Allied and ready: Orlando’s LGBTQ Alliance brings collaboration in a post-Pulse world

By : Billy Manes
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Orlando – “I called Carlos Carbonell on June 12,” Orlando LGBTQ Alliance co-founder and member of the Metropolitan Business Association (and founding chair of the area’s Human Rights Campaign group) Jennifer Foster says. “On June 13, he and I got together, and on that Thursday was our first meeting. Thirty people showed up!”

Carbonell, CEO and founder of Echo: Tech & Strategy Apps in downtown Orlando, remembers the day well.

“Part of it was the discussion of people that we knew that were each separately doing something for relief efforts, what community was doing what and how we could work better in concert with each other,” he recalls. “We felt there could be more communication.”

And so the LGBTQ Alliance was born, as a sort of “triage,” Foster says. More than 20 LGBTQ-friendly organizations comprise the Alliance – Watermark Publishing Group among them – as a means of “shaping the future for our community through active listening, thoughtful dialogue and strategic action planning,” according to the group’s press release.

On Feb. 2, the Alliance will reach out to the public for the first time since the six-month event memorializing the tragedy. The group will host “Your Voice, Our Future,” and LGBTQ town hall event at the Acacia Banquet Hall in East Orlando from 5-8:30 p.m (5-6 p.m. there will be a job fair). The reasons for the location of the event have become ever more apparent in the days since 49 people were gunned down at Pulse on June 12. The massacre happened on a Latin night at Pulse; the Latinx community should be engaged implicitly, Carbonell says.

“It’s extremely important,” he says. “I’ve been doing a lot of work with the leadership of the Hispanic Federation, which doesn’t have a lot of visibility in Orlando. We want to make it clear that we’re not only inclusive, but also show that even though it is, by its nature, a minority group, the Latinx community feels even more marginalized. You don’t tell people to come to my house. You go to somebody’s house.”

The group also seeks to carry the torch of the Pulse of Orlando non-profit formed in the wake of the shooting by housing its 501(c)(3) status and continuing the mission of advocacy for those directly and indirectly affected by the tragedy. The Alliance will form its own non-profit within the year.

“Ensuring that services, programs and resources are in place to support and empower the extremely diverse LGBTQ population – and supportive allies – requires diverse and inclusive representation from all aspects of our community,” the Alliance says in its press release.

“From our standpoint, having been visible leaders in the gay community, and me knowing how nonprofits work, people work in silos,” Carbonell says. “But to have some sort of cohesive, collaborative effort probably wasn’t going to be a difficult undertaking. Everybody is on board with it as far as I know. ”

The Alliance has taken on a consultant to help guide the processes from now on; to, effectively, comb through the numbers and maintain transparency. The group also remains apolitical, according to Carbonell.

The Alliance has a formation task force that meets weekly along with member calls that range from 15-30 people. Feb. 2’s town hall will likely be its biggest outreach yet, though the Alliance is making certain that press will not be invited in. The privacy of participants is important to an honest discussion.

As for the future, Carbonell predicts that the Alliance will be a great hub for the community moving forward.

“Our second mission is being prepared for another crisis,” he says. “Not necessarily the same kind, but what if we have another 1980s AIDS crisis? We are going to be able to act quickly enough this time.”

Photo courtesy of Albert Harris’ Facebook page.

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