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    33 Years of LYRIC Pride – Annual Open House Will Be Virtual for 2021

    By Araceli Nuñez Lee–

    It all started with a sandwich. In 1988 over a lunch near San Francisco’s Civic Center, Donna Keiko Ozawa and B. Dana Kivel had a vision of building a world that honors, respects, and appreciates LGBTQQ+ youth and their contributions. 33 years later, that vision is a tangible reality: LYRIC (www.lyric.org), known to San Franciscans for its “Purple House” but with a philosophy, mission, and impact far beyond its Castro District home turf. Over three days, June 2, 3 & 4 each evening from 6 pm–7 pm, the LYRIC vision of diversity, equity, and inclusion will be celebrated in the esteemed nonprofit’s annual open house, which this year will be virtual.

    “Little did we know that our lunch at Quincy’s, a beloved spot in the heart of the Civic Center, would result in the creation of LYRIC,” recalls Ozawa and Kivel for the San Francisco Bay Times. “But, over three decades later, here we are, still expanding.”

    Ozawa and Kivel will kick off the Pride Open House with a candid discussion about the lessons learned since that visionary lunch and their hopes for the future. Following on June 3, the LYRIC Virtual Open House will feature a youth talent show with the creative brilliance of LYRIC participants on full display as they perform pieces that showcase the way in which they embody Pride at a time when social distancing has affected the way we all interact with the community. 

    The Open House will close out June 4 with a Lavender Drag Show Extravaganza with the Rice Rockettes! The event will feature a youth-only space to learn about the art of drag before the Rice Rocketts will put on a fabulous youth-friendly drag show at 6 pm hosted by Buka Kay! Buka is LYRIC’s own Board member, Jack Choi. All of these events are open to the public and tickets are free.

    “Since the beginning of the pandemic, LYRIC has provided a stable form of income and routine for my everyday life,” said a LYRIC youth participant. “Both have been essential to surviving quarantine with chronic illness and have made sure that I don’t lose too much connection with the outside world.”

    “During the pandemic, LYRIC was able to keep its virtual doors open to the city’s most vulnerable youth,” says Toni Newman, Interim Executive Director for LYRIC. She notes that 88% of LYRIC’s participants are low-income, with 75% being youth of color and 37% homeless or unstably housed.

    Newman adds, “This past year brought new challenges of unemployment, remote learning, and further isolation for participants.  Since the start of the pandemic, youth have reported elevated levels of emotional violence and family rejection within their homes and are at greater risk of violence and self-harm. “

    While LYRIC still operates remotely, as we move into a more hopeful spring and summer, LYRIC has expanded in-person resource hours to 12 pm–5 pm every Thursday and Friday to serve additional youth who come through our doors looking for resources and community. Participants can access a hot meal, toiletries, and safe sex supplies and may connect with staff and peers on the LYRIC back deck.

    Perhaps another LYRIC youth participant put it best: “LYRIC has always been a constant resource in my life for the past couple of years. Even during a pandemic, I can rely on the support from staff and programs to help me in accessing vital resources. It’s one of the few spaces where I feel seen and cared for.”

    Until we can gather again at our landmark “Purple House” in the Castro in large numbers, we hope to see you online this year at LYRIC’s Open House. For more information: https://lyric.org/open-house/

    Araceli Nuñez Lee is the Communications Associate at LYRIC.

    Published on May 20, 2021