UPDATE: April 28, 2020
LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Each day brings new evidence of how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting lives – how we live, how we work, how we suffer and how we survive. Each day also brings new choices about how to respond to this unfolding crisis. The most pressing of those decisions in recent days has been about OutFront Kalamazoo’s plans for Kalamazoo Pride 2020.
Since we first announced our intention to reschedule Kalamazoo Pride, we have closely monitored the latest information about the disease and its impact on our communities. Over the past four weeks we’ve considered data from the medical community, consulted with civic leaders, sponsors and allies in order to determine our best course of action. Throughout all of these conversations, our highest priority has been the health and safety of Pride attendees, volunteers and staff.
After weighing all options, it is clear that Kalamazoo Pride 2020 should not be rescheduled this year but, instead, must be cancelled.
I know this is disappointing news. This has been a difficult decision for countless reasons. Kalamazoo Pride has always been more than a celebration – it has been a way to raise our visibility and galvanize our victories. Pride has helped us find new audiences and allies, strengthening our capacity and resolve to persist. While we will not gather in person this year, OutFront will stand with you in showing the world that we are #StillProud.
In the next few weeks we will be posting a calendar of virtual events that will take place during the month of June. You’ll especially want to mark your calendar for Friday, June 5th for OutFront’s Pride Month kick off, inspired by your suggestions. In fact, all of these imaginative event ideas have been sourced from the community. It is this kind of creativity and passion that encourages me every day. The LGBTQ+ community has always been resilient – in even the most tumultuous of times, and these times are no exception.
Thank you for continuing to help our community stay healthy, safe, strong and PROUD.
In Solidarity –
Executive Director, OutFront Kalamazoo
UPDATE: April 14, 2020
Addressing Disparities about COVID-19 within the Black Community
By: Marshall Kilgore, OutFront Kalamazoo’s Director of Advocacy
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world dramatically over the last few weeks. From the impact on employment law, to the heroism of first responders and losses in our communities, these are incredibly hard times for so many. Especially for the African American Community. Coronavirus is affecting black and brown communities at a much higher rate than those in white communities. In fact, as of today, over 40% of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan are African Americans, but only 14% of Michiganders are African Americans.
This is a staggering fact that we must continue to do our part to change. We know that historically, minorities – black, brown, Asian and LGBTQ people have always suffered from inadequate access to healthcare and often our culture in American society doesn’t seem to place the same value on their lives as the white majority. This was evident during the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and 90’s – The COVID-19 pandemic shows in an even more dramatic fashion that these disparities still exist today.
One way to combat this is uplifting members of our community that are leading the way during these difficult times. Such as Commissioner Stephanie Moore, serving District 1 for Kalamazoo County. Her thoughts regarding the current disparities facing the African American community in regards to COVID-19 are: “Sadly, Black people in America have all the pre-existing conditions for this COVID -19 pandemic to decimate our communities: inadequate medical facilities, living in densely populated urban centers, food deserts so traveling further for food, preexisting health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses and we are uninsured.– This isn’t new information. Historic disinvestment in vulnerable communities is well known so nothing is really being exposed. We don’t need maps to tell us who is going to be hit hardest because as was always said “When white America catches a cold we get pneumonia” –it is ravaging our communities because of this country’s historical neglect.”
Commissioner Moore and other local officials are working hard to keep our community updated as we face these challenging times. Commissioner Moore’s sentiment is real. In Kalamazoo we have close to 100 cases and over 30% of the affected are African American. The current disparities being discussed are not as far away from us as some may think. They are right in our backyard and have been for quite some time. It is time to take care of the dangerous overgrowth in our neighborhoods that is oppression and inequality. We must first address the reality of why this pandemic is hitting the Black community so hard, then do what we can to uplift and partner with those in need to provide a better outcome.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that a new coronavirus task force on racial disparities will be formed and led by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. Our team at Outfront Kalamazoo are grateful for the leadership that we are seeing surrounding this issue and are optimistic that as a community we will see positive change for the Black community. Equity is intrinsic to our mission at OutFront Kalamazoo – It is imperative that the systemic and institutional discrimination that COVID-19 has exposed be addressed on multiple fronts. We here at OutFront are committed to partnering with impacted communities, local officials and organizations and the state government to continue our fight for equality.
CENSUS 2020: LET’S DO THIS!
The Census is simply a count of all our American citizens. This has been in our constitution since 1790. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time that the country has counted its population since it’s implementation. It is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. The 2020 Census counts the population in the United States and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Each home will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire—online, by phone, or by mail.
The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data.
In addition, results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
We at OutFront Kalamazoo want to make sure that you and your loved ones are counted to make sure our community is supported. In a nutshell, this process takes less than five minutes and will ensure we have the resources we need to have a thriving community. You can find further details on how to complete the Census at census.gov.
Marshall A. Kilgore
Director of Advocacy
UPDATE: April 6, 2020
Here’s a quick update on this year’s celebration of Pride:
As we continue to explore options for Kalamazoo Pride, plans are starting to come together for a month-long online celebration of Pride Month in June. An important part of that virtual effort will be the activities and events that you help create.
