Saturday, April 18, 2015

Audrey Joseph Wins Audrey Joseph Award from SF Pride

Two years ago, the board of the San Francisco Pride nonprofit found themselves at the center of a huge controversy about the rescinding of a grand marshal honor to WikiLeaks heroine Chelsea Manning. Out of that mess came a slate of alleged reformers running for seats on the board and in September 2013, many of those folks were elected to the board.

I put in a good deal of time attending SF Pride meetings and functions. Last fall after being rebuffed in trying to bring transparency to the amounts paid by corporations to have marketing floats in the Pride Parade, opening the process of determining the contingent line-up so that law enforcement officials and elected officials aren't always in the front of the Parade and allowing members to run the monthly members' meetings, I disengaged with the group.

Sure, the reformers rectified the mess over Manning and she was a grand marshal in absentia last year, and military recruiters have been booted out of the Pride Celebration in Civic Center, and other cosmetic changes made, but the basic corporate-pleasing and politician-dominated way of doing business, and make no mistake SF Pride and related activities in June are big business, still prevails.

No need for me to waste time at SF Pride meetings where the board controls the agenda, only to see further corporatization of the LGBT agenda, last year the board accepted a $100,000 donation from Airbnb as they were facing massive criticism over contributing to our affordable housing crisis, police officers and members of the district attorney's office among the first 20 parade contingents, and members treated as nuisances or only to be used in volunteer capacities and no genuine influence over the nonprofit's agenda.

Minutes of members' meetings show board dominance, window dressing discussions about grand marshals and merchandising of SF Pride, and a lot of talk about board concerns, and a handful of members in attendance. Contents of the April membership minutes show about 98% of comments were from board members and I believe, hard to tell since this is no attendees' list of members present, that only one member, Rick Gerharter, spoke at the meeting.

This week, the board announced this year's grand marshals and it's 17 or so individuals and nonprofits and as if there aren't enough honorees to dilute the impact and meaning of being a grand marshal, a new category has been created.

It's the Audrey Joseph Entertainment Award given to an outstanding community leader who has used artistic expression to advance the LGBT agenda, and the recipient of it is none other than Audrey Joseph. She's been the producer of the main stage at the Pride Celebration hoopla in Civic Center for year and most folks agree she done an admirable job, even if she's not addressed the homogeneity, volume and loud bass-driven electronic dance music complaints.

I'm so pleased not have squandered any of my time as the board deliberated the grand marshal matters at membership meetings, just to see another award, yawn, created to stroke an ego or two.

This year, as in so many, Mike and I will mark our queer pride in personal and meaningful ways of value to us. We don't need nor want to be told about pride from corporations looking to expand profits and elected officials climbing the political ladder.

While the board members responsible for the Manning mess are long gone and new directors have come and gone, SF Pride is still an organization in need of deeper, authentic membership driven forces having real influence over the nonprofit. Otherwise, it's the same old same old, but different board members. That not progress in my queer rule book.

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