Op-Ed: Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Inc. Turns Its Back on Local LGBTQ Youth

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Leslie Smith, a Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) alumni and Board Chair of the nonprofit California Families in Focus, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

I want to know why Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride, Inc. turned its back on local LGBTQ youth.

Nonprofit organizations are not about building egos or lining the pockets of family and friends, but about serving the community. Long Beach Pride is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. As such, it exists solely to serve the public. Based on its mission statement, Long Beach Pride is supposed to support activities that encourage and celebrate LGBTQ inclusion and pride. 

So, I need to know why Long Beach Pride failed to answer the call-to-action this past holiday season when California Families in Focus (CFF), another local charitable organization, reached out to request funding to help it honor local LGBTQ youth, and particularly homeless youth, at its 14th Annual Spirit of Christmas celebration.

This event was put on to celebrate, empower and inspire LGBTQ youth, and to show them that they matter and they have an entire community behind them for the foreseeable future regardless of their circumstances. The event was in complete alignment with Long Beach Pride’s mission. Numerous written requests for funding were sent to Long Beach Pride. Sadly, each request went unanswered. So again, I ask where was Long Beach Pride for the local youth?

As a stakeholder of the LGBTQ youth community, I have to assume that decisions about CFF’s funding request were not made clandestinely behind closed doors. I have to assume that the board members who received the request for funding brought the issue before Pride’s full Board of Directors for consideration and that a decision was made to not provide funding based upon some specific rationale. I would like to know what that rationale was because from my vantage point, it was a slap in the face and the message Pride sent to LGBTQ youth is that they do not matter, and that the entire community is not behind them.

Long Beach Pride’s annual festival—one of the largest in the nation—generates millions of dollars in revenue. As a public, tax-exempt entity, those funds are supposed to be used for public causes which are in alignment with Pride’s mission statement, and not for lavish trips, kickbacks or to line the pockets of a few. Pride is accountable to the public for how it spends the millions of dollars it receives in revenue as well as the funds it receives from public grants. Pride is accountable and must answer to the community when such an epic failure of not supporting the local LGBTQ youth occurs, particularly when past Pride board members had secured a sizable annual grant from the Port of Long Beach to be earmarked for helping LGBTQ youth. Thus, unless that grant no longer exists, funds should have been available to assist with CFF’s 14th Annual Spirit of Christmas celebration for local LGBTQ youth—an event which was in perfect alignment with the purpose of the Port of Long Beach’s grant and Pride’s mission statement.

So again, why did Long Beach Pride turn its back on the local LGBTQ youth? I am hopeful that the Board’s minutes will shed some light, and I am making a public demand that those minutes be faxed to me at (323) 944-0106.

Leslie R. Smith (323) 944-0400.

Leslie Renee Smith is a native of California. She attended Cal State Long Beach in the 1970s, and went on to graduate from Washington & Lee School of Law in Lexington, Virginia. She has been practicing law for over 26 years. Leslie grew up with, and played basketball with, recently deceased Long Beach Detective Kimberly Maddox. Leslie currently serves as the Board Chair of the non-profit California Families in Focus.

Editor’s note: Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride has responded to allegations made in this op-ed here

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