Earlier this week we asked for your ideas and opinions on how our community can stay connected and show the world that, despite the pandemic, we are #StillProud. A social media profile frame was suggested and is in the works. A webinar series entitled Profiles in Pride may also be offered. But that is just the beginning.
What other ideas do you have for virtual events that can be accessible, interesting and a tangible way to unite the community – even when we are unable to connect in person?
Every idea counts! So, don’t hesitate to send your suggestions for virtual events or activities to: [email protected] with #KzooStillProud in the subject line, and together we could see your idea come to life!
Thank you for continuing to help our community stay healthy, safe, strong and PROUD.
UPDATE: March 23, 2020
All of us at OutFront Kalamazoo have been working hard to monitor and adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation in our communities. We know you’re doing your part to slow the spread of the virus and we’re trying hard to do our part, too. After very careful consideration we have decided to reschedule Kalamazoo Pride for later this year. We are exploring several options and we will let you know as soon as new dates and new details are certain.
In the meantime, we will keep you informed of our progress. We know you must be disappointed, but rest assured we will find creative ways to manage these days of social distancing and make certain the community remains proud, healthy, safe and strong. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out at [email protected].
Recent News: Governor Whitmer has issued an Executive Order for Michiganders to stay home until April 13th, 2020, with the exception of “essential” workers (including but not limited to health care workers, law enforcement, and grocery store workers). Learn more here and here.
Video above by our Executive Director, Amy Hunter, about the Executive Order and how important of a responsibility it is to stay home during this time.
UPDATE: March 17,2020
With so many large gatherings, meetups, festivals and sports events getting canceled, we’re sure you’re all wondering: what’s going to happen with Kalamazoo Pride?
Like you, we are monitoring developments and taking steps to minimize the possible spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. We have closed our physical office temporarily and moved much of our programming to digital channels. But, we want you to know that while staff are working remotely, Pride planning continues. While it is too early to make a final determination about the timing of this year’s event, we are doing everything we can to ensure that Kalamazoo Pride 2020 will take place this year.
We will continue to monitor county, state, and CDC guidance regarding necessary or required precautions. In the meantime, we will continue to update you as plans for Pride unfold.
For updates, please revisit this page. We will be updating as regularly as information becomes available. Thank you for your patience, and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to send an email to [email protected].
In an effort to keep the community informed, below are several updates concerning financial security during this time in Kalamazoo County and across the state.
We have also added several resources to the right-hand side of this page, including food and employment resources, which we will be updating when new information becomes available.
- Posted 3/15/2020 (UpNorthLive): Consumer’s Energy Suspends Shut-offs for Senior and Low-Income Customers
- Posted 3/16/2020 (MLive): Governor Whitmer Expands Unemployment Benefits to Include Sick Workers, Caregivers
- Posted 3/16/2020 (MLive): Home Foreclosures Halted in Kalamazoo County Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
And finally, take a look at this video made by our Director of Advocacy, Marshall Kilgore, on some important physical and mental health tips during this time:
March 13, 2020
Here at OutFront Kalamazoo, our staff is dedicated to protecting the health and safety of the LGBTQ+ community, and we understand that you, our community members, may have some concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) following the Governor’s recent State of Emergency announcement. We urge you to be mindful of the information you consume regarding the virus, whether it’s from social media or a news source, as misinformation on public health matters can be dangerous and misleading.
OutFront has been doing everything we can to ensure that our space is as clean and safe as possible for the community; and after much deliberation, we have decided that in order to help prevent the spread of the virus, we will be closing the office effective the afternoon of Friday, March 13th, at 5pm, and we will remain closed until further notice. All programs and activities are canceled until further notice (Connections Youth Group, Transcend, Intersections, QWC, OutGoing, etc), but are putting plans in place for alternative group sessions by utilizing technology. If you have questions about a group you’re in, please contact us for details at [email protected]. Our internal functions will continue, as all staff will be working remotely, and we will still be able to provide referrals to LGBTQ+ friendly establishments and resources via email to those who need them. We will be continuously evaluating the situation in order to determine when we will open the center again, however at this time we do not wish to provide an avenue for the virus to spread to our community— a community which is already more vulnerable to sickness than the average population.
Should you be in need of resources, or if you have any questions or concerns, please email [email protected] and our staff will do everything we can to help.
Here are some basic tips to help you stay safe and healthy during this time.
- Hand-washing is the best and biggest way to combat the spread of germs. Wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds (or, the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice). Wash your hands often, making sure to scrub your hands and fingers well. If you can’t wash your hands, use antibacterial hand sanitizer.
- Use alternative greetings. Physical touch like hugging, kissing, and touching hands are all common parts of the greetings we use in our community, however currently we suggest thinking about an alternative that you’re comfortable with. Waving, elbow-bumping, air-kisses, and air-hugging are all great substitutes.
- When in public spaces, take responsibility. If you need to be in a public space, be mindful of your surroundings and make sure to wash your hands frequently. Pay special attention to what you touch.
- Try not to touch your face. COVID-19 can enter your system through touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Before you touch your face, make sure to wash your hands appropriately.
- Please stay home if you’re sick or not feeling well, especially if you are coughing, you have a fever, or you’re experiencing shortness of breath. From the CDC website: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately.
If you would like more guidance and information on COVID-19, please go to the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov