Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Resource Center of the Americas

Five and a half years ago, I left a small nonprofit. It should have been a fine organization, since the people there said all the right things and did some genuinely good work. But there were serious conflicts among the staff. What finally drove me out was the sense that a fair amount of prejudice -- racism, antisemitism and homophobia -- bubbled under the surface, in spite of all the good things the organization said and did. The prejudice was one reason for the staff conflicts.

My parting with the job was not entirely nice, since I raised the issue of prejudice before I left; and I decided that I needed a new job quickly. I didn't want to use the old job as a reference; and I wanted to put a good experience between me and a bad experience. I ended at the Resource Center of the Americas. The pay was $6,000 less than I had been getting and not really enough to make my life comfortable; and I ended moving on to another job after a year.

But I liked the Resource Center. It grew out of three solidarity with Central America committees which merged in the 1980s; and it was devoted to peace and justice issues in the Americas. It had a fine bookstore, a neat cafe, an excellent website full of news about the Americas, and programs that worked on labor and immigration issues. Unlike my previous job, the people at the Resource Center genuinely believed in equality and the fair treatment of all people. Was the job perfect? Were the people perfect? No, but it and they were pretty good.

The Resource Center board just closed the organization down and laid off all the staff, due to unfixable financial problems. I was the bookkeeper when I was there. I knew they had financial problems; a big grant from a big national foundation had not been renewed; and I would have been making cuts then, if I'd had the ability. But their problems seemed to be the usual ones that small nonprofits have. It never occurred to me that they wouldn't make it through. I feel stunned and unhappy. They did good work. Per one comment I read in a news story, there isn't another organization like the Resource Center in the country.

The board says the organization will continue on the volunteer basis. So it is back to where it was 20 years ago, after two decades of hard work by many people. I intend to keep my membership and hope for the best.


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