Dec 15, 2022 - News

Tampa Pride under pressure to diversify leadership

Illustration of the stripes of the Pride flag falling onto the ground.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Tampa Pride may be at a tipping point.

What's happening: The LGBTQ nonprofit is under growing pressure from young community members to diversify its leadership and address concerns about financial transparency following the controversial exit of a board member earlier this month.

Why it matters: The future of Tampa Pride as the face of the city's LGBTQ community is at stake.

  • Several community members β€” many of whom are transgender and people of color β€” told leadership this week that they would take organizing into their own hands if they didn't see change soon.

The big picture: It's not a good time for Tampa's queer community to be divided.

Driving the news: The organization saw a large turnout at its monthly meeting on Tuesday night, a week after executive board member Mark Bias stepped down following backlash for comments he made on social media.

On representation: Several community members criticized the board, which is made up of cisgender white men mostly, for not being welcoming to young, trans people of color.

  • When asked how the board plans to diversify, Deb Duko, who took Bias' seat as secretary, turned to the crowd Tuesday and said, "I am a woman and I am half American Indian." Mark Early, vice president of operations, added that he is Irish.
  • Early and Tampa Pride founder and president Carrie West argued on Tuesday that they don't want to bring on new board members they've never met before in the name of diversity.
  • To bring more people onto the board, they would need to see more participation in meetings and more people stepping up to volunteer at events, West and Early said.

On transparency: Some community members also shared concerns about how the board conducts business, with most decisions made at private meetings β€” though the organization also holds monthly public meetings.

  • Early said the board is looking into adding a Zoom component to make meetings more accessible.

On finances: In questions raised about the board's financial decisions, it was said that West took about 20% of the group's funds last year as a paycheck.

  • West said the nonprofit earned "platinum transparency" status on Guidestar this year, and that he has nothing to hide.
  • Early promised that board members would pay more attention to Tampa Pride's finances from now on.

What's ahead: Early said the board plans to mentor young leaders so they can eventually become members, but he did not give further details on Tuesday

  • The board's at-large seat will open up in July.

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