Tag Archives: equality

Proud

The first person with HIV that Kristin Flickinger met was a 12-year-old boy named Carter who attended her small town school in Idaho. Flickinger, who was named executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation in 2020, remembers the small boy sitting on the cold metal benches in the lunchroom with a backpack full of medication. She didn’t know if she should be afraid of him. 

“When we started back the following fall, Carter was gone,” Flickinger says. “I learned a lot from Carter. I learned you can’t get HIV from a water fountain, and I learned that you can’t be friends with someone if you are afraid of them.” 

Pacific Pride Foundation’s 2020 PROUD Prom with Ugg

The nonprofit she now runs launched in 1976 as an addiction recovery program for LGBTQ+ people. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic struck the gay community, Pacific Pride pivoted to meet the unfolding crisis.

For Flickinger, who oversaw the AIDS/LifeCycle event at the Los Angeles LGBT Center for more than seven years, the connection with HIV and the COVID-19 pandemic is visceral, and points to Pacific Pride’s unique capacity to serve those most in need. 

“We have been through a pandemic before, we know what it looks like,” the energetic leader says. “At a time when the LGBTQ community was suffering unimaginable loss, we came together to take care of each other.”

Before and through the days of COVID-induced lockdowns, Pacific Pride was there not only for the LGBTQ community, but for Santa Barbara’s most marginalized as well. For LGBTQ+ youth in Santa Barbara, research shows that 45.4% seriously consider suicide. Under stay-at-home orders, these young people were particularly vulnerable, so Pacific Pride used the telephone and Zoom to bring 33% more teens into its PROUD Youth Group. 

The nonprofit also deploys a “health utility vehicle” to conduct HIV testing and needle exchanges for the opioid dependent across the county. For Flickinger and her dedicated team this is all about “promoting wellness throughout all of our programs,” whether individual counseling, therapy groups, or addiction services.  

“We are there for the folks who need us the most, when they need us the most,” she says. 

More than 30 years after Flickinger hesitated to make friends with a 12-year-old boy named Carter, she is now bold and proud to do whatever it takes to help those in Santa Barbara County that are too often overlooked, untouched, and left to themselves. 

His Dream is Still Alive

As a young person in 1963, E. onja Brown got on a bus at W. 138th in Harlem bound for Washington, D.C., alone. 

Once there, she pushed her way up into the crowd assembled before the Lincoln Memorial to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. 

“People would let me go past them, because I looked like a kid,” Brown Lawson says. She made her way to the edge of the platform where Dr. King would give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. She was so close, in fact, that as she heard his words she reached up and held the hem of his coat. 

“I had never heard anyone that close to me speak like that,” Brown Lawson says. And when she, as a young black woman, was initially denied entry to the college of her choice because of the color of her skin, it was Dr. King’s voice that “carried” her “through the racism” she faced. 

Today, Ms. Brown Lawson is the President of Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara, a purely volunteer-run organization dedicated to fostering “positive relationships between the many diverse groups in the Santa Barbara Community and the surrounding areas; to sponsor programs and events which exemplify the teachings of Dr. King; and to observe and celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.”

(January 2017) (l-r) Poetry coordinator Melinda Palacio and Sojourner Kincaid Rolle along with MLKSB Essay and Poetry Contest Winners. MLK Jr holiday, MLKSB Morning Program at the Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA. (Photo by Rod Rolle)

The committee’s primary charge is producing four days of events across Isla Vista, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and the Santa Ynez Valley to celebrate the King holiday in January every year, since 2007. This year’s series of events included a kickoff at the eternal flame at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to celebrate Dr. King; the annual Unity March; and a culminating speech by civil rights icon and King contemporary Dr. James Lawson. 

Throughout the year, the committee works to ensure that Dr. King’s words and actions are known and contemplated by people across the community, particularly the young. For that reason, the MLK committee organizes an annual poetry and essay writing contest where elementary and high school students win cash prizes for poems and essays centered on a theme for the year, along with Dr. King’s life and teachings. 

Ms. Brown Lawson laments that the achievements of the Civil Rights era did not alleviate racism, but sees incredible hope in the young people the committee tries to connect to Dr. King’s legacy every day of the year. 

“Listening to his words that day gave me the courage and strength to persevere despite many obstacles,” Brown Lawson says. “And that is what I believe Dr. King can do for young people today… his voice, his passion, and his resolve is the essence of the kind of person he was and what he stood for. My hope is that the younger generation can understand how he is still relevant today.”

