Beaumont Pride folds, looks to community for help

Beaumont Pride 2016 (Facebook.com)

Beaumont’s very own Pride festival started in 2014, but the non-profit dissolved last year due to the annual financial burden, according to former volunteer chair Jacqueline Hays.

However, Hays believes that others in the community will step forward to keep Beaumont Pride going.

“I … am expecting to see some movement in April because of Lamar Pride month,” she said. “We’re sure the community will take it over.” She mentioned the LGBT group in Orange as a possibility.

Hays is also the president of Beaumont PFLAG.

Jacqueline Hays helped found Beaumont Pride in 2014 along with Shawn Hare, Jennifer Daniel and Chance Henson.

About 2,500 people attended the first Pride festival, Hays said, but this grew to nearly 4,000 attendees in June 2016.

“Pride operated entirely on community donations and volunteer labor,” Hays wrote in an email. “Each year, the costs of the event exceeded the amount of donations collected, leaving the board members to cover the organization’s financial obligations.

“After three years of covering the deficit from their personal incomes, it was found that the members of the board could no longer afford to take on the annual financial burdens of the organization.”

Several community members have expressed interested in continuing Beaumont Pride, Hays said.

“At this time, however, it is unclear when they will announce their plans to produce the event,” she said.

Several past Pride attendees spoke with The Examiner about what the organization means to them and their hopes for the festival to continue.

“It’s a chance to show Beaumont how much our community is supported, how close many of us are, raising funds for and awareness of our local advocacy groups like PFLAG, HRC and Legacy,” said Amanda Turner, previous attendee and 2016 debutante.

“It would be a great loss to Beaumont, not just the LGBT community, if it didn’t survive.”

Olivia Busceme has attended and helped organize Beaumont Pride every year. Even if an official Beaumont Pride doesn’t happen this year, Busceme believes some festivities will still happen this summer.

“There are still supportive businesses and organizations in town. The Publicity will surely continue hosting their annual White Party and weekly drag shows, PFLAG will continue hosting support group meetings, and human beings will continue showing love even when faced with criticism and prejudice,” she said.

“While the Beaumont Pride walk and festival has been extremely impactful in our community, I don’t think it will be the end of the world if the festivities get changed up a bit.”

“Small towns like Beaumont need this sort of celebration to increase visibility and awareness of our issues to the city at large,” said Paul Martin, former Pride volunteer. “It would be absolutely wonderful to see another organization pick up the torch.”

“I think it would be a devastating blow to not just the people of Beaumont, but any of the bands, performers, venue owners, and people who travel to experience pride. A lot of people have worked very hard for this,” said Tack Somers, past Pride attendee and slam poet.

“I know that no matter what the outcome, the people of the Beaumont community … are strong and resilient. I would hope to see such a wonderful event continue, but pride will never be gone. We may not have a festival, but pride is in our hearts.”

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