The state of Massachusetts elected its first Black congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley while Connecticut experienced a similar milestone with the election of Jahana Hayes as the state’s first Black congresswoman. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will be the first Muslim women elected to Congress. In Kansas, Sharice Davids will join New Mexican Deb Haaland as the first Native American women elected to Congress. At the age of 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York will be the youngest woman to ever serve in the U.S. Congress. These victories are not only monumental, but they also help to position women to make even more strides in the coming years.

Arthur Ashe Courage Award

In July, Eastern Bank Partner For Good Aly Raisman received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYs. She accepted the award alongside other survivors, on behalf of the more than 300 women who alleged that former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused them. As Eastern Bank’s Partner For Good, Aly Raisman has been working to bring awareness of childhood sexual abuse through her partnership with nonprofit Darkness to Light.

Project Citizenship

As in previous years, Eastern Bank participated in Citizenship Day, an annual holiday acknowledging those who’ve attained their citizenship. Partnering with Project Citizenship, Eastern Bank volunteers spent some of their time providing support and resources to immigrants who were applying to become permanent U.S. residents in September.

Eastern Bank in Roxbury

This year Eastern Bank opened a branch in Roxbury, the first bank branch opening in the neighborhood in 20 years. The Roxbury branch illustrates Eastern Bank’s commitment to providing quality financial services to communities in need.

Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce

This year, Eastern Bank sponsored the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce launch. Newly founded, the Chamber “seeks to promote economic growth and viability for LGBT-owned and allied businesses, corporations, and professionals throughout the Commonwealth.”

Advancing Women

In 2018, Eastern Bank’s Join Us For Good initiative focused on the achievements of women leaders within the greater Boston area. From community activism and advocating for LGBTQ rights to giving women and communities of color a voice to create change, these women are champions of social justice.

These accomplishments are only the beginning. As we move into 2019, we look forward to celebrating even more accomplishments of social justice movements in our communities.

Join the movement, the movement of doing good things to help people and communities prosper.

A Brief History of LGBTQ Rights in the United States

By Ranelle Porter,

By Michael Givens | November 29, 2018 | 4 Minute Read

The history of LGBTQ rights in the United States dates back to the mid-20th century. The 1950s and 1960s were decades fraught with anti-LGBTQ sentiments across the nation. Oftentimes, those who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer were forced to hide their orientations and identities. Members of the community would regularly congregate in bars, clubs, bathhouses, and other areas where they could live openly. On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn—a mafia-owned gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood—was raided by police and its patrons were subjected to harassment and arrest. Most of the patrons were marginalized people living on the fringe of society.

The raid itself boiled over into a full-out riot with many of the patrons forming groups to confront the police force over its treatment of LGBTQ community members in the city. The Stonewall riots were considered the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement in America. The act of public defiance and protest by a small group of marginalized people became a call for other activists in the community to become more vocal around the oppression they experienced. Political leaders such as Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, were inspired by the new wave of political and social engagement. Activists became fiercely engaged around a range of issues including the erasure of LGBTQ people from the media, the AIDS crisis, and the lack of federal resources devoted to LGBTQ homeless youth.

In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to allow same-sex couples the right to marry and enjoy the same legal protections as different-sex couples. Eleven years later on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court would legalize marriage equality in all 50 states and rule that every state had to acknowledge the out-of-state marriage license of a same-sex couple.

After the historic marriage equality win in the United States, opponents of LGBTQ rights focused on other ways to oppress LGBTQ people. Some, like Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, refused to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples while business owners publicly declared that they would not serve same-sex couples. While the actions of a vocal few to defy the Supreme Court decision couples dominated the media, conservative state legislators across the nation mobilized against another marginalized group of people under the LGBTQ umbrella—the transgender community.

Transgender people of all ages were attacked in several states by hateful legislation known as “bathroom bills.” These bills were aimed at dehumanizing transgender people and painting them as sexual predators unworthy of legal rights in public spaces such as coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. And most disturbingly, opponents of trans rights accused trans people of being threats to women and children in public restrooms.

In 2016, Massachusetts passed legislation amending the law to include transgender people as a protected class in public spaces. Within weeks of the bill being passed, opponents gathered enough signatures to put repealing the law on the ballot. On November 6, 2018, by a margin of more than 60 percent, the ballot question was defeated—a huge victory for the LGBTQ rights movement in Massachusetts.

