Over the past five months, local volunteer-led LGBTQ youth organizations, Viêt Rainbow of Orange County (VROC) and Youth of YETA (Youth Empowered to Act) have called on the LGBT Center OC to engage in critical, intentional dialogue with community members around the Center’s decision to march with armed and uniformed law enforcement officers at the 2019 OC Pride Parade.
We acknowledge the LGBT Center’s public apology and how they have committed to taking some steps to respond to the concerns that youth and community members have raised regarding their decisions during Pride and their subsequent actions. But the Center still misses in critically responding to how their decisions during the Pride Parade undermined and dismissed the deep history of police brutality against LGBTQ people of color, and still misses in responding to the primary issue that Youth of YETA and VROC were trying to uplift – that the Center’s executive leadership disregarded community input in their decision-making. In their October 9 press release, the Center executive leadership failed to acknowledge the months of work that youth and community members from groups like Youth of YETA and VROC did to address and repair the harm that the Center’s actions did to youth and LGBTQ people of color in the county.
At VietRISE, we have been reached out to by the Center’s Executive Director to have a conversation between our organizations, but this conversation has still not been had, and it was not clear that the intention of the conversation was to resolve these concerns. We are disappointed that the Center released a statement before we have had honest discussions for the purpose that they state below. The press release they published on October 9 reads,
The Center’s Executive Director has reached out to the Executive Directors of Resilience OC and VietRise to reinforce our organization’s commitment to serving the LGBTQ immigrant community as well as our commitment to the partnerships we share with these organizations. Collaborations such as those shared by our three organizations are making positive change in Orange County. That change wouldn’t be possible without organizations like Resilience OC and VietRise leading the way. We remain inspired by their work and proud of our partnerships.
Transparency, intentional and honest communication is key to building genuine partnerships between organizations like ours that are committed to defending the human rights and dignity of our communities. Moving forward, we urge the LGBT Center to uplift the work that youth and community members of color have had to do to help inform them of the impact of their decisions, not continue to ignore them. We urge the Center to not only host their own community round table, but to finally accept the invitations extended to them by groups who have created community-led spaces for dialogue and healing, such as the Youth of YETA and VROC. We will continue to uplift the work that Youth of YETA and VROC do and hope the Center takes concrete steps to uplift and work with LGBTQ youth and people of color, not dismiss them, so that we can continue to truly build toward a more transformative, equitable county.