The offshoot will close its virtual platform next week, and will shutter its Slack channel for members today, April 1, wrote GNI founder Alisha Ramos in a March 31 email to subscribers. All members will be refunded fees for any remaining membership cycles.
The Lounge was originally intended to be a way for GNI readers to connect and attend events together IRL, similar to other groups in the area like The Outrage or The Reclaim. The Lounge launched a beta version in 2019, and the plan was to have it officially up and running come 2020.
But then the pandemic hit, and the group had to pivot to connecting its members virtually via Zoom events, a newsletter, a member database, and the Slack channel. It had decreased prices and added monthly memberships due to the pandemic economy, Ramos wrote.
It seems like the idea was popular. The group had over 1,700 members, wrote Ramos, as well as a waitlist. (Disclosure: I applied to be a member, and was on the waitlist.)
But perhaps it became too popular too quickly. “Soon, the membership outgrew the number of staffing and resources it truly needed to thrive and slowly, it became clear over these last few months that The Lounge was no longer a sustainable model for us operationally or financially,” Ramos wrote. “Continuing to grow our membership is a decision I made in light of all the stresses and unexpected turns of this pandemic, and I take full responsibility for the effects.”
Ramos’ note also alluded to issues The Lounge apparently had with diversity and inclusion: “While diversity is something that can be counted and seen, inclusion is something that is felt,” she wrote. “It’s clear many of you have not felt The Lounge to be an inclusive space, and I fully apologize on behalf of our team.”
In March, Ramos wrote a GNI editor’s letter commemorating the anniversary of the pandemic lockdown. In the note, she did not mention the social and racial justice movements, and the specific trauma Black people experienced in 2020.
She later wrote an email to subscribers apologizing. “I hurt our BIPOC and in particular our Black readers who turn to our newsletter for care and inspiration each week: I apologize specifically to you,” she wrote. “I care deeply about fighting for racial justice but my words did not reflect my values. Intentions don’t matter; impact matters. The impact of my editor’s note was hurtful. I’m committed to doing better as an individual and as a leader.” In the note, Ramos also shared the steps the GNI team has taken and will continue to implement when it comes to anti-racism and accountability.