North Charleston-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) announced Monday it has hired Holly Whitfield as its new executive director. She comes to the Charleston area from Charlotte, with hopes of further expanding AFFA’s impact statewide.
Whitfield, 52, originally hails from Indiana, and has spent time working in education, health care, fundraising and nonprofit leadership. She most recently worked as executive director for Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte, a nonprofit that provides senior services. Before that, she worked with Charlotte’s Time Out Youth, which served LGBTQ residents aged 11-20. Whitfield has two grown children and will live, with her wife, in West Ashley.
In Charleston, Whitfield takes AFFA’s reins in its 23rd year, with aspirations to increase the organization’s reach.
“Even with all of that foundation, I think that the biggest thing is: Our society is in a place where there are a lot of uncertainties,” she told the City Paper via phone Sunday. “I think that the biggest [goal] is to grow and grow the organization to have maximum impact. And that is continuing not just in Charleston, or South Carolina, but as broad as we can in the neighboring states as well. And so I just think that greater outreach and cultural awareness is highly important in diversifying some of our programming.”
Whitfield is the first woman and first person of color to serve as AFFA’s executive director. The group’s previous leader, Chase Glenn, left earlier this year to become director of LGBTQ+ Health Services and Enterprise Resources at the Medical University of South Carolina.
AFFA is one of the most active LGBTQ groups in South Carolina, involved with advocacy efforts at the state and local level. It was one of the coalition groups involved in drafting hate crimes legislation passed by the state House of Representatives and has facilitated LGBTQ training for Charleston Police Department in recent years.
The group’s work remains important in the local community, Whitfield said.
“Like many, like many of the organizations that represent a marginalized community, it’s just so important that we all can come together and be part of a community we have greater strength,” she said. “One of the things that I think is really great for me in this situation is I get to have my intersectionality of being a Black female in a, in a profession that is really pretty much run by white straight males. And I am glad that I get to do the job that I love, in a community that I love.”
AFFA leaders say Whitfield’s experience will be an asset to the group’s continued work.
“The road to full acceptance and justice is long, however, and we have miles to go,” said AFFA board chair Jeffrey Fleming in a press release. “We are confident that Holly will guide our community to greater progress and look forward to following her lead.”