CPACpride

CPAC event on June 23 brings Pride Month to Cloverdale

On June 23, the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center is hosting its inaugural event in honor of Pride Month.

As part of CPAC’s “Telling the Story” event series, “Pride: LGBT Life in Sonoma County” will showcase a host of panelists and programming surrounding what it looks like to be a member of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and/or queer) community in Sonoma County.

“For the LGBT, Cloverdale, unlike most of Sonoma County, has never had a pride event,” said Jack Fitzsimmons, who led the organization process for the event and will be moderating the panels. “And since it is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, we thought it was a good way to honor it. There are also approximately 47,000 to 50,000 LGBT people in Sonoma County, so it’s not an insignificant number of people, so we thought it was important to have these stories told.”

“Telling the Story” events aim to do just that — educate people through storytelling.

“Storytelling is the oldest form of performance art,” Fitzsimmons said. “We felt to address the needs of our audience, we needed to include storytelling in our programming in addition to traditional theatrical performance.”

This will be the third event of its kind, with the first two focusing in on quilting and democracy.

The first of two panels will present a narrative arc of LGBTQ life from youth to elderhood. The panelists include Maxwell Anderson, an outreach coordinator from Positive Images, an organization that provides support and advocacy to Sonoma County youth; Zahyra Garcia, an advocate from North Bay LGBTQI Families; and Gay (Buz) Hermes, a senior advocate and creator of the “Aging Gayfully” course at Sonoma State University.

“I hope it starts conversations and awareness,” Fitzsimmons said of the event. “My hope is that the response will be supportive enough that we might do this on an annual basis.”

If so, Fitzsimmons said that he can see the event expanding to include local businesses and nonprofits outside of CPAC participating in a community-wide Pride celebration.

The second panel tracks the different walks of life and careers paths held by local members of the community — LGBTQ business, professional, community and faith leaders. Panelists include: Santa Rosa attorney Jeff Nguyen; the Rev. Tim McDonald from Cloverdale's Good Shepherd Episcopal Church; Brad Beard, owner and winemaker, from Geyserville's Mercury Wines; Lisa Carreño, president and CEO of United Way of Wine Country; and Laurie Fong, Santa Rosa High School District school board member and former Montgomery High School principal.

“The intent was to show the aspects of LGBT professional life,” Fitzsimmons said. “Our hope is that if a lot of young LGBT people come to this, they see role models.”

For Fitzsimmons, one of the aspects of the event he’s most looking forward to is hearing from all of the different intersections of people who will be presenting.

“We have such a wide variety of backgrounds and nationalities — I don’t know much about being Asian American and gay, and I know nothing about being a Latina and being LGBT — so part of this for me is a huge learning experience. That’s probably what excites me the most, just the different points of view.”

It’s the different points of view and breadth of identities that Fitzsimmons is hoping will make this event stand out to both people within the LGBTQ community and those who don’t identify within the community.

“This is a learning opportunity — for us, for everyone and I think that’s the most valuable,” he said. “It’s an educational asset. Where else do you hear this? Why not in Cloverdale?”

The event is being held at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, 209 N. Cloverdale Blvd. The event is free to the public, though there is a suggested donation of $10.

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