Your decision to allow uniformed and armed law enforcement to march with the center in the OC Pride parade this year is puzzling at best. I have been a generous supporter of your center for over two years, since I first became aware of the great work you were doing and have continued to do, but what I saw yesterday was deeply disturbing. It felt like a kick in the gut of the very communities you had been serving so well. Thinking there would be nothing wrong with that visual indicates to me that your engagement with Orange County’s LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities has only been superficial. If you had been genuinely seeking out those community’s input on how to best meet their needs, you would never have considered allowing such a highly visible police presence, including a black-and-white vehicle following, to be part of the image of the center that you chose to display at Pride this year.
Doubling down on that decision by trying to defend it over multiple public and private objections from community leaders, removing comments and tags on posts on social media, and not responding to reasonable requests to not allow firearms and have the police wear LGBT Center t-shirts, instead of uniforms, is more than just puzzling. Not having a real dialogue about it with the community is inexcusable.
Organizations do not lead, people do. The LGBT Center OC lost a great leader in Laura Kanter because of your questionable decision making, but Orange County did not. Real leaders move on to doing even greater things, and Laura will be no exception. I will continue to support her in her future endeavors, as will the many community leaders who have expressed their support. Regrettably, I cannot, at this time, continue to also support your center in light of your recent decisions. I sincerely hope that you will make every effort to earn back the trust you have lost from much of the community. The criticism and advice many local leaders have already offered is an invitation to deep and meaningful engagement, please accept it and begin the healing process. Your community needs you – let them show you how you can best help them.
Andy Lewandowski, 59, VP and part-owner of a manufacturing firm in Anaheim, is a native of Southern California and has been an Orange County resident since 1966. He is a music enthusiast and former amateur DJ, and was an avid surfer most of his life. Since semi-retiring as General Manager of his company in 2017, he enjoys spending time on his fishing boat when he’s not busy as a volunteer organizer with Together We Will OC, Indivisible OC and SoCal Blue.
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