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 Denise Newman, president of Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.
Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride (LBLGP) welcomes the opportunity to engage with all organizations and individuals in the LGBTQI community, including those dedicated to serving LGBTQI youth.
This year, we will celebrate our 35th anniversary of putting on one of the largest two-day festivals and parades of its kind. It is a source of great pride that our organization was the first nonprofit in the City of Long Beach to award grants and scholarships from a portion of the proceeds of our event and has provided much needed funding and other resources to organizations such as California Families in Focus (CFF).
In addition to our annual festival and parade, we also provide low-income housing for the LGBTQI community as well as an annual Christmas Toy Drive. This year, we brightened the holidays of over 500 teens and children with toys, gift cards and an opportunity to take family pictures with Santa and receive a free lunch. These efforts serve LBLGP’s mission of inclusion.
As much as LBLGP strives to maintain these efforts, its resources are not unlimited. There are stark differences between how Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride must now organize its festival and parade in comparison to five to 10 years ago. Since the decline of the economy and the advent of new regulations, the organization has had to completely rebuild its infrastructure for managing both the festival and parade. In 2017, in order to be more inclusive of the growing diversity of the LGBTQI community in Long Beach, the Board of Directors decided to load our five stages with talented DJs and award-winning and popular entertainers. The event went more smoothly than any other year. However, this great investment was expensive.
Additionally our many volunteers of the past have a smaller presence at the festival. Nonetheless, organizations like CFF were compensated for their time as they had been in previous years. Strict policies and standards implemented by the City of Long Beach have also changed the way LBLGP is forced to operate. Most costly, are the required outsourcing of volunteer positions, revenue sharing for alcohol sales and increasing security for the parade and festival to ensure the safety of all our participants. These structural changes and increased expenses were so extensive that, ultimately, we lost money.
In light of the new city-imposed requirements that the organization must fulfill in 2018, decisions had to be made to prepare for the substantially increased cost of operating the event. Prudence required, for the first time in the organization’s 35 years history, that the Board of Directors temporarily suspend grant funding for 2017 until the 2018 budget is finalized. It was not a decision that we took lightly, but it was a necessary one. As a result of this action and the continued support of the community, LBLGP will be resuming its grant-funding program in 2018.
Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride has, and always will support our future leaders, the LGBTQI youth. That commitment is evident in Pride’s creation of Teen Pride and was on full display at the Family Fun Zone at our annual festival to ensure that our efforts fully embrace LGBTQI youth. Thanks to our amazing partner, the Port of Long Beach, whose support has been invaluable, we have been able to serve thousands of youth and their families at the annual event.
As for CFF, its recent criticisms come as a disheartening surprise. We have supported CFF and its founder, Angel Macias, since the organization’s inception. We have provided office space to CFF for over four years, rent and utility free, along with annual funding to support its mission. This is the first year that we have not been able to fund CFF, or any of the other organizations in need. It is also disheartening that CFF did not reach out to us personally with their concerns so that we could explain the circumstances that necessitated LBLGP’s decisions and work together for the betterment of our community.
As we prepare for the 2018 festival and parade, the organization will take CFF’s commentary to heart and work on improving our communication with the community as a whole. It is the dedication of the volunteer members of Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride, our corporate sponsors, vendors and our community that has allowed us to meet the requirements for putting on a world class event in the City of Long Beach. We thank you for your support and our door is always open to answer questions.
Denise Newman is the president of Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride.