This week PROMO announced the departure of longtime Executive Director A.J. Bockelman who will be stepping down on Oct. 16 after 8 years at the helm of the statewide LGBT advocacy and policy organization. Below is a letter from Bockelman addressing his departure and future.

Dear Equality Supporter;

This is certainly one of the most difficult messages I have written to you. As you may have seen through social media and in various news outlets, I have made the difficult decision to step down this fall after eight years at the helm of PROMO.

Tremendous ChangeBockelmanAJ

Over the decade I’ve been involved with PROMO, the landscape for the LGBT community has changed dramatically. I’ve learned that in general, people often fear change, because they fear their own perceived loss due to that change. Progress requires people to examine their routine, their customs, sometimes their own way of life. To adapt to those changes, we must determine what is essential to go on and what we can let go of. You, our broad-based network of supporters, helped bring about needed change. For that I am grateful.

Personal Empowerment

While we have collectively faced many challenges, the stories which have resonated with me personally are those of everyday heroes and sheroes I’ve met every single day. From supporting young students like Lila Perry standing up for her rights in a small town high school to encouraging people like former State Rep Zach Wyatt to come into his own power and come out publicly in order to kill an anti-gay bill; this work has left me a richer person for witnessing the personal empowerment of so many individuals around the state.

Battles Yet to Come

In these eight years, Team PROMO has built up quite an array of battle armor. We have navigated all three branches of government to continue promoting equality. Despite the change, we know that the work must continue. Our board has spent the last year positioning the organization to approach the work going forward in a more intersectional approach – recognizing the multitude of ways oppression still impacts our daily lives.

Why This Is the Time…

For me, the time has come to take off my battle armor for a little while, step aside and let the next phase of leadership lead PROMO to further victories for equality. At eight years, I am one of the longest-tenured Executive Directors of a statewide equality organization, and at a certain point it is best for institutions like this to have a fresh leader at the helm.

I have been so moved and humbled by the Facebook posts, tweets, and texts I’ve seen telling me how much my work has meant for equality in the Show Me State. Thank you. Still, my good friend Ken Haller – who was also PROMO’s board Chair for six years – told me many years ago that if an organization exists only because of the work of one person, it does not deserve to exist. So while I thank you deeply for saying how crucial my presence has been in this job, I have always seen the PROMO family as, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Henry V, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers [and sisters].”

I have not, I have never, done this alone, and I leave confident that this organization is stronger today than when I found it because of the hard work and support of so many of you who are reading this. For years we at PROMO have had the “AJ gets hit by a bus” scenario discussion so I know that Steph Perkins is more than capable of leading PROMO through this transition. And PROMO has such a strong staff, such a dedicated board, such a commitment to the mission of equality, that I have no doubt we will be able to attract an amazing new Executive Director, one whom I hope will be more qualified than I was when I stepped into this job eight years ago.

What’s Next for Me

I really don’t know. In the near term, I’m going to spend a lot more time with my family in Indiana. As many of your know, I have suffered some terrible family losses this past year. I am eager to take time with them to discover who we will be as a family going forward.

I also know that, whatever else happens, I will be a part of PROMO, and PROMO will be a part of me. Yes, I am passionate about the work of equality, and I intend to keep supporting PROMO’s work in whatever way I can.

My Invitation to You

Thank you for your thanks and for your kind messages of support. My invitation to you is this: If you feel I’ve done a good job as ED of PROMO, then keep supporting PROMO. In fact, increase your support of PROMO. Make a gift in my name or to honor any heroic Band of Brothers and Sisters who fight day after day to create a state of justice for all in the State of Missouri. I am not leaving PROMO. I am inviting someone else, someone better equipped at this point in our history, to lead the fight for the coming battles. Step up – with me – to be one of We Few, We Happy Few…

In Equality,
A.J. Bockelman
Executive Director of PROMO



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