Months of discord between San Diego LGBT Pride and a significant number of local LGBT community members operating under the auspices of Save S.D. Pride (formerly San Diego Pride Community Negotiating Committee) was further amplified Sunday, Nov. 13 when the latter group held a vote-of-confidence that ended with 122 votes cast against the current Pride board and two in support thereof. (There were five abstentions.)
Now satisfied with the outcome of his work to “hold San Diego LGBT Pride’s board of directors accountable” for allegedly acting with indifference and in some cases, he says, with hostility to the local LGBT community, which the organization is meant to serve, Save S.D. Pride’s lead organizer, says he’ll take a back seat as a new Pride organization takes shape.
“Over a hundred community members have expressed a vote of no-confidence in the board of San Diego Pride,” Will Rodriguez-Kennedy told San Diego LGBT Weekly. “This comes out of a deep sense of frustration with some of the board’s recent decisions.”
Foremost among recent decisions that irked many was the Pride board’s sudden and almost universally condemned firing of former executive director, Stephen Whitburn only weeks after Pride’s most financially successful event and arguably its most widely praised Pride festival and parade in recent memory.
With a balloting session that could hardly have gone better from their perspective, and with multiple community meetings boasting high turnouts – in fact, there were no chairs left as attendees leaned against the walls at the Joyce Beers Community Center on the day of the no-confidence vote – under their proverbial belts, Save S.D. Pride organizers now feel comfortable enough to characterize there position with language that sounds a lot like the peace offerings of a political party that just won an election.
“It’s my goal to work with the [current Pride] board to resolve this conflict with the understanding that many in our community see this matter as urgent and pressing and that another organization is forming,” Rodriguez-Kennedy told LGBT Weekly. “I have delivered the results of the vote to the board of directors and have had very positive conversations with leading members of the board.”
Asked if recent conversations with the board were more positive than past talks, which he’s criticized as having been most unfruitful, Rodriguez-Kennedy was circumspect.
“This is still an active conflict,” he said. “But I am hopeful for a resolution in the coming weeks.”
LGBT Weekly asked for comment from Pride’s interim executive director, Christiana Tasto. Tasto said she would pass our questions along to her directors. At press time, there had been no reply to our questions.
Save S.D. Pride invited the Pride board to attend its recent meeting, which included a lengthy public comment period as well as an agenda with time reserved for comments from members of Pride’s board. However, an entire front row of seats set aside for the group remained unfilled during the three-hour gathering.
“We want to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and have their questions answered,” Rodriguez-Kennedy told the crowd gathered at the meeting, which began at 2 p.m. two Sundays ago and lasted into early evening. Indeed, the public comment period went well beyond the allotted hour outlined in the meeting agenda.
One attendee in the audience, who did not identify himself, dominated the question and answer period for approximately 20 minutes, cumulatively.
“He’s a plant,” said one attendee to this reporter, regarding the man’s seemingly endless inquiries.
That far-fetched assertion was made all the more absurd by the fact that the man appeared to have had little if any background information about why the meeting was taking place to begin with. Meeting organizers indulged the man until he ran out of questions. In fact, his questions likely brought anyone else in his position up to speed about the fact that the local LGBT community’s dissatisfaction with San Diego LGBT Pride began with a months-long failure to post meeting minutes, holding a series of secret meetings, which culminated with Stephen Whitburn’s firing in August.
Ryan Trabuco, organizer of the new group, told LGBT Weekly his vision for a reconstituted San Diego LGBT Pride organization is all about community and not about names of organizations.
“Pride is about our community, not a specific organization,” Trabuco said. “We’re all eager to have a successful Pride celebration in 2017, and I’m confident we will organize a successful Pride, despite the community’s overwhelming loss of confidence in the [old organization’s] board of directors.”
Nomenclature’s professed lack of importance notwithstanding, the new organization will be called LGBT Community Pride, according to Trabuco.
“It has been formed to ensure we’ll have a celebration to be proud of, and community buy-in,” he said.
Speaking of buy-in, LGBT Community Pride, the new group, appears to have beaten the old group to the punch in terms of “buying” the traditional dates for a San Diego LGBT Pride festival in Balboa Park.
“There is a lot that needs to be done now to prepare for the 2017 Pride celebration,” Trabuco said. “[W]e’re on track to meet our goals. For example, the festival site in Balboa Park had not been reserved, so LGBT Community Pride stepped in on behalf of the community and took care of that. LGBT Community Pride is fully prepared to produce both the parade and festival next July.”
The next steps, says Trabuco, who demurred at the notion of being called “lead organizer” of the newly formed San Diego LGBT Community Pride organization, but who appears indeed to be just that, is another community meeting open to all members of the public.
That meeting will be held next week, according to Trabuco, with time and location to be announced at savesdpride.org. The meeting is being billed as one at which organizers will hear from members of the community ideas about how to make the 2017 Pride festival and parade successful. According to Trabuco, one key to success will be going to the guy who helped make this year’s festivities work so well.
“We reached out to Stephen [Whitburn] right away to ask for his assistance,” Trabuco told LGBT Weekly. “And, he has volunteered his time to support us. That’s been invaluable since he’s led the production of the last four Prides in San Diego, including this past year’s, which was the most successful in the city’s history.”
One of the speakers at Save S.D. Pride’s recent balloting session was Rev. Shane Harris, a young, San Diego-based civil rights leader with an increasingly national voice. Rev. Harris is a protégé of civil rights leader, Rev. Al Sharpton and president of the local chapter of Sharpton’s National Action Network.