The Pomona Pride Center hosted the Pomona Valley State of the LGBTQIA+ Community at the Pomona Unified School District auditorium to discuss LGBTQ issues and solutions to implement in the area on Tuesday evening.
The Pomona Pride Center held the event to discuss issues in the region with community members and how the organization can help better serve the area.
“We just want to make sure that there are no blind spots that we’re missing,” Cesario Mora, program coordinator at the Pomona Pride Center, said. “This event is to bring people together and gauge their concerns and voice their opinions on what this community needs.”
Some programs offered by the organization include professional networking, book reading, and harm reduction for substance use. The Center also does youth outreach with the Lavender Youth Alliance, a youth program that serves the Pomona Unified School District, and youth mentoring with Western University.
The Pomona Pride Center also provides services like a food pantry for people in need and a gender-neutral closet that provides kids with clothes.
“I want to see more acceptance and more safe spaces that people are free to navigate and not feel like they have to look over their shoulder,” Frank Guzman, executive director of the Pomona Pride Center, said.
Guzman emphasized the importance of having an organization like the Pomona Pride Center. Just two months into the year, 336 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country.
Along with community members, local leaders attended to speak with residents. The list of dignitaries included the Mayor of Upland Bill Velto and the Assessor for Los Angeles County Jeff Prang.
“Queer people are contributing to the success in our communities, and often they are overlooked,” Guzman said. “The Assessor represents 10.1 million people, but no one would ever know that they’re a queer person.”
Prang, who identifies as queer, serves the second largest constituency of any LGBTQ official in the world.
“When I first came out, organizations like the Pomona Pride Center simply did not exist,” Prang said. “Today, our community, from all walks of life, have the opportunity to gather in centers and receive resources and support they need.”
The Pomona Unified School District is a strong supporter of the Center. In January, the Pomona Pride Center received $100,000 from the district. The district and the organization are also working together to provide services to students in the Pomona Unified School District.
“I have a lot of interest in opening the community up, so I like attending these kinds of events,” June Andrade, freshman at Pomona High School, said. “It’s good to let others know that they’re accepted and that they’re safe here.”
Local high school students in the Gay-Straight Alliance club at Pomona High School were in attendance.
“(The event) is important because it helps inform people in the community about things they don’t know,” Victor Rascon, freshman at Pomona High School, said.
The needs of the community were of the utmost importance that night. In a Kahoot! game, visitors learned more about the organization and also voice their opinions.
At the end of the night, people were encouraged to complete a community needs assessment survey to hear how the Pomona Pride Center can better serve the community.
“It’s really important to gauge the audience and see what kind of programs the community wants us to do,” Mora said. “(We) assess the needs and make sure that we can do everything in our power to fulfill those needs.”
Kael Matias can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.