In a letter released before a GLCCB townhall meeting, the interim executive director of the leading center for the city's LGBTQ residents called the gay community and its allies "detached, indifferent, and apathetic" and said that the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of Baltimore needs revitalization if the organization and its premiere event, the Pride Festival, is to continue on.
Kelly Neel also wrote that this year's Pride Festival was nearly canceled after the GLCCB moved to new offices and lost its executive director in the lead up to the event. And if things don't change with the GLCCB, the organization, and thus the festival, are on shaky ground.
"The bottom line is that we need your help as community members to revitalize the organization into a resource that you want and need, or we will cease to exist," she said. "If we cease to exist, Baltimore Pride festivities will come to a screeching halt for the foreseeable future."
The town hall is scheduled for July 23 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Waxter Center. Read the full letter below:
"As Interim Executive Director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB), I would like to speak on my experience with Pride 2014 and the Community Center as a whole.
First of all, please understand that it takes a village to sustain our organization. In my short tenure at the GLCCB, I have found that this village — once thriving and involved — has become detached, indifferent, and apathetic. I am here to ask for your help in bringing it back. It will take time, patience, and a lot of community elbow grease, but I'm confident that we can learn from our past mistakes and revive the bond between Baltimore’s LGBTQ community and its community center. The bottom line is that we need your help as community members to revitalize the organization into a resource that you want and need, or we will cease to exist. If we cease to exist, Baltimore Pride festivities will come to a screeching halt for the foreseeable future.
That is the reality. And I – like you – don’t want to see it come to that.
Baltimore Pride is a massive endeavor. The price to put on this year's event cost the GLCCB over $100,000 before a dime was raised for the Center – that’s without any big name headliners, bells and whistles, or extravagant add-ons. In fact, Baltimore Pride 2014 was very close to being canceled. In the 12 months between Pride 2013 and Pride 2014, the GLCCB moved its offices (after a series of delays) that left our staff and programs barely operable for nearly four months. Throw on top of that the departure of our previous Executive Director around the same time and a prior administrative decision to change in the footprint and date of the event, and you have the recipe for the perfect storm. In the wake of these enormous organizational changes, we were left with four staff members and a handful of amazing volunteers that put together a parade and festival for over 15,000 people in less than three months. It is a miracle if I ever saw one.
Many in the community have had both positive and negative criticisms of Pride 2014 and I encourage you all to voice your opinions. We ARE listening. I will be the first to admit that some of the changes (such as moving the Sunday festival out of Druid Hill Park) were made in haste to ensure our ability to put on the event. Those decisions will be revisited for next year's event. Some decisions were made because they were what the city, the community, and the Center ultimately needed.
With ample time to plan Baltimore Pride 2015, we will be able to better communicate and alleviate the planning issues that come with putting together a large-scale event. For those who were upset with the Saturday move to Mt. Royal, all I can say is that our community has grown. We can no longer comfortably and safely accommodate our friends, families, and neighbors in the few blocks of Mt. Vernon where Prides of past have been. Yes it is a change – and one that may take some getting used to -- but we are ecstatic that our community is expanding and growing to a point that we need a bigger space. It’s a good problem to have.
If nothing ever changed, we wouldn’t make history. There would be nothing to remember because it will have always been the same. So please, remember the old location -- don’t ever stop patronizing our LGBT-friendly businesses and establishments in Mt. Vernon. I’m fully aware and appreciative of their resonance with the community, and we will do our best to incorporate the community businesses into the Pride celebration so that we never forget where we came from.
As for the Sunday move from Druid Hill Park, it was a decision made prior to my tenure with the GLCCB. Logistically, the move made sense. It made the festival less expensive, easier for vendors, and reduced time spent on our skeleton staff in planning our vendor spaces, permits, etc. for two locations. However, we have heard from the community that the Sunday move out of the Park removed the historically family-friendly spirit of past Sunday Festivals. For next year, we are considering moving the Sunday festival back to Druid Hill Park. If we do make this change, your help and support will be critical to its execution.
This is my plea. Please do not turn your back on the Center because we need you the most right now.
We are not a state- or city- funded community center. We are not flush with cash. We are a non-profit that exists only from the dedication of volunteers and engaged community members. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost that community. We aren’t perfect. We have made mistakes and the Center has been looked at with disdain in our own community for too long. We want to turn the Center around, and the only way to do so is with the help and support of our community. I encourage you to stop by our office at the Waxter Center (1000 Cathedral St., 3rd Floor; open M-F from 9 a.m.–5 p.m.). Spend some time here, volunteer your time, buy a t-shirt, or just sit down and talk. My door is always open. Let’s get this conversation started."