Louisville Pride Foundation announces festival theme, opening date for community center day after founders cut ties with organization

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The Louisville Pride Foundation has released their theme for the 2022 festival — “Welcome Home.” The festival is also being considered a celebration of the opening of a new permanent home, and Queer community center, in Old Louisville.

“Being LGBTQ means being isolated at some point in your life,” said Executive Director Mike Slaton. “Our message to everyone is that you have a home with the Louisville Pride community. After two years of cancellations for COVID, the Festival is back. And we are now expanding that work year round with the Center.”

The Sixth Louisville Pride Festival will be held on Bardstown Road from Grinstead Drive to Longest Ave. on September 17. The free community event will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The Festival is presented by Ford and UAW and features two stages, over 100 vendors, the Norton Healthcare Wellness Zone, a Family Zone, and the Derby City Gaming VIP Lounge. Additional support comes from GE Appliances, Kroger, U of L School of Nursing, Republic Bank, US Bank Rounsavall Title Company, Tito’s Vodka, Yum Brands, Mix 106.9, Dinsmore and Stohl, the Asia Institute Crane House, Noodles and Company, Mandala House, and Aware Recovery.

This announcement from Louisville Pride Foundation comes off the heels of LPF founder, Thomas Carrier, expressing his concern for the future of the festival on Facebook yesterday.

“While I wish only the best for the Louisville Pride Festival and Foundation, I hope those with the power will have the courage to help preserve it for our community,” Carrier posted. “Just a few weeks ago, I attended a special meeting with another volunteer on behalf of the Founders of the Louisville Pride Foundation to discuss ways to save the Louisville Pride Festival. A series of high-profile resignations occurred from people heavily involved in operations, entertainment, marketing, vendors, and volunteer coordination due to a lack of funding, support, and interest in the Festival from the Board. Even now, there is no entertainment or schedule posted with less than a month to go. We came to this meeting with the expectation that the Board did care about the Festival but was too involved with other projects to give it the time and attention it deserved. Unfortunately, we would soon find out that was anything but the case.” See Carrier’s full post at the bottom of this article.

Traditionally, Carrier, founders and the board have sought out high-profile LGBTQ+ entertainers like Todrick Hall, Mya and Deborah Cox along with lots of local talent too.

Now, the foundation is seeking to highlight local artists at the festival. The main stage lineup will focus on promoting Louisville artists, and features Kianna and the Sun Kings, Sheryl Rouse, Bryce Dalton, Pepper Mashay, and DJ Sam Gee. Two drag shows are planned on the main stage, featuring Rising Stars and Local Legends. The Community Stage features more drag queens and several local theater companies.

“Our Board felt strongly that we wanted to promote and support local artists as much as possible this year after the stress of the last two years,” said Slaton.

The Louisville Pride Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization formed in 2014. Its mission is to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and advance equity and representation for all people.

The Louisville Pride Center Grand Opening is set for October 11, also known as National Coming Out Day. The Louisville Pride Center is located at 1244 South 3rd Street and will be open 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 pm Monday through Thursday. Additional hours are planned as the Center grows. The Center will be a safe and affirming gathering place for LGBTQ people and their friends and family, a backbone organization to support LGBTQ small businesses and nonprofits, and a point of entry for services. Center programs and services will include game nights, book club, movie nights, legal clinics, clothing swaps, mental health services, 12-step groups, support groups, co-working and more. The Louisville Pride Center is made possible by generous support from the Trager Family Foundation and proceeds from the Louisville Pride Festival.

_______

Thomas Carrier, Founder of Louisville Pride Foundation

To My Friends In Louisville,

I ask that you share this message with your friends as a matter of public interest. Many of you are reaching out to me with questions about what is going on with Louisville Pride because many of you still think I am in charge of it. Before now, I have run every Louisville Pride Festival. To avoid confusion, I feel it is important to make the following statement. In short, the Founders and I are no longer involved in Louisville Pride. Here’s why:

While I wish only the best for the Louisville Pride Festival and Foundation, I hope those with the power will have the courage to help preserve it for our community.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a special meeting with another volunteer on behalf of the Founders of the Louisville Pride Foundation to discuss ways to save the Louisville Pride Festival. A series of high-profile resignations occurred from people heavily involved in operations, entertainment, marketing, vendors, and volunteer coordination due to a lack of funding, support, and interest in the Festival from the Board. Even now, there is no entertainment or schedule posted with less than a month to go. We came to this meeting with the expectation that the Board did care about the Festival but was too involved with other projects to give it the time and attention it deserved. Unfortunately, we would soon find out that was anything but the case.

