News release from National Black Justice Coalition:
WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 5, 2009—The National Black Justice Coalition Board of Directors today announced that they have chosen Sharon J. Lettman as the organization's new Executive Director. Headquartered in Washington, DC, The National Black Justice Coalition is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and ending racism and homophobia.
"We must bring our families together," Lettman said. "Gay and transgender people are our children, our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, parents, co-workers and friends. They are a vital part of the black community, and it is time for everyone to recognize the real issues we all face when our brothers and sisters are denied full participation in the life of our community.
"What has always drawn me to this work, and to the people I've been proud to stand alongside, is the knowledge that we must work together to create the better future we seek," Lettman continued. "In my new role at NBJC, that means lifting the voices of our community, building bridges so that all who experience discrimination can understand the common ground we share, and walking across those bridges together in greater and greater numbers toward equal rights for all."
Lettman’s efforts to advance the conversation of race, religion, and sexual orientation have shown remarkable progress through the African American Religious Affairs Program she led at People For the American Way Foundation that addressed Homophobia in the Black Church. In addition, The Gill Foundation highlighted Lettman in its 2008 annual report as a “key ally” for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality movement. She is also on the board of directors for National Stonewall Democrats.
Throughout her career Lettman has been selflessly committed to a vast array of causes to bring about social change. She comes to NBJC after eight years at People For the American Way (PFAW) and People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). Most recently, she served as Executive Vice President for Leadership Programs and External Affairs at PFAW and PFAWF. Lettman oversaw the organizations’ dynamic leadership programs, including Young People For, Young Elected Officials Network, and African American Religious Affairs, in addition to the organizations’ engagement with supporters and investors, key constituency groups and coalition allies. Lettman’s belief in religious freedom and the separation of church and state gave her the insight to expand the agenda of the African American Religious Affairs programs which countered right wing efforts in African American communities, especially around LGBT equality.
As a longtime Floridian, Lettman began her impressive career as the Executive Director of the Florida Student Association (FSA) and then served as the Director of Communications for the Florida Association of Counties (FAC). Subsequently, she built a successful public affairs firm, P&P Communications. Her clients have included the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Education Association (NEA), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and The Schott Foundation for Public Education, among others.
Along with advising others on media and public relations strategies, Lettman is also a dynamic spokesperson and has appeared on and in a wide range of media outlets including CNN, NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Miami Herald.
Lettman succeeds Alexander Robinson who led NBJC for five years. Dr. Sylvia Rhue has been serving as the Interim Executive Director since Robinson's departure in June 2009. NBJC's Board of Directors appointed Lettman after conducting a thorough national search. Board Chair Kylar Broadus welcomed Lettman to her new role:
"Sharon Lettman has a stellar track record in social justice and knows how to unite diverse interests to benefit the greater good," Broadus said. "Throughout her life Sharon has stood with and for those who are oppressed, and this appointment continues that tradition of advocacy. I am confident that her vision and leadership will ensure NBJC is equipped to handle the unique challenges of today's social climate, and move us towards our ultimate goal of full equality. Sharon has the background, the drive and the experience to lead NBJC into the next decade.”
Founding NBJC board member and Associate Director of Diversity for the Human Rights Campaign Donna Payne said, “Lettman is exactly the right person to articulate our needs and understand our connectedness to our families.”
A wide variety of social justice and civil rights leaders also weighed in on Lettman’s appointment to NBJC:
Prominent Civil Rights activist and former chairwoman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights Mary Frances Berry said, "Having witnessed Lettman’s leadership firsthand while she led key initiatives at PFAW, I am certain she has the ability to unify families and our community and succeed in her goal to establish a common ground around black LGBT issues. Her unwavering commitment to social justice will break barriers at the intersection of race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.”
President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Wade Henderson said, “With Sharon J. Lettman at the helm, NBJC will build bridges to a future of expanded equal rights for Black gay and transgender people. Her unparalleled ability to bring people together guarantees a future with far less homophobia.”
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said, “I am thrilled to welcome Sharon as the new Executive Director of the NBJC. Sharon's long history working to build bridges between a diverse group of communities will be a skill set that will make our movement stronger. Far too often racism still exists in our society, including in the LGBT community, and if we are going to achieve the equality we strive for- it will be once we all realize that we are brothers and sisters in this struggle. Sharon Lettman is the right person to help all of us realize that we are stronger together than we are divided."
People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan said, “At People For the American Way, Sharon brought the African American Affairs programs into a unique position of national leadership at the intersection of race, religion, and politics, and distinguished herself as a crucial ally in the struggle for LGBT equality. I know that Sharon will be a powerful, passionate leader for NBJC, and I very much look forward to working with her in her new role.”
Founded in 2003, NBJC is America's only nationwide Black gay civil rights organization and the authoritative source on LGBT issues as they affect Black communities. Lettman resides in the Washington, DC area and recently married a Master Sergeant of the United States Air Force, who returned this past July from a tour of duty in Balad, Iraq.
For more information, go to: www.NBJC.org.