Women, a Smart Investment

Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) was founded in 1991 when women earned 56 cents for every dollar earned by a man. A male college graduate earned almost twice as much as a female college graduate. Women weren’t routinely viewed as managers or executives, let alone entrepreneurs. There were only a handful of organizations in the entire country devoted to helping women start businesses. WEV was a pioneer in the arena.

Fast forward to 2020. WEV has provided business training and consulting to more than 17,500 women and men throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and made over $6 million in loans to local businesses. More than 5,000 businesses have started or grown with WEV’s help, creating or sustaining an estimated 9,400 local jobs. And for those interested in ROI, every dollar spent on WEV results in $12 in tax revenue and jobs created.

Charlotte Andersen, The Andersen’s Danish Bakery & Restaurant

Small business owners have grown to depend on WEV not only to learn how to write a business plan or secure a loan, but to find a community that encourages and supports them in their personal and business growth. 

If you are invested in creating a better world for your children and grandchildren and are concerned about the economic stability of our country in general, then you should be interested in women’s entrepreneurship and women’s leadership. The cost of not caring is enormous. A seminal 2015 study by McKinsey & Company found that the global economy would grow by $28 trillion by 2025 if women reached parity with men in the workforce. That’s $7.5 trillion more than U.S. GDP.

If macroeconomics doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, think local quality of life. “WEV is helping to create a pipeline of sustainable entrepreneurs who build businesses that are the heart of our communities,” CEO Kathy Odell says. “The businesses we rely on daily for fresh juice, dry cleaning, childcare, staying healthy and fit, personal care services, dining out – businesses that enable our prized lifestyle.” 

Now that is something worth investing in.

Fighting Hate for Good

Dan Meisel was made for his current job running the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Santa Barbara-based Tri-Counties regional office. 

Raised in Santa Barbara, Meisel went on to practice First Amendment law and general litigation at a prestigious San Francisco law firm. From there he wrote and produced films including All She Can, a fictional drama about a Mexican-American teenager’s struggle to pursue her college dreams, which premiered at Sundance and aired on HBO.

“That film was my entrée into education equity issues,” Meisel says, and those issues would become a key focus of his ADL experience locally and nationally.

Chair, Education Equity Task Force, Dan Meisel, speaking at the National Commission Meeting. The annual, National Commision Meeting in Houston, Texas. November 5, 2018.

After finishing the film and moving back from New York to Santa Barbara in 2010, Meisel felt he needed to get a “foot back into constitutional law, policy and civil rights.” During the next 10 years he would serve – as a volunteer – as ADL’s Regional Board Chair, Chair of ADL’s National Civil Rights Task Force on Education Equity and many other ADL committees. In 2019, when he was asked to step in as lead staff of the nonprofit’s local office, it felt like a natural fit.

As Regional Director, Meisel works with local staff and a network of 25 other regional offices and ADL’s Community Support Center in New York to further ADL’s mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure just and fair treatment for all.”

ADL has long been a leader in responding to acts of anti-Semitism, but one of Meisel’s key tasks is correcting assumptions that ADL is an organization of Jewish people serving only the Jewish community. “Since its inception, ADL has believed that any minority is safe only when all minorities are safe,” he says, “and ADL has emerged as a diverse and formidable anti-hate organization because of its ironclad commitment to protecting the rights of all people to be treated fairly regardless of their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or level of ability.”

To that end, in addition to responding to anti-Semitism, ADL’s local efforts have included highlighting education equity issues largely impacting Latinx and other students of color, providing educational programming for teachers and students about how their own identities and experiences influence and sometimes inhibit the way they understand and interact with others, and directly responding to incidents of bias, hate and extremism. 

ADL provides education programs for educators, students, and non-school workplaces as well.

“ADL has been a transformative experience,” says recent Oak Park High School graduate Sam Barney-Gibbs. “ADL came to my school, educating students on combatting the manifestation of hate and promoting acceptance, and they also helped me find the kind of person I want to be both professionally and in my day-to-day life.”

“Given the marked increase of online hate and polarization in recent years, ADL’s work is as important as ever,” Meisel notes, “and it has been both invigorating and heartwarming to be a part of ADL’s effective efforts to “fight hate for good.’”