2 min

Building Pride

Straight talk and a plea for help

HELP NEEDED: Shawn Ewing and Randy Atkinson are turning to the Vancouver gay and lesbian community for fundraising. Credit: David Ellingsen

What a great time. But now the party is over and the bar is closing. Staff circle round and start herding reluctant revellers toward the door. But, wanting to casually make your exit at the same time as the cute one you’ve been making eye contact with all night, you linger for just a bit.

And then it happens. They turn on the ugly lights. You glance in the mirror, horrified to find your perfect coif reduced to sweaty, wayward clumps of hair hanging limply from your head. And, under the bright phosphorescent glow of the lights, the colour of your carefully chosen outfit casts a putrid yellow-greenish glow on your face. The overall effect makes it look as though you are going to a casting call for ghouls in Night of the Living Dead. That’s what the ugly lights will do.

And that is what happened with Pride.

The party ended and the ugly lights came on to reveal a ghoulish figure-$106,000. Now, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t an insurmountable sum. But it begins to look more daunting when you consider the relatively short time ’til Pride. In these next few months, we must not only pay off the $100 grand, but also raise at least that much again to pay for the 2003 celebrations.

Some pundits suggest our easiest option is to file for bankruptcy and fold the Society; then open up on a new day with a different name-and no debt.

Tempting as this sounds, sometimes the easiest thing isn’t necessarily the best thing. General ethics aside, for one, most of the Society’s creditors are small business people, many from within our own community.

The theme of this year’s celebration is Building Pride. You can’t build pride by screwing members of our own community. The old commercial harkens Where’s the Beef?; in this case, it’s Where’s the Pride? Also, with the fold and re-open option, people won’t be fooled by a name change. They will be warier, angrier and less likely to provide the goods and services the VPS needs to host the Parade, festival and related events. So, we are committed to the more daunting option.

One of the first things we did as a new board was some serious reflection as a Society. And anyone who has ever done any honest introspection knows that what you find isn’t always pretty. With the VPS, we found poor accounting practices, a Society divorced from its community and a Society without long-term sustainability. In a nutshell, these are the underlying reasons for the debt.

Our board has implemented and now rigidly adheres to sound accounting and budgeting practices.

To have our community take back Pride, we are committed to being transparent, inclusive and accountable. We are re-structuring our corporate fundraising efforts and we are exploring links with community organizations, governments and businesses to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of the VPS.

So, while no one likes it when the ugly lights come on, they achieve what they intend: they get people moving. While we still have a long way to go, our community is moving to build Pride. People are buying memberships, people are volunteering. Organizations like Xtra West are donating space to the VPS so we can get our message out and keep people informed. We hope this momentum continues and extends to supporting Pride fundraising events, such as Retro-Lush at Numbers Cabaret, which starts this Sunday and continues each week until the end of July.

We are planning other fundraisers as well, including the annual Pride Gala Dinner & Silent Auction and Pancakes for Pride. By the time the August long weekend rolls around, everyone will have an opportunity to claim as their own a block in the foundation for Building Pride!

* Randy Atkinson and Shawn Ewing are this year’s co-chairs of the Vancouver Pride Society.