SJ Pride rebrands itself
by Heather Cassell
It's a new day for San Jose Pride as the organization changes its name to Silicon Valley Pride for a more inclusive South Bay focus.
There hasn't been a big splashy affair to roll out the rebranding of the South Bay's Pride festival, but there are big changes afoot within the organization.
The Gay Pride Celebration Committee of San Jose Inc., commonly known as San Jose Pride, officially filed its legal name change to Silicon Valley Pride with the Santa Clara County Registrar's Office in January, according to the registrar's office.
A new board has been actively engaged in developing the new branding of Silicon Valley Pride, while planning events and gearing up for the 39th annual celebration.
This year's festival will take place Sunday, August 17 at Discovery Meadow in San Jose, the same venue as previous festivals. A theme for this year has not yet been selected.
"We want to take a different direction and a new approach and get more community involvement and more community input," said interim Pride board President Thaddeus Campbell, a 58-year-old gay man who is serving his first year on the board. "We want to be more inclusive of the other cities around San Jose. We have to reach out and bring in the cities that surround us.
"We don't all live and play exclusively in San Jose," Campbell added.
There was an air of excitement around the table at the Billy De Frank LGBT Center as six of the seven new Silicon Valley Pride board members and several community members deftly maneuvered through a business meeting in early April.
The board has been meeting weekly since the beginning of the year to fill positions and ramp up and revive the South Bay's Pride festival.
As in recent years, August's festival will be a one-day event. There hasn't been a Pride parade in San Jose since 2009.
The rebranding effort is also seen as a fresh start by the organization.
Former San Jose Pride board President Nathan Svoboda, who took over leadership of the organization in 2011 and termed out October 31, 2013, had a rocky tenure as the group dealt with fallout from the economic crisis, high board turnover, and accusations of weak leadership. A lack of sponsor support contributed to the organization's financial troubles, along with declining attendance at the summer festival.
Svoboda is now the president of the newly formed Project More Foundation, which is in the process of acquiring its nonprofit status. When the Bay Area Reporter asked what the deficit was for Silicon Valley Pride, he estimated that he left it around $40,000 in debt.
"I'm not quite sure of the exact number," said Svoboda, who wasn't surprised when the B.A.R. mentioned that it was estimated to be more around $60,000, according to Campbell's figures.
At the time of his departure from the board Gary Walker, the longtime festival director of San Jose Pride, "was to provide the financial information of the festival ticket sales, but I never had the opportunity to see the final report." Svoboda said.
Walker estimated the deficit for Pride was around $52,000 as of 2013 due to rolling debt from 2012, but his report didn't include expenditures for fundraising events leading up to San Jose Pride, he said, when he responded to the B.A.R.'s request for comment April 22.
The South Bay's Pride organization has functioned under a deficit for several years. In spite of gaining a surplus in 2011, the organization slipped back into debt the following years.
The board recently approved a projected budget of $75,000 to $90,000 to produce this year's festival, Campbell said in an April 15 email.
That's a significant difference from the organization's total expenses in 2012, which were $210,552 and resulted in a deficit of $27,565, according to Pride's 990 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, the most recent on file.
The board hasn't selected a festival director yet.
Walker did not respond to requests for additional comment by press time.
Energized by Pride
The new board faces digging itself out of that roughly $60,000 debt, said Campbell, but the members are engaged as they look toward the future.
The discussion around the table at San Jose's LGBT center at the April 3 meeting became more excited as the men discussed future fundraising events throughout Silicon Valley in an attempt to unite the South Bay. They also discussed outreach to the Asian Pacific Islander, Latino, leather, and queer women's communities to fill the four open seats on the board.
The new spirit of Pride was evident whenever a community member poked their head into the room. The meeting stopped and they were immediately welcomed to sit at the table. Many of the community members who stayed left the room with assignments to plan upcoming events.
"We are working more closely with the community, where the community will actually have a stronger presence in driving [Silicon Valley Pride]," said Campbell. "What better way to do that than go out and get the community involved?"
Being in the technology hub, the Pride board is working on developing an app that will be filled with local LGBT and LGBT-friendly businesses as well as events hosted by Silicon Valley Pride and other community organizations.
Silicon Valley Pride is also undergoing an attitude adjustment. In the past, South Bay LGBT business owners and Pride board members have complained about competing with San Francisco Pride, but Campbell believes that's the wrong approach.
"I think therein lies the problem where people want to compete," he said. "It should not be viewed as a competition it should be viewed as a complement to it or it should be viewed as another wonderful event that the community as a whole can take advantage of."
Campbell believes that Silicon Valley's LGBT community should embrace who they are and take pride.
"People should say, 'Yes that is Silicon Valley Pride.' If you look at Silicon Valley in and of itself, it's a very unique place."
Speaking with the B.A.R. following the meeting, those involved with Silicon Valley Pride said that they were excited about the new direction in which the organization is headed.
Andre Mathurin, a former San Jose Pride board member who recently returned to the board, said he came back because of the internal changes he saw happening and the excitement being generated.
Ray Mueller is a former Pride board member who recently returned to the organization as a contractor working on marketing and sponsorship, Campbell said.
"I'm pleased and proud to be able to do something that I love for an organization that I truly believe in," said Mueller, a gay man in his late 40s who has lived in the South Bay with his partner of 20 years for nearly five years.
Mueller said that he is being compensated on a percentage scale for the sponsorships he brings in starting at 10 percent. Campbell confirmed that Mueller's compensation was "based on a complex formula."
"It's a positive change," said Mueller, who sees the organization's name change as "extremely exciting." He added that he's even more confident that the board's professional business approach will help the organization "be able to flourish and move forward."
The Silicon Valley Pride board meets every Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Billy De Frank LGBT Community Center, 938 The Alameda. For more information, visit www.svpride.com.