When members of the Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) student group, The Alliance, found out that they would be beneficiaries to funds raised during PrideFest San Antonio, they rallied their small but growing membership. PrideFest required that the group provide a minimum of 10 volunteers in order to obtain any funds. The Alliance, which works to make the campus safe and welcoming to all students and visitors regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, exceeded that requirement, providing twelve volunteers, three of whom worked more than one shift at the event.
The beneficiary money was extremely important to the small group. They had already become known around campus for their activities and were priding themselves on their efforts to change University policies regarding non-discrimination to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. But their work was only just beginning, and they knew they would need all the training they could get in order to realize their vision.
So they made a plan and began holding fundraisers around the city to help offset the estimated $5,000 needed to send eight of their members to the Creating Change conference in Atlanta, Georgia. They knew that raising the money would be a daunting task for a small college group at a Catholic University, but they were resolved. The acceptance of their application to be a PrideFest beneficiary was a game changer as the group stood to gain over $1,000 in funds.
However, shortly before PrideFest kicked off, it was reported by qsanantonio.com that the organization had lost its status as a 501(c)(3) organization due to an oversight in paperwork submissions and had reformed as a “for-profit” limited liability company. Several LGBT organizations, including the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the San Antonio Stonewall Democrats publicly withdrew their support from the event.
In a press release from the HRC, its San Antonio Board of Governors advised that, “This causes us great concern and we are not comfortable continuing with our involvement.” In spite of the withdrawal of some organizations, the event was held June 23, 2012.
After the event closed, Amanda Benton, President of The Alliance at OLLU, received a message from one of the Board of Directors for PrideFest advising that the organization ran into trouble this year and that none of its beneficiaries would be receiving any funds. According to PrideFest organizers, the event racked up approximately $23,000.00 in debt that it could not pay. The Board of Directors quickly began pointing fingers at each other, noting that many decisions regarding finances were made without Board approval by key organizer, Deb Browning. The controversy became the San Antonio equivalent of the Jerry Springer show, with litigation being on the tip of everyone’s tongues.
The controversies surrounding PrideFest and allegations made by their Board and concerned community members do nothing to repair the damage done to the beneficiary organizations, including the Alliance. The news was a harsh blow to the small group of students from OLLU. “I have attended PrideFest for 3 years, and for the last 2 it was always a huge success with multiple vendors and great headliners. It’s frustrating as a beneficiary, because you are under the impression that PrideFest wants only the best for those beneficiaries,” said Benton.
She went on to say that she had great hopes for the students The Alliance had planned to send to Creating Change, because it greatly affected her own life. “I attended Creating Change in 2010 and it was a turning point in my life… it was an eye-opening experience. It was after the conference that I decided to become a social worker and to work exclusively with the LGBT community… and a clear path of activism and advocacy was laid down for me at that conference. I know that it will change other’s lives if they attend.”
While the Board of Directors of PrideFest try to overcome the debt, The Alliance is also struggling to meet their goal. To do so, the group has set up ticket-drop fundraisers with local restaurants and plan on doing bake sales and BBQ plate sales to try to make up the difference. Amanda Benton is also attempting to personally raise the funds using an online fundraiser, GoFundMe, where you can donate to help send all eight students to Creating Change.
“Political movements always belong to the young.” – Harvey Fierstein
Note: San Antonio holds two Pride events each year, PrideFest San Antonio and Pride San Antonio. This article refers only to PrideFest San Antonio.
Jay Morris is a State Lead for GetEQUAL.org, a founding member of the Direct Action Network San Antonio and blogger at jaysays.com. You can find him posting randomness on Twitter or engage him in conversation on Facebook.
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