ABOVE: The “Stay Proud, Be Loud Happy Hour” roundtable discussion at Orlando’s Parliament House June 5, 2018. Photo courtesy MillerCoors.
TAMPA | The Matthew Shepard Foundation, MillerCoors and Metro Inclusive Health will hold a “Stay Proud, Be Loud Happy Hour” at American Social Tampa Aug. 15 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., an educational gathering designed to detail the importance of reporting hate crimes.
“Stay Proud, Be Loud” is a nationwide program that educates participants on ways to keep the LGBTQ community safe. It was launched in 2016 by the Matthew Shepard Foundation—dedicated to replacing hate with compassion—and brewery MillerCoors, longtime partners who connect with organizations like Metro Inclusive Health to provide local resources to area attendees.
“We’re thrilled to be working with The Matthew Shepard Foundation and MillerCoors to bring ‘Stay Proud, Be Loud’ to Tampa Bay,” Metro LGBTQ Division Manager Cole Foust says. “As a healthcare organization centered on inclusivity, we are deeply invested in the wellbeing of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations in the Tampa Bay area. We look forward to an entire community that is actively engaged and aware of local resources.”
According to The Matthew Shepard Foundation and MillerCoors, 12 hate crimes have been reported in Tampa since 2016. While only two were reported in 2018, they fear others were unreported, especially within the LGBTQ community.
“Since we started the foundation, after we lost Matt, our whole goal has been to protect LGBTQ youth,” father of Matthew Shepard and foundation co-founder Dennis Shepard explains. “We want to do whatever we can to protect them and give them an equal chance, as well as the other marginalized communities that are out there that are pushed down, ignored or considered to be fair game for any kind of violence or discrimination.”
“The program exists to build awareness, but also to grow the partnership between the LGBTQ community and law enforcement,” MillerCoors Community Affairs Senior Manager Michael Nordman adds. “The focus is on reducing the number of hate crimes but also increasing the reporting in cities that may have issues with underreporting.”
Ahead of “Stay Proud, Be Loud,” the foundation will provide specialized training to local, state and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors to address that and more. Officials will learn how to identify, investigate and prosecute hate crimes under the Florida statute and federal law, something representatives from the Tampa Police Department are expected to discuss during the happy hour beside Shepard and Metro.
“This is so important because it gives us a chance to get back into the community and thank them for supporting us as a foundation and supporting what we believe in,” Shepard says. “We have to push to make change, while at the same time reminding people that violence still does exist.”