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    Oakland Celebrates Pride Week and LGBTQ Community Center’s Successful First Year

    By Kin Folkz–

    Oakland, California, finally has its own much-needed and long-awaited LGBTQ Center.

    Although public acceptance of LGBTQ people and culture has increased over the years, a recent California Department of Justice report shows that our state has experienced an 11% increase in hate crimes since 2015. The top targets of hate are African Americans and gay men. At the local level, the California Attorney General’s Office found a 46% rise in reported hate crimes between 2016 and 2017 in Alameda County. Additionally, the Polaris Project reports that nearly 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, in comparison to 7% of the general population.

    Before the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center opened last year, Oakland was the only major city in the state without an LGBTQ community center. The Center’s Executive Director and Co-founder Joe Hawkins told me for the San Francisco Bay Times: “When we first opened last year, the center consisted of one small office, shared by myself and the other Co-founder, now board president, Jeff Meyers.”

    The two co-founders are the first African Americans to found an all-inclusive, multi-ethnic and intergenerational LGBTQ community center in California.

    In less than a year, the two Co-founders, with the support of their inaugural board of directors, and donations from the community, managed to take over the entire office space. The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center is now a sublandlord leasing to tenants who serve the Oakland LGBTQ community.

    Almost 3000 people have visited the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center since it opened. It has become the hub of LGBTQ wellness support and hosts over 30 peer support groups and community building activities. The Oakland LGBTQ Center expanded its offerings by partnering with Spectrum Queer Media (sQm), the creative arts consulting organization that I founded. I additionally joined the Oakland LGBTQ Center as its Healing Arts + Cultural Programs Director.

    The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center’s approach to community service earnestly advocates for immediate access to wellness programs for our community—especially those most disenfranchised. Their actions align with sQm’s best practices.

    The offerings of sQm donated to the center include the internationally known Oakland Queer and Trans Open Mic, QTPOC Sunday Matinee, The Spectrum LGBTQ+ Digital Storytelling Project, The Oakland Pride Fun Run and The Annual Oakland People’s Pride Creative Arts + LGBTQ Film Fest. I have also founded an LGBTQ restorative justice approach at the Center that includes workshops.

    The collaboration, Hawkins said, “has allowed us to co-create unique programming like Racism Under the Rainbow, the Center’s anti-racism workshop series.”

    Hawkins continued, “We have also created substantive partnerships with other organizations, including the Berkeley-based Pacific Center, which facilitates a weekly ‘Older & Out’ therapeutic support group for LGBTQ elders 60+ every Friday. We are currently partnered with Merritt College in a new pilot program that offers college-level introductory computer science classes on-site here at the Center.”

    The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center’s one-year anniversary will unfold on Friday, September 7, at 5:30 pm at its headquarters on 3207 Lakeshore Ave. The Center’s anniversary celebration is being honored as part of the 8-day 7th Annual REVOLVE Oakland Pride Creative Arts and Film Fest founded and curated by sQm.

    The fest, which is energized by a volunteer coalition and welcomes all LGBTQ community members and allies, includes the Oakland Pride 5k Fun Run, Walk + Roll, 3 nights of film at the Piedmont Theater and Grand Lake Theater, book readings and signings, The Queer Bay Cruise, The Oakland LGBTQ Center 1st Anniversary Party and Comedy show, Be Steadwell and Friends in Concert, and the 1st Vogue Ball in the Park with the Legendary Father George Mizrahi and Father Ryan Energi. The fest culminates with their co-curation of the Community stage at the Oakland Pride Festival.

    The REVOLVE Oakland Pride Creative Arts and Film Fest has chosen to use its sponsorship appeal to help raise funds for The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center. To become a sponsor and to secure your free and low-cost tickets, visit the websites for sQm (http://www.spectrumqueermedia.com/) and the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center (https://www.oaklandlgbtqcenter.org/).

    Kin Folkz is the Founder and Executive Director of Spectrum Queer Media (http://www.spectrumqueermedia.com/), an Oakland-based national LGBTQ rights advocacy organization.

    Joe Hawkins is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center.