Wednesday, May 02, 2012

WSJ: SF Gay Pride Rebounds;
Activist Says Occupy Attitude Needed

(SF Pride executive director Brendan Behan poses with parade floats. Credit: Annie Tritt, WSJ.)

When Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal's San Francisco bureau contacted me about the recent fiscal and political troubles for the local gay pride parade and celebration, I had a hunch it was because he needed a critic of the pride committee to weigh in on a number of related issues.

In our phone chat, I spoke about the diminished political relevancy of pride and that the gay agenda was much more than military and marriage issues especially for those of us who don't want to join the Marines or get married. Concerns such as affordable housing, access to healthcare and medicine, making banks and large corporations pay more taxes that would sustain public transit and services, were a few matters I raised with Fowler but were left on the cutting room floor.

His story is now online and I was quoted pushing the radical idea of making our official June pride parade and party focused on economic justice issues. That pleases me, of course, as does being identified as a writer and AIDS activist because I am not sure that if I hadn't spoken with Fowler that AIDS would have been mentioned.

From the Wall Street Journal:

San Francisco's annual Pride celebration has come to be known for rainbows, revelry—and red ink. After the nonprofit behind the event accumulated $225,000 in debt, some city officials in 2010 publicly questioned if the group would last another year. But the financial situation has improved significantly in the past year and a half.

In 2011, San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration Committee Inc. made a profit and put a dent in its debt. And under new leadership in the past year, the organization rebuilt its board, slimmed its staff and sliced its debt further, to $80,000.

If the sun and crowds return to this year's Pride parade and celebrations, scheduled for June 23 and 24, the organization projects a net profit of about $17,000. The turnaround has been steered by Executive Director Brendan Behan, 31 years old, who joined the Pride organization as an administrative assistant and volunteer coordinator in 2006. [...]

"This is our year to move out of the woods," says Mr. Behan. "We have to figure out how to keep moving in the direction of financial stability while we're activists at heart." [...]

"Conversations I had with Brendan really solidified my thinking," says Doug Donnellan, general manager of San Francisco Toyota Scion, which is returning as a sponsor for the ninth year. [...]

Not everyone is satisfied with Pride's focus on business and sponsorships. "What they're really doing is selling us as a market to corporations," says Michael Petrelis, 53, a San Francisco writer and AIDS activist. "I would like to see San Francisco Pride adopt the attitude of the Occupy movement, and move away from being a bigger, better party."[...]

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