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Ashley Coleman is one of the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty honorees. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.
Ashley Coleman is one of the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty honorees. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.

2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty Honoree: Ashley Coleman

Ashley Coleman, executive director of GALAEI, will be honored during the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty on Aug. 26.

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The third annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event serves to highlight and showcase some of the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region. 

At this year's event, taking place Friday, Aug. 26, Ashley Coleman will be one of the 40 honorees.

Biography

Ashley L. Coleman has been a fixture in the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia for more than 10 years, beginning her activism and advocacy as a youth leading Queer youth initiatives and lobbying her school board for inclusive education, while producing large-scale events profiting nonprofits across Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

In her current role as Executive Director at GALAEI, Coleman is excited to provide authentic, affirming services and education for QTBIPOC by QTBIPOC, and is dedicated to creating opportunities, social progress, and amplifying the voices of those most marginalized in communities of color. 

She is a passionate high school educator in North Philadelphia and owner of the community forward nonprofit event company, Bash Events. Coleman has also served on the LGBT Meeting Planners Association advisory board, striving to make LGBTQ events and experiences safe and equitable for all QTBIPOC, and was the general conference coordinator for the world's largest Trans specific conference from 2016-2019.

Coleman mission can be summed up by the following quote: “Cultivating opportunities and QTBIPOC focused resources for our communities is not a challenge, but a fundamental responsibility of my career and my life. As a Black, Queer, woman I am dedicated to knocking down oppressive barriers, building or rebuilding and maintaining strong community bonds. It is time to strip away the white supremacist systems that have segregated our Black and Brown communities. It is time to take care of each other, together.”

As part of the lead-up to the AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event, AL DÍA asked each of the honorees a set of identical questions and collected their responses. 

Here are Ashley Coleman responses: 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your professional career? 

Structural misogynoir is one of the greatest challenges of my professional career. The systems of exclusion of the Black woman’s voice must be combatted every day in most spaces, especially, professional spaces. So often we are not given the guidance, support, and encouragement to go for that next rung of the ladder. We are not given the tools to know and then utilize the power we hold in our hands and with our voices. We are so often not given the trust to spearhead initiatives, hold positions of power, or produce our own visions through to production, with the credit we deserve. This structural misogynoir leads to imposter syndrome. Both must be fought concurrently, as the internal challenge can not be shifted without the external being eliminated.  The ‘stay in your place’ mentality that has been thrust upon generations may take my entire lifetime to unlearn,  so while we all attempt to reshape how we view ourselves, and fight to eradicate oppressive and exclusionary professional systems and practices, the biggest gift we can give current and future leaders is the resources and opportunities to trust their knowledge and power and enact change. 

What are steps that can be taken to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in your industry? Why is it important to do so?

Analyze and change outdated oppressive practices that are within your control, whether that is sick time policies, degree requirements, or making your building physically accessible. This allows for more diversity in staff, clients and patients.  Funders and donors should be focused on smaller direct service organizations, this gives the ability for more members of the community that share the identity of those being served to be hired in positions that directly impact the most marginalized. Leadership should always be diverse and also directly represent those who you are serving. Diversity in people means diversity in experience and thought. Giving a well rounded view of both need and solutions. Equity is the moral compass that drives success. Inequitable practices beget negative repercussions to your entire organization. Inclusion is an active practice that is more than just being given a seat at the table but the space to speak and share. Inclusion gives us all the opportunity to be part of positive change. 

What does being a leader mean to you?

I refer to myself as a leader only after being looked upon by others seeking protection, resources and refuge. To that, being a leader requires one to exhibit and demonstrate humility, empathy, sympathy, patience, and understanding.

Being a leader also means leading by example and not demanding of others to do things that you yourself wouldn’t do. Being a leader means showing up, being consistent between word and deed.

To me, being a leader requires one to stay rooted in kindness, cognizant that the challenges to your leadership may attempt,  but can not sway you from your root.  To be leaders we must also be adaptable while holding strong boundaries and while pursuing integrity in our decision making every single day. Being a leader means operating within that pursuit of integrity, setting an example for others to enrich their lives with the lessons that I’ve been blessed with. 

Being a leader means being grateful for all the victories and even more grateful for the challenges and hurdles. With gratitude we are then able to support and prepare the future leaders of our movement to exceed all of our accomplishments. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

There is so much work to be done.  In five years, I hope I am looking upon our communities seeing, defining, and grasping victory for ourselves in the way of justice, liberation, and reparations. 

In five years, I will be happy and grateful to continue to have the opportunity to partner with, lead, and build with other leaders of our QTBIPOC community. 

There will be opportunities and titles that come and go. However, titles will never supersede my purpose and dedication, eradicating white supremacy and creating sustainable collective wellness.

The 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event will take place Friday, Aug. 26 at The Vie at Cescaphe. To learn more or purchase your ticket, click here

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