After two-year hiatus, LGBTQ Center Long Beach returns with Black & White Ball fundraiser

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After two years, the LGBTQ Center Long Beach’s largest fundraiser of the year, the Black & White Ball, returns on June 25 at 6 p.m.— this time, with a twist.

For the first time, this year’s ball will have a theme, “Wonderland,” with hopes to inspire creativity and added flair to the traditional black and white apparel, said executive director Carlos Torres.

“Our hope is that our attendees will embrace the theme and really come out in full regalia,” said Torres.

This year attendees can also purchase a separate ticket for $45, to only attend the after-event dance party with DJ Jovanah Gonzales. Admission to the dance party is included with the $250 price of the full ticket option.

“We understand that many of our community members have had some financial hardships as a result of the pandemic,” said Torres. “The idea is that those individuals that may not be able to afford the full price of a ticket for the event can still come out, dance, celebrate, and have a good time in a space that is welcoming, that is affirming and that embraces everyone as they are.”

Not only will the ball include a cocktail hour, dinner, live entertainment, and a live and silent auction, but various community members will also be recognized for their contributions to the local LGBTQ+ community.

Actress and activist Alexandra Billings, the LGBTQ+ choir South Coast Chorale, CSULB professor and internationally-recognized HIV and COVID-19 researcher Alex Washington, and senior administrative deputy and first openly gay staffer of the City of Long Beach’s Legislative Department, Tim Patton, will be honored during the event.

In addition, owners of local restaurant Lola’s Mexican Cuisine, Brenda Rivera and Luis Navarro, will be awarded the Business Icon Award for their continuous support of the center since Lola’s 2008 opening.

“​​We wanted to take an opportunity to acknowledge their support in a very public way, as a means to demonstrate to other businesses or other organizations that there are support for LGBTQ people, there are support for the services that we provide, and support comes in a variety of different forms,” said Torres. “We’re thrilled to be honoring Brenda and Luis.”

While over the past couple of years the center was open through appointments only, as of April 4, it officially reopened its doors fully, and for Torres, this year’s ball is a celebration of re-welcoming the community.

“It’s very, very exciting to open our doors and say to our neighbors, we are still here,” said Torres.

As the center’s largest fundraiser, the last couple of years have been “a balancing act,” said Torres.

However, despite the ability to raise additional funds, the support of the community has allowed the center to continue providing services without distraction, Torres said.

The funds raised during the event will support older adult, youth, and family services, as well as the LGBTQ Center’s daily operations, support groups, and more, all of which assist over 25,000 people per year.

“It’s frankly an amazing feeling to think that despite the challenges of the pandemic and how it affected different parts of our communities, that we can still come together and celebrate not only who we are as individuals but also celebrate our community,” said Torres.

And for the event to occur during Pride Month is just a bonus, said Torres.

“It’s adding an opportunity for us to celebrate, to come together, to be with one another, to recognize and acknowledge the hardships of the last few years, but also our resiliency as a community,” he said. “When we stand together, or we come together, we can achieve many, many things, including celebrating with a gala.”

Purchase your tickets to the Black & White Ball here.

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