Soiree celebratesLGBT center's 12th year

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Wednesday April 9, 2014
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More than a thousand people, some dressed to the nines, others looking like they were attending a 1950s poetry reading in North Beach, came to wish the San Francisco LGBT Community Center a happy 12th birthday at the center's annual Soiree party last weekend.

Keeping with the party's tribute to the Beat Generation, people were encouraged to celebrate the era when rebellious poets like Jack Kerouac and openly gay Allen Ginsburg descended on San Francisco. More than a decade before the Compton Cafeteria and Stonewall riots, Kerouac, Ginsburg and many others kicked open the first doors of free expression.

The center certainly lived up to the LGBT acronym at the April 5 party: there appeared to be a good mix of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people in attendance. Older and younger people, along with those of various racial and cultural backgrounds, were there to celebrate what the center meant to them.

There was good food and drink aplenty as the incomparable Veronica Klaus took to the stage and sang a few jazz/pop standards.

Openly gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) then took to the stage and handed Rebecca Rolfe, the center's executive director, an official state proclamation. "As we gather tonight to offer a jazz tribute to the Beat Generation, we offer our thanks to the staff, volunteers and supporters who make the center possible," read the proclamation, in part.

"The center is an open and welcoming place and will continue to be that with your support," Rolfe said in her remarks to the crowd before introducing gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who was applauded as he stepped up to the microphone.

"Back in 1997 when I first got involved there were some who questioned whether or not we needed a community center because we had come so far as a community," said Wiener, who used to serve on the center's board before he was a supervisor. "But we know that we have an enormous amount of work we have to do as a community. HIV is not over. Our youth and our seniors have enormous challenges around housing and other needs. This community center is more important now than ever."

Rolfe introduced Angel VanStark, 21, the center's newest board member.

"I'm blown away by how many people are supporting the center," VanStark said. "Two and a half years ago I arrived in the city homeless because of who I am. All I had was a backpack full of clothes and 67 cents. The center has allowed me to get my job, my apartment that I got, and I'm looking to continue my education. I joined the board because I want to give back. This means a lot to me. This is such an amazing city, and you're an amazing group of people."

The Soiree continued until midnight, spilling out onto the City View's courtyard, which overlooked Yerba Buena Park, four stories below. Proceeds from ticket sales and from a silent auction will go toward the center's community programs. The center was expected to raise at least $150,000 from the event, according to earlier projections by staff.


For more photos of Soiree, see Shooting Stars in BARtab.