A Flash Back into the 90s
(Citation: Leslie Ewing, Holiday Cartoon Card)
The Pacific Center lurched into the 1990s with a mix of apprehension and aspiration: The AIDS crisis still raged and tenuous funding threatened the stability of the organization, but the Center was determined to hold a safe, loving and joyful space and to help drive the cultural shift toward greater acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community through vibrant youth programming and the sponsorship of highly visible cultural events, such as the first East Bay Gay Pride Festival in 1997.
(Citation: Leslie Ewing boots, a historical artifact at the center)
Unfortunately, budget anxiety cast a pall over the early part of the decade. In August of 1990, the Center suffered a major blow when the financially-strapped Alameda County slashed 20 percent of the organization’s budget, creating a domino effect with the loss of matching funds and in-kind professional time made possible by leveraging the county funds.
“Mental health services for our community are being trashed,” Executive Director Scott Walton told the Bay Area Reporter at the time. “Everybody’s losing and we’re at the bottom of the barrel.”
The funding challenges culminated in a rare public forum in 1995 in which Pacific Center staff aired their grievances with the board of directors, complaining that the lack of a long-term fundraising plan threatened the organization’s financial viability. Fortunately, the meeting laid the foundation for a future resolution.
(Citation: Pacific Center for Human Growth old address sign, a historical artifact in the new space. Photographer: Mel Hofamann)
Meanwhile, the Pacific Center remained focused on its mission to support, nurture and uplift the LGBTQIA+ community through counseling, peer support and cultural activities.
In May of 1991, the Center organized a coalition of East Bay lesbian, gay and bisexual organizations to sponsor the first-ever visibility and educational booth for the community at Oakland’s three-day long Festival of the Lake celebration.
The next month, about 30 youths between the ages of 15 and 23 marched behind the Pacific Center’s banner at the San Francisco Freedom Day Parade. Wearing T-shirts advertising the “gay Romper Room,” a weekly meetup for youth held at the Center, participants expressed deep gratitude for the Center as a refuge to be “out and proud.”
In October of 1991, the newly formed Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)/East Bay chapter held its first organizational meeting at the Center.
(Citation: A drawing of Pacific Center for Human Growth old location, artist unknown. Please email us to credit. Photographer: Mel Hofamann)
Mel Hofmann, a current Pacific Center volunteer, recalls her experience visiting the Center at that time: “I noticed that I was attracted to both men and women, and I wasn't quite sure what to do with that because it seemed like it wasn't very accepted, so I didn't really talk to people about it…In 1991, I separated from my husband and I was left as a single mother of a very small child, so I decided to go to the Pacific Center. There I joined a group for single lesbian women. They were very accepting of me and my daughter.” In addition to providing direct care and support, the Pacific Center has consistently served the LGBTQIA+ community by facilitating sensitivity trainings. For example, in July of 1992, the Center received a grant to run programs for public and private employees of San Mateo County devoted to awareness, and the destruction of stereotypes. Each participant was asked to finish a sentence such as, “If I were required to room with a person I knew to be gay, I would...”
(Citation: March on Washington, SF contingent 1990s)
In 1997, the Pacific Center went big, organizing the first East Bay Gay Pride Festival. “Participating in San Francisco's parade is great, but we felt that it was about time to have a celebration of our own as well,” said Executive Director Robert Fuentes. “That the Center was located in Berkeley rather than San Francisco speaks to the strength of the East Bay community. So this event is also a celebration of the community’s active involvement in furthering civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, and questioning individuals.”
A combination street party and community exposition, with activities for families as well as partiers, the festival included a series of events in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and was reconfigured in the days leading up to the event to honor Princess Diana, who died three weeks earlier. The centerpiece of the festival was the “Oakland Gay Mardi Gras,” a street party featuring four different “worlds”: Queen of Hearts honored Princess Diana; Butch Gardens highlighted the leather community; Wild Wild West showcased country western music and line dancing; and Oasis celebrated the diverse communities of color.
Up Coming Events
Next Thursday, Dec 7th from 1-3PM we'll be hosting the Older + Out social at the Center. You're invited to come socialize with our older adult community members. Light food provided.
(Photographer credit: Mel Hofmann)
Previous event: Trans Day of Remembrance On November 20th, the center held space for TDOR. See photos and videos of the lovely alter that the center, Somos Familia, and Apoyo Fenix put together to honor those who have lost their lives.
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