Shades of Yellow (SOY) started in 2003 as an informal social and safe space for Hmong LGBTQ Minnesotans and grew to become a celebrated organization within Minnesota’s LGBTQ community winning numerous awards and recognition for its work. Last week, the organization announced that it was closing. In a statement on the organization’s website, the organization explained why:

Unfortunately, due to leadership changes, funding restraints, and the changing needs of our community, we feel that the time has come for SOY to close its doors. This was a difficult decision, made together by community members who gathered last month to discuss the future of SOY. Yet many still left hopeful of what could come next.

SOY struggled to fit into the traditional nonprofit model and system. This had a major impact on our decision to close. We hope that our closing will start a conversation about how to better support small community organizations similar to SOY, who struggle to survive every day. We hope that in the future we will see a new system that is more accessible, supportive, and better meets the needs of the communities that SOY and many other organizations are trying serve.

We also believe that while SOY created a platform for new and innovative ideas, we at the same time created a vacuum for these ideas. SOY often felt like “the only” place to go to do work with the Hmong/API LGBTQ community in Minnesota. The reality is that there are many people and groups already doing this work outside of SOY. It is our hope that with our closing, we will demystify the idea that there is one single voice for the Hmong/API LGBTQ community and open up space for other new ideas and initiatives to flourish.

Lastly, we want to recognize that historical trauma, community trauma, and organizational trauma are all interconnected and had a great impact on SOY. We recognize that individuals often brought trauma into the work of SOY and this trauma often led to hurt throughout the organization. We recognize that SOY has not always been a safe place for all. We recognize that we as an organization have hurt others, and that others have hurt us as well. We hope that our closing will allow for space to be opened up for deeper connection and healing.

The organization says that half of its remaining assets will go to a “Seeding the Future” fund for local organizers, activists, and individuals to convene gatherings that generate ideas to support the work of our community. The rest will go toward winding the organization down.

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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