Friends of Lulu President Valerie D'Orazio announced on her blog
yesterday that she will be stepping down from her role at the 16-year-old comics non-profit, which is devoted to furthering to role of women in comics, and is seeking a replacement:
There has been very little news out of Friends of Lulu for the last year or so, leaving some to wonder whether the organization was still active or still possessed its tax exempt status. Despite speculation and an unfortunate press inquiry
, little was known until D'Orazio's recent post, where she describes the circumstances that led to the de facto shut-down of Friends of Lulu: the discovery that there was a history of serious filing issues regarding taxes and tax-exempt status, the disappearance of boxes of critical financial documents, and the dissolution of the Board of Directors in 2009.
Come September, D'Orazio plans to either hand off her leadership role someone willing to address the knot of financial issues in and help Friends of Lulu move forward, or dissolve it entirely:
If by September 2010 nobody steps forward and shows interest in helping run this organization, I will start taking steps to officially dissolve it as a non-profit. Then I will donate the leftover money (if any) between the other major comics charities, return the donated artwork, and ship the historical records and sketchbooks to a University or MoCCA.
D'Orazio now explains that she has remained "discrete [sic] about what has been going on at Friends of Lulu, as to protect their image. The thought was: if we admit that Lulu was in trouble, it would just demonstrate that women are incapable of running an organization. It would hurt the cause of Women in Comics."
At a time when Diane Nelson sits as the President of DC Comics Entertainment, I can't really get behind the underlying implication of that argument; while women in comics are certainly still minorities in the world of superhero comics and still face disadvantages and sometimes even straight up sexism, we all rise and fall on our own merits in the eyes of our peers and colleagues. The things we accomplish -- or fail to accomplish -- accrue to us as individuals and not as a gender, and the closure of Friends of Lulu, while sad, ultimately says no more about the competence of women in comics than the death of Dick Grayson's parents says about circus safety.
D'Orazio says that whether her silence helped the organization is "debatable," and I tend to agree. While I'm sure that she tried her best in a difficult situation, what would have helped the cause of women in comics most is what would have helped the organization most: a more transparent approach to their difficulties, and either a timely resolution of the problem, or a timely recognition of the fact that the reins needed to be handed over.
Regardless, I'm glad to see that D'Orazio has made the decision to clearly delineate the financial situation of the Friends of Lulu and help it move forward by offering the leadership role to someone with the time and energy to make this the full-time job that it needs to be, deal with the serious documentation problems that laid it low, and help the organization rediscover its purpose and presence in the industry.
As Johanna Draper Carlson mentions in her commentary
on the announcement:
Valerie lists ideas from 2008 that sound wonderful: a magazine, getting back to establishing chapters for local mentoring, and so on. Unfortunately, all of this was put on hold due to the loss of the organization's financial records, which required halting donations and memberships. And once something's put on hold, it's hard to get it running again.
Anyone out there have what it takes?