The Gabber Newspaper‘s August 31 Letters to the Editor.
Beaches Smoking Ban
I am against smoking as a health issue being a former smoker and lung cancer survivor. The issue here is disposal of cigarettes as trash, not their use, I believe. All trash should not be discarded on a public beach.
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August 31 Letters to the Editor from Councilmember Ray
I was prepared to sit in the mayor’s seat for the Aug. 15 City Council meeting. I was not prepared for the unfounded multiple personal attacks on my character regarding ownership of Gulfport Pride.
Although it was within my rights to gavel personal attacks, during public comment, toward a specific councilmember and not council, I allowed them to speak. After sitting through almost 20 minutes of personal attacks, I succumbed and got into a heated explanation.
For that, I apologize.
I think our community deserves to hear the full story, to how we all got here. We began Gulfport Pride in 2020, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall as the “Friends of Dorothy March and Pride Flag Raising.” We would follow that by an event that May, called “Prelude to Pride,” in the library parking lot. But then everything went dark due to COVID.
After COVID restrictions were lifted, I requested from Council the use of the Beach Boulevard pads for Pride Festival 2021, which did not require an application due to no street closures or city property. The event was a big success, and we were able to donate $1,587.62 to the LGBTQ Resource Center, which was the beneficiary that year. The event organizer, SIK Promotions, was paid the same amount to cover hundreds of hours of work involved in planning and executing the entire event.
For future events, especially those with a street closure, the City told us it would require a full application to be submitted to be approved by Council. Although the event coordinator runs her own 501(c)(3) here in Gulfport, and there are dozens of other nonprofits we could have chosen as beneficiaries, we decided to offer that opportunity again to the LGBTQ Resource Center the opportunity, so they signed the forms required by the City.
Meanwhile, we had already started working on making Gulfport Florida Pride an officially designated 501(c)(3) charity.
That was the goal all along, so we could do more to raise funds — not only for the Resource Center, but other LGBTQ nonprofits.
The 2022 and 2023 festivals were even more successful, due to the work of Suzie King (SIK Promotions), Ester Venouziou (LocalShops1), and me. We donated $6,201.91 to the Resource Center in 2022, and $7,574.02 in 2023. From the beginning, five years ago when we started Gulfport Pride, our vision was to expand from a single event (the festival), and donate not just to a single entity, but have several events throughout the year and support various organizations that serve the LGBTQ community.
Following the success of the 2023 festival, we procured our not-for-profit status and filed the application for Gulfport Pride Festival under the new organization, with the same organizers who managed the event since the beginning.
On July 13, I met with the Resource Center’s president and informed them we would not be using their 501(c)(3) status for the event. Instead, we’d fulfilled our goal of having our own. I was hopeful that any questions and future collaboration could be resolved during the meeting where it was once again iterated that the Resource Center had been the beneficiary in the past three years — not the event organizer or “owner.”
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Sadly, the meeting devolved to personal attacks, and the discussion ended with that.
As community leaders, we should have discussed the situation and came up with a resolution, instead of creating a public spectacle during a city council meeting.
Pride gets celebrated year-round, and particularly the whole month of June. It offers a wealth of new possibilities for fundraising events. As former Councilmember and GMC President Barbara Banno stated, we in the LGBTQ+ community have come under persecution under waves of anti LGBTQ+ laws. We need to band together, along with our allies, and not fall victim to the infighting that was part of the reasoning for these bills in the first place. We, as Gulfport Pride Florida Inc., continue to support and assist the Resource Center, along with other organizations that support our community. —Paul Ray (Ward III), Gulfport
Read the August 24 letters to the editor
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