What is Persad Center Even Thinking Regarding Pridefest in Pittsburgh?

Persad is once again making puzzling choices about their community organization relationships and their ongoing attachment with the Delta Foundation.  This year, that manifests itself by their decision to sponsor EQT Pride (Pittsburgh’s traditional Pridefest), but not invest in People’s Pride 2K19.

I receive this email blast newsletter type message the other day

Hello Friend,

Thank you for being a part of the Persad family! 

The Pride countdown is on! In just two weeks, we’ll be marching through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh sharing our pride as an organization and our pride in who we are.

We at Persad Center invite you to join us as we show Pittsburgh the POWER OF PERSAD PURPLE. We’ll meet on the Blvd. of the Allies on June 9 at 11:45 am, and we’ll end on Liberty Avenue around 2:30 pm. We’ll send out the exact location once we receive the official line-up.

Register to join us by clicking here!

We will have free PURPLE t-shirts for the first 100 people who sign up to march. If you’d like to offset the cost of one of these shirts (t-shirts cost $8.50 per shirt), we will accept donations with registration.
Register
We are #HereForYou, from cradle to SAGE.

We hope to see you in all your fabulous Pride gear on June 9! 

Thank you, 

Marty Healey, Board President
Carlos Torres, Interim Executive Director
Jay Yoder, Director of Development

I had heard/read rumors that Persad was not playing fair (or equitably?) with People’s Pride, so I emailed Carlos Torres and Jay with a direct question about their investments in both Prides.  Asking for transparency, information, and accountability from the organization leaders seemed the best way to cut through the rumors.

Carlos responded to me without answering my question. He said they “made a mistake” that they regret, he can’t discuss the specifics, and they remain committed to all forms of Pride celebrations. That’s the quintessential non-answer. I have no clue what mistake they made or how they plan to commit to all forms of Pride celebrations.

I should just let it go and not worry about it, but that’s not me. There are dynamics of racial justice, bias, institutional oppression, and historical trauma as well as the fact that Persad has a core mission; it is up to all of us to make sure they are honoring that mission.


The board of directors discussed the relationship between Healey and Welsh prior to their vote to name Welsh as a co-director as Healey led the board. Healey said he sees their relationship as another benefit.

“We met on the board and, through philanthropic work, we developed a relationship. If anything, it helps the organization. We motivate each other. Our relationship is key in moving the organization forward,” Healey said.


Persad has a 1/4 page ad in the EQT Prideguide and is investing in 100 t-shirts that total $850. Details on the Prideguide sponsorship fees are not public, but I found a 2011 listing valuing that ad at $300 for the nonprofit rate. The 2019 information does tell us that one walking contingent in the EQT Parade is $20-60 and one 10×10 display at the festival is $300-650. These are nonprofit rates.

So at the bare minimum Persad has invested $1500-1860 in the EQT Pride. Even if they received in-kind donations to offset the expense, it is still an investment on the books and off. My suspicion is that Persad has at least two tables because they need the room. So more likely at least $1800-2510. Plus staff time and expenses, materials, supplies, equipment, mileage reimbursements, etc. Let’s just work with $2,000 for argument’s sake.

It would seem fair for Persad to invest $2,000 in the People’s Pride as well. It would be equitable for them to make a bigger investment because EQT Pride has corporate backing whereas Peoples Pride is self-funded. So I’d personally be more comfortable with Persad doing their EQT thing at the $2000 approximate level AND investing $4000 in People’s Pride for ads, booths, general needs, etc.  EQT Pride doesn’t need $2,000, but they need Persad’s credibility and legitimacy. People’s Pride needs the money, but not the institutional credibility or legitimacy.

If Persad feels that they should not be physically present at People’s Pride for whatever reason, they can still make an investment, right?

Persad can serve the LGBTQ community of Western Pennsylvania by doing both. That’s consistent with their mission.

So what is this mistake? How did it come about? How do you figure things out with EQT Pride and not People’s Pride? What about Pittsburgh Black Pride? Persad generally hosts and staffs Trans Pride Pittsburgh every year.

