Still struggling to overcome a boycott call after its chairman disparaged gay families last fall, Italian pasta company Barilla sponsored a fundraising event with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Monday night (March, 24) as part of its ongoing outreach to the LGBT community.
The company underwrote the fundraiser for the Tyler Clementi Foundation so that all of the $125 suggested donation went to the nonprofit named after the Rutgers University student who committed suicide in 2010 after his college roommate posted online video of him kissing another man in their dorm room. The foundation’s event featured a sneak preview of the chorus’ new production Tyler’s Suite that celebrates Clementi’s life and is based on the memories of his family.
It is part of the chorus’ spring concert “Luster – An American Songbook” that premieres tonight at Davies Symphony Hall and will be performed again Wednesday night. Eight different composers created the music for the work, co-commissioned with six other gay men’s choruses across the country, to accompany lyrics written by Pamela Stewart, who spent a weekend with the Clementi family at their home in New Jersey to draw inspiration for the songs.
Following the firestorm last fall after Guido Barilla told an interviewer that he would never feature a “homosexual family” in a commercial for his pasta “because we don’t agree with them, ” one of the groups company executives met with was the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
The Clementis formed the Tyler Clementi Foundation to combat anti-gay bullying and harassment in schools, workplaces, and faith-based environments.
Representing Barilla last night was Laura Birk, vice president for human capital at Barilla America. She noted that the company has hired its first diversity officer, created an internal diversity committee, and is working with the Human Rights Campaign to be included in its annual equality index for companies.
Pledging that the company is committed to diversity and promoting a safe work environment, Birk acknowledged that, “We too have been on our own journey to remember” those ideals.
And despite its recent moves to make amends with its LGBT critics, Birk added, “we recognize we have more work to do.”
In an ad in the program for the chorus’ concert – Barilla is also a sponsor for the chorale group’s spring performances – the company forms a musical note out of pasta and says it is “proud” to support Tyler’s Suite.
“And we’d like to thank the people of the Tyler Clementi Foundation for the important work they do in advocating acceptance and appreciation for all,” reads the ad copy.