The Founding members of the Louisville Pride Foundation, including the then-sitting Chair of the Board, offered the rest of the board an investment of $250,000 to save the Festival budget shortfall since the proper funding, planning and management had not yet taken place with 6 weeks to go. We also offered to hire a temporary paid staff to get the ten months of work completed in the weeks we had left. In return, we requested full decision-making power regarding the Festival be turned over to a committee of people who had experience running the Festival and deeply cared about the Festival to cut red tape given the time constraints. We wanted no influence over the Community Center or any of the Foundation’s other activities.

Instead of discussing ways the Festival could be saved at the special meeting, the (lack of) discussion turned to whether or not the Festival should exist and how audacious and elitist it was of the Founders to even offer to save the Festival. After the meeting, the Board voted out the old Chair because she had somehow “betrayed” them by daring to help come up with a plan to save the Festival.

The newly installed Chair revealed, “I don’t even know why we are talking about the Festival. The Festival doesn’t even matter. It isn’t welcoming to black people and isn’t accessible to poor people. I don’t even want a response.” No one was allowed to refute such a false statement despite the facts that the Festival is free, on a public transit route, that we comp booths for organizations that focus on issues related to people of color, or that four of the last five headliners were either people of color or chosen by people of color. We have made including people of color and accessibility for the poor a central focus of the mission every year. We raised money to help a local BLM group travel to DC for a Black Lives Matter march. We comped at least 20% of booths every year to those who couldn’t pay because we believe their participation is essential to the community. When Louisville Pride created the Social Justice Fund to help BLM protestors, I personally donated $10,000 to it. None of this was permitted to be said because I was not allowed to speak. They would know all these things if they had ever participated in the Festival’s creation, but they have not been a part of running any previous Festivals. Think about that, the new Chair of the Louisville Pride Festival said that the Louisville Pride Festival doesn’t matter and the person saying this is permitted to continue to make decisions for it.

At the meeting, we learned that our intention had been mischaracterized beforehand by the current Executive Director as a threat, a betrayal, and an attempted coup, rather than as a bid to save the reputation of the Foundation and the Festival in good faith. While accepting our checks covering his pay over three years, he secretly changed the Bylaws to remove the Founders as advisors with access to board communications. He had played down the terrible state the planning of the Festival was in and recommended to the Board that our offer to help should immediately be rejected. He even endeavored to usurp the Bylaws of the organization and without authority removed the old Chair from the board discussions to ensure his narrative was the only one being heard by the rest of the Board. It was not until threats of legal action that he briefly relented and reinstated her before having her officially removed at the special meeting.

To our dismay, the meeting descended into not just a discussion on how the Festival did not matter but an evisceration of my character, even though none of them knew me personally. Another board member said, “I don’t care about Louisville Pride. The only thing I do for it is my required hour-long volunteer shift, and then I leave because I don’t want to be there or have any part of it. You disgust me as a person, and I will never allow any of my friends to ever volunteer for any organization you are part of, even if it is this one.” They further inferred that I was the reason for the rot in this city. I was accused of being a racist, of not caring about the community that I am ‘not a part of’ or know anything about the community. I was accused of threatening them when I was offering to help. I was accused of being an elitist who only cares about the money (even though I do not and have not ever received any of the money… I’m the one giving it away). I was told that I was silencing people’s voices, even though my voice was not allowed to defend the Festival or myself after each person spoke. They ended their evisceration of my character each time with, “and I would not like a response.” Any time I tried to defend the Festival, I was shouted down.

Eight years ago I had no home, no car, nothing when we started working on this Festival. I care about doing this work for people who don’t have much because I have been there. But money must be part of the conversation because it is how the Festival is paid for, so people don’t have much don’t have to pay to participate.

Though there were a few Board members who genuinely cared about the Festival, when we were told that even if the Festival did need saving they wouldn’t let us be the ones to save it because of their hatred for me, we realized the effort was futile. They cared more about hating someone they did not know than they did about the future of the Foundation.

After eight years of literal blood, sweat, and tears that the community and I have shed in building what we believe to be a fantastically respected Foundation, it is with deep sorrow that we must announce the Founders are no longer welcome or involved in the Louisville Pride Foundation. Again, we wish only the best for the Louisville Pride Festival and Foundation and hope those with the power will have the courage to help preserve it for our community.

If you disagree with Louisville Pride being run by people who say the Festival doesn’t matter, we ask that you reach out to Louisville Pride at 502-528-4157, email them at info@louisvillepride.com or show up at their office or mail them at 1244 S 3rd St, Louisville, KY 40203 to voice your concerns.

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