Eden Pride Events announces new foundation
by Heather Cassell
Eden Pride Events, the women-owned party promotion company, this week announced the launch of Eden LGBTQ Youth Foundation.
Ramona "Mona" Webb, a 33-year-old lesbian community artist and activist, was named the foundation's executive director. Currently, the position is volunteer, but as the foundation grows it's expected to become a paid position, said Webb and Christine De La Rosa, founder and owner of Eden Pride Events.
"I'm really proud to see it actually happening," said De La Rosa. "Things don't just happen, you make them happen and I'm really proud."
The new foundation will provide up to 20 scholarships to LGBT youth, scholarship writing workshops, and awardees will be connected to a mentor, who will guide them throughout the academic year, said De La Rosa, a 40-something lesbian.
Grants will also be awarded to LGBT youth organizations and programs focused on queer youth by the foundation, she added.
The two women anticipate the first grant and scholarship applications for up to 20 $1,000 awards won't be accepted until sometime after August for the spring 2014 semester. Mentor applications will be accepted around the same time, they said.
Starting next year scholarships will be awarded for the 2014-2015 academic year, said De La Rosa.
The foundation's nonprofit status is currently pending with the California secretary of state's office and the Internal Revenue Service. It is a separate entity from Eden Pride Events. For now four of the board members are Eden team members and the president of the board is De La Rosa. De La Rosa anticipates attracting new board members not associated with Eden Pride Events soon, she said.
The foundation currently does not have a budget. Eden Pride Events 2012 budget was $50,000.
Eden Pride Events produces events for women and allies mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area and in select locations in California, particularly alongside San Francisco Pride and other Pride events. This year, the Oakland-based event business will expand to produce a few national events, said De La Rosa.
Eden has attracted upward of 20,000 women and allies through all of its events in the four years since the business was formed, according to marketing information from the organization.
Grant and scholarship awards will be generated from the proceeds of Eden Pride Events. De La Rosa envisions other sources of funding will be added, including foundations and individual donors.
The business' success brought the eight-member team to consider Eden's community impact, De La Rosa said. They sought advice from Tyranny Allen, CEO and co-founder of Marketing Kings, who suggested the group form a nonprofit, similar to the Aqua Girl Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Aqua Girl, the annual all-women weekend party in Miami.
The idea resonated with the team and they immediately went to work to form the foundation.
Eden's team members hold day jobs and aren't making a living off the Eden events, said De La Rosa. Many of the team members work with youth, have children of their own, or like children but don't have any of their own and want to be involved in youths' lives. So, choosing to help LGBT youth was the easy part, she said.
The board also wanted to do more than write a check.
"We realized that we didn't want to just have this party or this weekend where we were empowering a lot of women to meet, hang out, and network with each other. We needed to empower the next generation of LGBTQ youth coming up," said De La Rosa.
Webb's experience as an arts educator and extensive portfolio creating and running grassroots literary organizations is instrumental in the development of the foundation's goals and values, said De La Rosa.
Webb was a key figure in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana literary scene, where she founded and ran the city's Poetry Alliance.
Since arriving in the Bay Area in 2006, Webb has worked with the San Francisco Unified School District and other school districts around the Bay Area. She also worked with San Francisco City Poetry Slam and Experimental Mic, the San Francisco Arts Commission's Artery Project, and the National Queer Arts Festival.
The foundation's goal is to do more than hand a check to students and wish them well in their studies, De La Rosa said.
Instead, it will provide a scholarship writing workshop as a part of the application process, the $1,000 award will be sent directly to the student's school and a mentor – whether it's a drag queen or a lawyer – will be assigned to work with the student.
Students, 16-24 years of age, will have to be residents of one of the nine Bay Area counties. They will have to be accepted to or enrolled in community college, college, a university, or vocational school. Awardees will be expected to maintain a 2.5 grade-point-average or higher, said Webb. Citizenship status or youth from at-risk or non-traditional backgrounds will be encouraged to apply, said the women.
Webb and the board are still working on the details of the foundation's guidelines and policies but they will be updated on the foundation's website, http://www.edenyouthfoundation.org.