Republished from FlaglerLive with permission. View the original article here.
Flagler Pride, the non-profit Eryn Harris established four years ago as the county’s first LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, and the organizational muscle behind the annual Pride Fest in Palm Coast’s Town Center, installed its new, four-member board at Coquina Coast Brewing on Jan. 12. The organization’s founding board members–Harris, Erica Rivera and Garrett Marinconz–have taken on advisory roles.
The new board will be led by President Tyler Jones, with Skyler Loder as vice president, Margaret “Maggie” Potter as secretary and Calvin Vincent Neugent as treasurer. All but Neugent are local residents. Neugent lives in St. Johns County.
Flagler Pride’s recurring events include Pride Night at Coquina Brewing the second Friday of every month–with drag queen shows from time to time–the monthly LGBTQ all-ages social at Sweet Melissa’s Homemade Ice Cream in Palm Coast the second Saturday of every month (or at Flagler Tea Company in Flagler Beach in colder months), and Morning Networking, an LGBTQ-friendly business networking event at a different business every month, on the third Tuesday. The last one was at Jacked Up Bean, the coffee shop at St. Joe’s Plaza. The organization also put on Flagler County’s annual gay prom, this year scheduled for April 12. In conjunction with Pride Fest, Flagler pride also organizes the annual vigil commemorating the Pulse nightclub massacre of 2016, when 49 people were gunned down and 53 were injured.
Harris is hoping to see the new board draft more volunteers and make more appearances at community events, as well as getting more local governments behind Flagler Pride. The organization got a proclamation read at a Flagler Beach City Commission meeting last year. So far it is the only local government to have approved a formal proclamation recognizing LGBTQ rights, and getting other governments to join in has been like “pulling teeth,” Harris said.
For now Flagler Pride has not taken on political advocacy of any kind. “Because we’re in Florida, we’ve been a little bit careful with what we’ve done and said,” Harris said. “If the new board decides that they wanted to take that route, I would love for them to. In the past we’ve just been a lot more careful, because we don’t want anything coming back at us.” The organization would also have to ensure that it stays compliant with its non-profit status, though advocacy would not be a violation of that. (On the other hand, the organization could not–and would not–endorse political candidates.) In any case, Harris says, “gender and sexuality should not be political. It is not political. But they’re trying to make it that way.”
Rivera is a sexual health educator and victim advocate who set out to create a safe space for adult LGBTQ individuals when she was entrusted to be Flagler pride’s first president. “I am filled with gratitude and pride for the journey we have embarked upon together during my tenure as your president,” she said the night of the installation, “advancing the well-being of our LGBTQ families here in Flagler.” The new board members will build on that foundation. “Your role,” she told the new board members, “is pivotal in shaping the future of our organization, and I believe that under your guidance, we will continue to be a beacon of support and empowerment for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Rivera described the local community as “diverse, vibrant and unwavering in its pursuit of justice and equality. Together we have the power to overcome challenges and create a world where everywhere can live authentically and without fear.”
Jones, the new president, describes himself as a transgender man from an unsupportive small town, a “huge nerd,” a hard worker, and a coach for trans people, helping them navigate dysphoria, stress, anxiety, and life in general. (“It’s not about how many college degrees you have. It’s not about being the smartest person in the room,” he’d written in a piece about “4 Of The Most Important Things I’ve Learned In Life.” “It’s about doing everything that you enjoy, being with the people that you love, and being yourself as fiercely and and fearlessly as you can be.
Jones’s goal is to have a career based in LGBTQ+ and sees his presidency at Flagler Pride as a step in that direction. He also works for Come Out With Pride, which hosts Orlando’s annual Pride celebration, giving him experience coordinating and marketing events. “I also have an extensive background in customer service, so I have excellent communication, customer service, and de-escalation skills,” he wrote in his application–the last a useful skill to have in potentially confrontational situations. ” It’s incredibly important to me that ALL LGBTQ+ folks in Flagler, and everywhere, are able to find their community, spend time with like-minded individuals, and have a safe place to be when the going gets tough,” he wrote.
For six months, Harris will be on an advisory board with Rivera and Garrett Marinconz, giving the new board a place to bounce off ideas or have its questions answered, especially as the organization’s signature event is organized in early summer. The advisory board will not exactly sunset after that, but it won’t have as prominent a role. In addition to the new board members, Flagler Pride also has a new events chair in Quinn Azaria Vickers and a communications chair in Christine Vincent Sikora.