Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Thurday Meeting Results

5/25/06 Meeting Outcome

Jeri Dilno, Personnel Director, Pride Board Member
Anne Hewitt, Co-chair of Pride Board
Ron DeHarte, Executive Director LGBT Pride
Margot Kelley
Emily Foster

We met for around 2 hours with members of the Board and the Executive Director.

They are not willing to repeal the policy and tried the following tactics: they tried to bribe us with positions on the Board, they tried to guilt us by saying that if we don't help them come up with some segregated Xone space than youth won't have anywhere to go during Pride, they tried to use their money angle to overpower us saying that the grass-roots orgs that Emily works for most likely get their money from Pride.

Their proposal at this point was that they would offer us whatever they could if we would head up the creation of a “kick-ass” youth space at Pride, and then work to develop Youth Pride. We responded that, first, we are not willing to do this if the policy stands, and second, what kind of space could we make in a month, on a volunteer part-time basis?!? It’s tragic that they put a policy like this into place but didn’t even bother to develop the space the youth will be forced to go to. They have been talking about this policy at their meetings since January. Their lack of creating any type of basic alternative just reflects the true reason they enacted the policy in the first place: they are only concerned about their own liability.

While they tried to push the issue that they are truly concerned about the youth and that, in the word of one member, she would be “devastated if a 16 year old overdosed at the festival” - as the meeting progressed the reasoning became clear. We said that a youth who was determined to get in would find an adult outside to vouch as their guardian - and then what if that youth ended up getting hurt by the adult they found? They said that, in that case, if the youth brought a lawsuit, the case against Pride would be weakened because the youth was the one who violated the policy... so much for caring about the youth.

They challenged us to find a way to clear them from any liability and then they will repeal the policy. Again - this proves the original intent of enacting the policy is NOT about the welfare of youth, but of the welfare of their organization and the money they make.

We brought up that other Pride Festivals around the country don’t have policies such as this one in place, and their response was that most festivals don’t charge admission, and since San Diego’s festival is a private event, the liability falls on them. This is true - but it’s been true for all these years as well. They responded that the board, “as an entity, in its official capacity” was not aware of this liability until this year. “All it would take is one lawsuit to destroy the organization.” They also said that they give the community back millions of dollars, and that they don’t want risk it. So the mission of Pride is no longer about celebrating the diversity of our community - it’s about raising money. It’s a fundraiser.

We proposed that they just hold off on the policy for this year so that we could try our alternative (where Emily and I coordinate a Youth Buddy Service, as we proposed at the original meeting). They shot that down. They also said that they don’t want youth ever roaming freely within the festival grounds without their guardian with them -- and that means at all times. They still don’t know how they are going to enforce the policy. Anne Hewitt said that she has a toddler and that, yes, in order to bring her child into the festival that she would have to sign a form of some sort waiving Pride’s liability. (I think the only reason that they didn’t make the policy 18 and up period is because of the older members of our community who have children).
Pride is still promoting itself as an “all-inclusive” family event - which I find misleading since a major segment of our community (in fact the FUTURE of our community) will not be able to attend - unless they are literally baby-sat by their own parents.

Again - their lack of planning after enacting the policy shows a total disregard for our youth. Why didn’t they get right on this back in January? When discussing this so-called alternative space (which is going to be totally separate from the festival) - we kept insisting to them that this still denies youth the access to the booths, the community organizations, the wonderful entertainment - the essence of Pride. Ron suggested maybe having a few booths be outside the festival grounds so that they would be available to both youth and adults, and that perhaps some of the entertainers would do a “special” performance in the youth space in addition to performing at the Festival. A few booths does not a Pride festival make, AND I highly doubt Cyndi Lauper et al, would be willing (or able) to do two performances. Again, this is all speculation because they HAVE NO PLAN. It’s now almost June and they have NOTHING to offer youth.

I also want to add that they played the gender card on us and it really floored me. First they were praising us for our presentation, and then later they criticized us for not having a male speak (and that the majority of the people with us were women and that we have a different experience than “boys” have at Pride). So I guess if I had my twin brother, Ryan (who is ALSO gay), present my part, then it would have had more weight with them!

So the gist is this:

Emily is contacting attorneys to get legal advice in terms of the policy itself (how a lawyer might be able to sue-- which they shot down because they said that they are allowed to discriminate based on age). Since they challenged us to find a way that would relieve them of liability so that they would not have to enact the policy - my idea is to tell them to make the Festival free - use suggested donation. They make bank on every other thing there - the beer sales, the other parties they host, the shirt sales, etc. etc. Then they would be like any other Pride or public event and that would relieve them of the liability. Would they go for this? Probably not. But it calls them out on the fact that, for them, Pride’s value is strictly about raising cash, and not about truly making an investment into our future (and trust me, Pride has always been a stepping stone for youth activists to get their foot in the door). We got the name of their attorney, Brian Sherman, and Emily has a contact that will be getting her more of the Board’s by-laws/mission statement etc. Another area to look into is if Pride gets any money from the City of San Diego - if so there may be an issue on the legality of that regarding discrimination.

We have the speeches we made at the original meeting that will be published in the next Lavender Lens. We also have many, many people who have told us they are boycotting - including long-term volunteers and past coordinators. It may be a good idea to start getting a tally of those who are willing to do this.

We want to begin an email blast where folks send in their own letters of protest to the Board (and if they are willing to boycott, if they think members of the board should resign for their lack of planning, their disregard for our youth, and the underhanded way they made this policy known to the general public). The email address is info@sdpride.org.

Those are some of our ideas as of now. Any feedback, suggestions are welcome, and anything you can offer us would be greatly appreciated!!! (We are only two people). :-)

Pride’s message to all GLBTQ youth is "Sorry, but you are too much a liability for us so you can't come inside." I don’t know about you, but I avoid places where I am not welcome - and that is the message they are sending to everyone under 18.


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