Take a step back to the fall when we learned that Persad’s newest ED was suddenly no longer employed, that the Board voted to install a member of the Delta Foundation as their Board President, and that this person, (Marty Healey) was in a long-term relationship with the Board treasurer (Gene Welsh) who was also one of the acting co-chairs of Persad after the ED left. That’s a hell of a lot of conflicts of interest. Then factor in that the Persad 2nd-in-command, Sarah Rosso, left Persad suddenly to become the ED of Dr. Stacy Lane’s foundation which was just established a year ago or so. Dr. Stacy Lane is on the board of the Delta Foundation, too. Sarah left abruptly which is a great professional no-no and a disappointment to the clients who were relying on her to stabilize a very shaky ship.

From PublicSource

Healey sees his involvement in both nonprofits as an asset.

“It’s where you want to be: If you’re in the room and talking to people, you’re helping move it in the best way. It’s our hearts that bring us in the rooms together,” he said.

Healey said he believes the connections he’s made to different leaders through his work with the Delta Foundation allows him to “to pick up the phone and get financial and community support” for PERSAD. He doesn’t believe working in a silo is beneficial and hopes to see collaboration between the organizations.

The board of directors discussed the relationship between Healey and Welsh prior to their vote to name Welsh as a co-director as Healey led the board. Healey said he sees their relationship as another benefit.

“We met on the board and, through philanthropic work, we developed a relationship. If anything, it helps the organization. We motivate each other. Our relationship is key in moving the organization forward,” Healey said.

Then Carlos Torres is appointed interim ED. He has a good reputation, he’s a Latinx gay man, he’s certainly experienced and has some familiarity with Pittsburgh. Staff seem to like him. I haven’t met him, but people I respect say very positive things about his leadership skills.

The question is whether he can manage the Board and address these glaring conflicts of interest or if the Board will micro-manage him. For more background on my Persad coverage, read these posts.

Healey suggests that the relationship between a Board President and Board Treasurer/former acting director AND the relationships he has with Persad and Delta will be good for everyone. How is that working out for us?

What To Do Now

It is our collective responsibility to hold all of these organizations accountable for their decisions and the impact of those decisions. White cis gay men and lesbians must shoulder the yeoman’s share of this burden and push back at Persad for answers about their relationships with People’s Pride, Delta, EQT Pride, etc. I’m sorry, Carlos, but Persad lost the option of asking us to trust them when this debacle started in November.

So here’s what I suggest

First, make a donation to the People’s Pride. Donate $8.50 if you can, the amount Persad is asking the community to give them to offset their costs to be in the EQT parade. Donate more if you can. We donated $200 from this blog and our projects; I’m going to make a personal donation right now.  They need to raise $7,000 to meet their goal. You can chip away at that as part of your response to these events.

Second, contact Persad and ask for clarification. I urge polite insistence. It is important they hear from the community and soon. Thousands of vulnerable LGBTQ folx, including youth and elders rely on Persad to be one of the good guys.

This is not the first time we’ve asked Persad to engage the community over their Board decisions

When asked if the center would consider a meeting to discuss the no-show policy and Albrecht’s departure, [Charity] Imbrie said no.

They discussed the conflict of interest of appointing Marty Healey amongst themselves, but opted not to discuss these matters with us, the community back then. Why should we expect different responses now? We must require them.


Full disclosure – I have been a clinical patient at Persad Center for five years; I am there every single week, year round plus twice occasionally for my psychiatrist appointments.

My public art project, #AMPLIFY, is fiscally sponsored by Persad Center through the end of 2019. I hope renewal is not contingent upon my refraining from criticism, but who knows. We’ve been fiscally sponsored for three years now. If they punish us and the project, that’s on them.

I believe in Persad. I respect their history and their growth. But I can’t say I *trust* Persad’s leadership, especially the Board, because of decisions they’ve made over the past few years. It is hard not to trust the organization providing your mental health services, but that would be the case if I were at AHN or UPMC providers, as well.

I have to go to Persad today for my appointment. I’m so uncomfortable there since the new Delta relationship that I sit in my car until 5 minutes before the appointment, check-in, and sit with my head buried in my phone to avoid any staff. Last week was the first time I felt comfortable going in early, having a pop from the machine, chatting with other people, etc Now that’s reset to full discomfort level. But if I don’t take risks to ask important questions, how can I ask you to do that same?

 

Persad People's Pride Pittsburgh
Click image to donate $8.50 right now.