The LGBT Center OC released a press release outlining their plan to address the protest from impacted community and allied community organizations. The press release included the following:
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.
It was our intent to open a line of communication with the LGBT Center OC to listen to their approach in addressing the valid concerns brought up by youth of color from YETA (Youth Empowered To Act) and VROC (Viet Rainbow of Orange County) around the Center’s unilateral and uninformed decision to have uniformed and armed police officers march with the Center in the OC Pride parade.
While we have valued our relationship with Center OC staff in the past, we do not agree with being used as a token to validate the Center’s trust with the community. We initiated our communication with the LGBT Center OC’s Executive Director by stating that we are meeting in good faith to hear out their position, but we are here to support the LGBTQ youth of color who have brought up concerns and we remain committed to taking direction and leadership from them. While we encourage the Center to take steps to address community concerns, we believe that it is imperative that they do so by engaging in solutions with LGBTQ youth of color. The Center needs to recognize that all attempts made by LGBTQ youth of color to share their concerns were met with deafening silence by the Center and their leadership.
Youth from YETA have addressed a multitude of concerns to the Center OC, here is an excerpt of an open letter they wrote:
It is for all these reasons we view the Center OC’s response to criticism, raised in opposition to the inclusion of armed police officers in the Center OC’s Pride Parade contingent, as an attack. A week before the Pride parade, we were informed that the Center had decided to invite armed police officers to march alongside LGBT Center staff, community members, and volunteers. Community members immediately began to raise concerns when the decision was announced. The community reached out to the Center via social media, only to have their comments deleted and their social media accounts blocked. The Center OC’s active censorship of criticism demonstrates what little value the Center OC’s leadership places in the community they claim to serve. Many individuals in YETA felt betrayed, and the decision created a disconnect between YETA and the the Center OC. YETA prides itself on being a coalition of LGBTQ and allied youth leaders working to create a safe, supportive, and intersectional space in order to engage in advocacy and social justice. This group fostered community change, but given the Center’s actions, it is difficult to believe that our work is supported by the Center OC.
As Resilience Orange County, we will continue to support youth and will stand by them in taking action to build spaces that are transformational and that have community voice at the center of decisions.