After five years, Louisville Pride Foundation’s first ever Executive Director, Mike Slaton, announced he will leave the organization on December 31. Slaton will join the Louisville Orchestra as their first Major Gifts Officer.
Slaton began his time with the Foundation as a volunteer, chairing the operations committee for the inaugural Louisville Pride Festival in 2015. He was the Foundation’s first full-time employee and has served as Executive Director for five years. The Foundation’s Administrative Coordinator, Ebony Cross, will be taking the role of Iinterim Director. She joined the organization as its second full-time employee in 2022, and previously worked for Louisville Metro Government.
“I got involved because I was looking for new challenges and it sounded fun,” said Slaton. “I never dreamed I would end up working here full time. Working for the Foundation has been a fantastic experience, and I have had the honor and privilege of working with so many wonderful people. We have only been able to accomplish anything because we are blessed with wonderful staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors, partners, and board members. I know the Foundation will continue to flourish under Ebony’s leadership.”
Opening of Louisville’s first LGBTQ+ Community Center in 40 years
Under Slaton’s leadership, the Foundation opened the Louisville Pride Center, the first LGBTQ+ community center in Louisville since the CommTEN Center closed in the 1980’s. The Center officially opened in October 2022 and is located at 1244 South 3rd Street in Old Louisville, sharing a building with the Asia Institute Crane House. The Center serves as a safe and affirming gathering place, a point of entry for services and resources, and a hub for community activity. Plans are in motion for extended hours, services, and programs in 2024.
Response to COVID -19
Slaton oversaw the organization’s response to COVID-19. The Foundation was notable for its highly visible activity online in the early months of the pandemic, including live stream series “Digital Pride,” “Queens in Quarantine,” and “Community Conversations.” Slaton also pulled together a group of social service providers, LGBTQ+ groups, and other community leaders to share information and resources. This group continues to meet monthly as the Louisville LGBTQ+ Community Response Network. In September 2020, the Foundation organized a Day of Service to give back to the community.
Return and Expansion of the Louisville Pride Festival
Slaton oversaw the return of the Louisville Pride Festival after two years of cancellations and kept the free event in the black despite record inflation. The Festival returned to Bardstown Road in 2022 with the theme “Welcome Home,” which celebrated the opening of the community center, the return of the Festival, and put the spotlight on homegrown talent. In 2023, the Festival expanded to include multiple events over multiple days, and continues to grow. In response to legislative attacks in Frankfort on the trans community and drag performance, the 2023 Festival featured The Over the Rainbow Extravaganza, a stunning, high-energy drag production that featured two dozen performers in, “the best damn drag show the Commonwealth of Kentucky has ever seen.”
Launch of the Healthy Communities Initiative
The Foundation has begun to roll out several grant-funded programs that comprise the Healthy Communities Initiative, aimed at improving the health outcomes for LGBTQ+ people, and improving the health of the LGBTQ+ community overall. The cornerstone of the Healthy Communities Initiative is a new effort to train drag performers as community health workers to provide education and outreach on vaccines, harm reduction, and other evidence-based practices that promote positive health outcomes. The initiative also includes public education and community building efforts like the formation of new affinity groups. The initiative has so far received funding from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Jewish Heritage Fund.
About the Louisville Pride Foundation
The Louisville Pride Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2014. Its mission is to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and advance equity and representation for all people. The Foundation has produced the annual Louisville Pride Festival on Bardstown Road since 2015. The Foundation manages the Louisville Pride Center, which opened in 2022 and serves the LGBTQ+ community at 1244 S 3rd Street in Old Louisville. Online, the Louisville Pride Foundation can be found at www.louprideky.org or @louprideky on social media.