Pride Beyond "Pride"
By, Rayceen Pendarvis, HRH
After flowers begin to bloom, the sun sets later in the day, and the temperature rises, many people are thinking about Pride celebrations. Not that people weren’t thinking about it already; most of us know somebody who’s been working out all winter to debut their “new body” at a parade, festival, or party. Others have been planning to travel to a nearby or faraway city to experience those LGBTQ Pride festivities. For some, this is the time when they begin thinking about volunteering and look to see what shifts are available during their local Pride weekend.
Whether big or small, the festivities you attend this Pride season have likely been in the works for the past year. Parades, festivals, and other activities don’t spontaneously happen. The bigger they are, the more time, energy, and effort they take to plan and prepare. Help is certainly needed at Pride events but helping out and taking pride in your community is something you can do throughout the year.
Look up your local LGBTQ center in your community. You can read about them online, call, or drop by and find out what opportunities await you. In Washington, DC, this includes The DC Center for the LGBT Community and Casa Ruby. They have many events and programs throughout the year, as do similar organizations across the country.
There are many LGBTQ youth who are dealing with various challenges, from low self esteem and depression to homelessness and drug addiction. These may seem daunting, but there are organizations that are helping this population. Maybe you can help in some way, including being a mentor. You may be able to encourage and inspire someone.
There are many underserved populations within the LGBTQ community, including trans women of color, who deal with discrimination and violence in ways that should alarm all of us. Again, find out what organizations are doing the work. Perhaps you can contact a national organization or connect with someone in another city or state that is doing the work that needs to be done where you live. Be the person who takes the initiative to make a difference in your community.
As important as nonprofit organizations and charities are, sometimes the changes that need to happen are on a political level. If you’re eligible, be registered to vote and register more people. On election day, help people get to the polls. After the election, hold those elected officials accountable. Make phone calls and write letters. Attend town hall meetings and rallies.
If you don’t like what’s going on in politics, run for office. Start at the local level. Several years ago, I was elected an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in DC. I am proud of the work I did during my term to better my community. There are all kinds of positions in every city, town, county, and state. Some don’t pay much, and some don’t pay at all, but you can make a difference—especially if you are serving as an openly LGBTQ person. Representation matters on every level.
Maybe social issues and politics don’t appeal to you. There are still so many things you can do! Seek out organizations, projects, and events that appeal to your interests. There are LGBTQ sports leagues, entertainment events, and more which seek participants and volunteers every month of the year.
In DC, this includes Reel Affirmations monthly LGBTQ film screenings and annual festival, the OutWrite LGBTQ literary festival, and The Ask Rayceen Show, which I host every first Wednesday from March through November. Team Rayceen helps with all of these events and we are always looking to connect with photographers, DJs, performers, announcers, graphic designers, greeters, and volunteers for an array of tasks, big and small. All you have to do is contact us and let us know what you want to do.
Whatever your talents or abilities are, someone can use your help. Painting, cooking, cleaning, sorting, stacking, or packing—even if it’s just for an hour, you can make a difference. You might not even have to leave your home. Many organizations need help with social media, their websites, and various technological help, which can be done remotely.
If you have had bad experiences with organizations, consider starting your own. Think outside of the box. Take a cue from the Ballroom community, who started Houses to teach people how to walk the runway, and start a finishing school to teach LGBTQ people how to walk into job interviews. If you’re a visual artist, consider offering free classes. Maybe you can simply make yourself available to sit and listen to someone who needs to talk. Whatever it is that you do best, you can use it to help your community.
For those who have busy schedules, consider donating money. Maybe you can get a tax write-off. Every little bit helps, particularly to small organizations and those who do not have 501(c)(3) status. Most of us could use a benefactor or a sponsor! If you have some money to spare, someone in the LGBTQ community can put it to good use.
As the leaves start to turn color, the sun goes down earlier, and the temperature is too cool to be scantily clad, don’t think of Pride season as being over. There is work to do and there is still fun to be had! Be active all year and have pride in your community every day.
Rayceen Pendarvis is an emcee, community advocate, social media personality, and host of The Ask Rayceen Show, a free monthly variety program and community festival in Washington, DC. For more information about Rayceen Pendarvis, Team Rayceen, and The Ask Rayceen Show, please visit AskRayceen.com.