Our July 10 cover story, "The Police and Pride," contained factual errors as well as misleading, unfair implications. It does not meet journalistic standards of fairness and accuracy and should not have been published.
The online version of the story has been deleted.
To correct the factual errors:
• Jazzelle Bonilla works for MOCHA, not the Victory Alliance.
• The federal Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy did not prevent the Rochester Police Department's LGBTQ laison, Kim Rasbeck, from serving in the military. She served in the military prior to 1992; the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy prevented her from re-enlisting after 9/11.
• The Rochester Police Department does not have a presence inside the festival grounds of the Pride Festival and the Rochester Black Pride Festival, but it does maintain a presence outside of the festivals for public safety and traffic needs.
We apologize to the Out Alliance and the Rochester Police Department and are providing space here for Out Alliance leaders to address their concerns about the article.
– Mary Anna Towler, editor
The real ROC Pride story
A month ago, staff of Out Alliance sat down with CITY for what we believed was an interview about the beautiful, colorful, meaningful thing that is ROC Pride. To our surprise and dismay, the article that donned the cover last Wednesday, "The Police and Pride," read as an indictment of Pride, the Out Alliance, and the Rochester Police Department. We are to this moment still uncertain of the meaning behind it, but we are appreciative that CITY has given us the platform to set the record straight.
If we're going to talk about the police presence at Pride, let's talk about it. The Out Alliance made a vow to the community at the beginning of 2019 to be a different agency. The first step in that is acknowledging what we've done wrong. Out Alliance, although designed to be a voice of the entire LGBTQ+ community, fell short of that many, many times.
An agency that was built and sustained by white, cis-gender men to a large degree, used that as a barometer to grow, judge, and make decisions. When your lens is that narrow, the picture will reflect not only who was caught in the frame – but who wasn't. It was time to broaden our picture. With that movement, we diversified staff, programming, and the ideals for the place in the community that we upheld.
Early in the year, we were approached by many people from our community who were very uncomfortable with the idea of a police presence at Pride. Some were uncomfortable because of the pointed irony of having a heavy police at the 50th Stonewall Anniversary Pride that celebrated the LGBTQ strike-back against police mistreatment in New York City that brought LGBTQ rights to a national stage.
Others were concerned because of the on-going challenging relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community, especially people of the transgender experience and people of color.
As representatives of the entire community, it was our duty to bring those concerns to law enforcement and find common ground. Under the impressive leadership of Chief La'Ron Singletary, all parties came to the table, and we did the very important work of not just building bridges over trauma but acknowledging it, educating about it, and figuring out what is next. We have great respect for the work of law enforcement and the people risking their lives day in and day out to keep us safe. But how dare we ignore those who have had a different experience?
This is a start of conversations that center around continued education of the police force, education of the officers who will serve at the parade and festival, and the same amazing presence to keep us secure in an understated way that will meet each festival goer where they are as we continue to work with them and build as a community.
The RPD is just as committed, and in the same spirit that we respect and appreciate them, we will also hold them accountable.
The article suggested a rift with Rochester Black Pride that doesn't exist. The Out Alliance Director of Operations and Public Relations proudly serves on the committee to plan Rochester Black Pride and had served on it long before coming to Out Alliance.
We at the Out Alliance welcome each and every member of the community to come out and enjoy Pride, but we acknowledge and respect that the culture of intersectionality has a history of its own that absolutely must be celebrated and upheld.
Pride by nature is a space to be free and safe. Sometimes that means creating separate spaces to ensure that freedom and safety apply to all. There is absolutely no reason you can't come out and enjoy every single Pride event in July, stop by the first-ever MOCHA tent at the ROC Pride Festival, and then have an amazing experience in September at Rochester Black Pride; we'll see you there.
The article we sat down for was to talk about the fantastic events that comprise ROC Pride, from Q-Day at Seabreeze and the Cook Out last weekend to the phenomenal ROC Pride parade on July 20 and ROC Pride Festival July 20-21 at Cobbs Hill Park featuring an array of amazing local performers and headliner Jennifer Holliday. It was also to talk about that incredible feeling that comes over you at Pride where people's ability to be their unabashed, authentic selves creates a truly infectious sense of joy and belonging; about the lives that are saved by someone who has felt truly alone and without hope or support as they step into a sea of rainbow and realize they are among family and that it WILL get better. That they too have a village, and it's extremely beautiful, colorful, and proud.
Please visit www.rocpride.com to get information about any and all of the ROC Pride 2019 events still left to come. And we hope to see each and every one of you this weekend. Happy Pride, Rochester!
JEFF MYERS AND TAMARA LEIGH
Jeff Myers is executive director of the Out Alliance. Tamara Leigh is the Alliance's director of operations and public relations.