This could be a story of grief, of lives, places, and opportunities lost; I imagine that we will all carry our griefs--private and collective, monumental and petty--forward with us for the rest of our lives, but the story I want to tell you today is about resilience, about creativity, and about what comes next. When I wrote to our community at this time last year, it was to thank you for the incredible gifts of collective generosity and mobilization that enabled Charis Circle to move into our new programmatic home with Charis Books on the campus of Agnes Scott College. I talked about the new event space, the sound system, the accessibility, even the huge parking lot, which could accommodate hundreds of cars! We worked so hard to build this new gathering ground and we expected to count record numbers of people coming through our doors this year. You know what happened next. The pandemic came and rearranged all of our lives. So I write to you today from what feels like another country from the one we inhabited at the end of 2019.
Despite all of the terror, heartache, and dislocation of this year, 2020 will go down in our memories as a time of positive growth for Charis Circle. One of the gifts of being in community with disability justice activists and with so many people with disabilities and chronic illnesses is that we take the challenges of access and gathering safely both seriously and with a joyful spirit. We recognize that our people’s access needs are always evolving, always changing. Although the pandemic collectively shifted the majority of the world’s access needs all at once, we have been thinking about and trying to improve accessibility in our work and community spaces for 45 years. What this meant in a very practical sense is that when COVID hit it was already our value to pay and protect our employees, safeguard our community members, and find a way to continue to create programming digitally that served our mission of fostering sustainable feminist communities, working for social justice, and encouraging the expression of diverse and marginalized voices. We closed our physical doors to the public on March 13th and have worked, along with the staff of Charis Books and More, to innovate ways to remain in service to you while staying healthy and doing our part to manage the COVID-19 crisis.
We were an early adopter of Crowdcast, a virtual event platform that allowed us to host live, secure, professional author events. We also did our best to recreate our community support groups and book groups on Zoom. Trying to capture the magic of The Race Conscious Parenting Collective, The Black Feminist Book Club, Trans and Friends, and so many more on Zoom was rocky at first, but as we all got used to being vulnerable through a screen it was possible to recapture the energy of our in-person groups.
What started as a challenge, soon became a gift. We heard from people around Atlanta, around the South, around the U.S., and eventually around the world, who thought of Charis as their feminist home, but who could not physically join us as much as they would like to when we only offered in-person events. Attendance for author events soared. In 2020, we hosted more than 16,000 unique event attendees from 65 countries and more than 1,000 unique towns and cities within the United States. From coast to coast and around the world, on every continent except Antarctica (surely, one of you knows a feminist there!) we made digital community with people who are fighting to build a better world at one of the hardest times in recent memory.
Dartricia Rollins, who celebrated her first anniversary in April as our Assistant Director of Administration and Fundraising, took on a much greater role this year, overseeing the social media and branding for all of our events. She grew each of our social media accounts--Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook--by thousands of followers, and continues to innovate new ways to use those platforms to help us connect with feminists and writers around the world. We also reinvented our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/chariscircle). If you have not visited it recently, please do. It’s an archive of our work for the last year and it includes some historical videos we know you are going to love!
We could not have done any of this without your generosity. Many of you have already given what you can this year. If that’s the case, thank you so much. Please just consider this letter our thanks and an update. For folks who can stretch and give a bit more this year or if you would like to make a holiday gift in honor or memory of a feminist in your life, please trust that when you give to Charis Circle you fund a space for feminist and anti-racist thought, activism, and strategy to grow and thrive. You fund an incubator where groups, alliances, and movements are born and nurtured. Most of all you fund a big tent, a gathering ground, a global feminist town hall; where we invite people, no matter how new they may be in their justice journey, to sit down and stay awhile, to explore challenging ideas, to discard what no longer serves them or their communities, to struggle to build bigger, more audacious freedom dreams together. We do all this with just two staff people and a budget of just over $100,000 most years. We do this out of love, out of solidarity, out of hope, and out of absolute faith in our capacity to win the future we all deserve. But we can’t do it without you. Together we are building the culture we want to live in. Together we are building the culture we want the next generation to inherit. What you fund grows. Please donate to Charis Circle and help fund the feminist future today.
Visit www.chariscircle.org to make a secure credit or debit card contribution. Please make checks payable to Charis Circle and send them to: Charis Circle 184 S. Candler St. Decatur, GA 30030. For gifts of stock or in-kind donations please email Eranderson@chariscircle.org.
Thank you and may you have a happy and healthy holiday season,
E.R. Anderson, Charis Circle Executive Director