AsylumConnect Announces Shalawn James as New Executive Director
Press Release: AsylumConnect Announces Shalawn James as New Executive Director
NEW YORK, June 1, 2021 — After an intensive search, AsylumConnect today announced the selection of Shalawn James as its new executive director. Co-founded by a gay asylum seeker and trans American at the University of Pennsylvania, AsylumConnect is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing the world’s first web and mobile resource platform designed for LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution. Since launching in 2016, the free platform has made over 75,000 matches between LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution and independently verified safe legal, medical, mental health and social service providers.
“AsylumConnect allows me to be everything that I was told that I couldn’t be. I am now a part of an organization that not only invests in me as a person but in the world as a collective. I am not only excited about this new found freedom but also humbled at the opportunity to advance this organization towards continued greatness. As an African American lesbian I am acutely aware of how I am at times viewed in society,” states James. “I am also aware of my privilege as an American citizen. I have freedoms that are not afforded to everyone. I have spent my life’s work fighting for equity. AsylumConnect does this work in a far reaching manner that is both needed and impressive. My hope for AsylumConnect is that one day we don’t exist because there is no longer a need for this service. I hope that we impact change that is far reaching, beyond what we can fathom in this moment and that everything that we do, every life that we touch leaves the world a better, kinder, and more affirming place for all.”
A native of Annapolis, Maryland, James is an established leader in mental health, Diversity and Inclusion advocacy and legislative reform. Most recently, James served as the acting executive director of the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania. During her tenure, she was a leader and advocate for advancing the rights of those with mental health concerns, advocating for health and wellness for mental health recovery, and connecting minorities and members of the LGBTQI communities with effective services and resources.
James follows AsylumConnect’s inaugural executive director, Jamie Sgarro, who co-founded and led the organization for seven years. Sgarro will remain actively invested in AsylumConnect’s future as a founder and member of the governing board.
Under Sgarro’s leadership, AsylumConnect built a diverse coalition of staff, volunteers, interns, board members, advisors, and established key partnerships to scale its free web and mobile resource platform to reach thousands of LGBTQ+ people in need across North America. Since co-founding the organization in 2014, Sgarro raised its first $500,000 in funding, launched an innovative junior board program for young professionals, secured national news coverage, and earned international recognition for outstanding contribution in social impact as a 2019 Roddenberry Fellow, 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 honoree and finalist in Fast Company’s 2020 World Changing Ideas Awards.
“We are thrilled to welcome Shalawn as the next leader of AsylumConnect,” says Sgarro. “In addition to over a decade of executive level experience in the nonprofit sector, she also brings a deep passion for AsylumConnect’s mission driven by her own lived experience. It has been a privilege leading AsylumConnect, and I’m excited to collaborate closely with Shalawn to ensure every LGBTQ+ person fleeing persecution knows where it is safe to go for help.”
The organization looks forward to ensuring millions more LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution are successful in rebuilding their new lives under James’ dedicated leadership.
James started her role as AsylumConnect’s Executive Director on May 24th, 2021.
AsylumConnect Press Team
AsylumConnect is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing the world’s first and only tech resource platform designed for LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution. AsylumConnect’s free website and mobile app instantly matches LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution (including asylum seekers, refugees, other immigrants and homeless youth) with verified safe legal, medical, mental health and social services. AsylumConnect is available in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Learn more at AsylumConnect.org.