While many battles have been won in the fight for LGBTQ equality, there is still a long way ahead for full equality. Several states still insist on not providing comprehensive legal protections for transgender people and there are many other issues of importance facing LGBTQ people including:

  • A lack of federal and state funding for HIV/AIDS services and programs
  • Support programs for homeless youth, particularly LGBTQ youth, who make up 40 percent of the homeless youth population
  • Adequate health insurance coverage for gender affirmation care and therapy for trans people

“Currently there are efforts all over the United States by anti-LGBTQ advocates working to take our hard-won rights away,” said Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “We know that our opponents will continue to work, and so must we.”

As part of Eastern Bank’s Join us For Good campaign, let’s commit ourselves to leave our mark on the history of the LGBTQ community and ensuring the rights of all!

Learn more about the history of LGBTQ rights and consider donating to the ACLU.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

By Ranelle Porter,

Twenty-two transgender individuals have died so far this year, and the first loss this year was in Massachusetts. This isn’t just a statistic, it’s an epidemic. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, while we mourn the tragic losses in the trans community, we also vow to continue the fight for justice.

Why Your Voice Matters

By Ranelle Porter,

Don’t let the dignity of the transgender community be debated. You have the power to not allow this state’s values be attacked. Join Us For Good, because every Yes on 3 vote is a show of support for equality and a proclamation that we won’t deny basic human rights.

LGBTQ Ally, Nancy Stager, Urges All to Vote “Yes” on 3

By Ranelle Porter,

By Lorelei Erisis | October 29, 2018 | 3 Minute Read

During the fight to protect and support the Yes on 3 Massachusetts 2018 Campaign, it’s important to have allies. An ally that I’ve known for many years in the struggle for full transgender equality is Nancy Stager, Eastern Bank’s executive vice president for human resources and charitable giving.

Her passion and dedication to working for good in her community is nothing short of inspiring. “I am—and have always been since I was a little kid—a fairness monitor, and a vocal voice for making sure that people are treated fairly.”

Stager joined the human resources’ division of Eastern Bank in 1995. Despite feeling hesitant about leaving the tech industry to join a bank, she felt that she could help evolve the culture. Luckily, Stan Lukowski, the chairman of Eastern at the time, was especially committed to the concept of community banking. And in a theme pointing toward her present work on the Yes On 3 campaign, joining Eastern Bank made Stager think more about other missions that the organization could support within the community.

Her commitment to the work she does is both infectious and uplifting. “It isn’t an ad campaign, it’s our DNA,” Stager said about the culture at Eastern Bank. “And for it to really be authentic and real, that takes effort every day.”

And the work that Stager does in the community, as a representative of Eastern, often intersects closely with areas that she is passionate about. For example, Eastern donates 10 percent of their net profits to charity every year to more than 1,600 organizations. In addition to donating millions of dollars, Stager—along with other employees of the bank—volunteer more than 60,000 hours of their time every year. It’s a perfect illustration of how Eastern Bank’s commitment to their values is really at the core of the company as well as its employees.

Stager’s work and support extend to issues affecting people across the world. Just recently, she attended a board meeting at Manomet, an international science and outreach-focused nonprofit, based in Plymouth that does research to, “come up with practical solutions for climate change issues.”

As far as the Yes on 3 Massachusetts 2018 Campaign goes, Stager urges everyone to vote. “I see the Yes on 3 question as one of the critical civil rights questions of our time,” she said. “It’s about respect and dignity, and allowing people to be who they are.”

She spoke passionately about her belief that transgender people should have the opportunity to simply be who they are, without stigma and with their basic rights protected. Then all of the energy they spend having to hide, or even just survive, could be turned toward more positive pursuits. They could be better able to work for the good of their families and their communities.

After learning more about what happened to the transgender community in North Carolina with the bathroom bill, Nancy Stager and Eastern Bank have been working especially hard, urging all to support the transgender community and vote yes on 3 here in Massachusetts.

“People who are transgender just want to live their life fully, and authentically,” Stager concluded. “Taking [the law] away will only impact a very small population. But if you start taking away civil rights from one small population, you can start taking them away from others. And that’s a really dangerous precedent.”

Join Nancy Stager and Eastern Bank for Good and vote Yes On 3 this November!