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Emotional confrontations at San Diego Pride meeting on Wednesday night

An emotional night for the San Diego Pride Board and the community.
Photo credit:
Ebony Burnett Mullins

Emotions ran high at the public San Diego Pride Board meeting on Wednesday night.

Sixty-five people, sought answers to some issues they have about the conduct of the current Board, such as the absence of meeting minutes and financial statements, outdated since 2015.

But the biggest issue was the recent removal of Stephen Whitburn earlier this month after five years as the Executive Director and organizing its most successful Pride festival in San Diego history.

Whitburn’s supporters where the majority at the meeting and they cheered and applauded as each public speaker demanded he be re-instated.

Pride Festival Manager, Bob Leyh accused the board of making a big mistake by terminating him. 

“Make no bones about it, that’s what you did,” he said, “you terminated Stephen. Was it because of communication problems, was it because of lack of vision? You won’t tell us.”

He then gave Whitburn accolades for working with the African American community and hiring what he called the best staff pride has seen in years.

“You ask us to trust you,” he said, “but we can’t trust you because of the decisions you’ve made. And then you get angry when we challenge your decisions.”

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reported this week that former Board member Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, and current Medical Director of Pride, Joseph Smith, were going to demand the resignation of five board members, and that they already had the letters drawn up.

Will-Rodriguez addressed the board with 14 different grievances including the absence of minutes, lack of connection with the LGBT community, and disbanding the Pride community advisory council.

Co-Chair Bianca Burt remained silent as each person took the microphone and made their case. 

At one point Emeritus Judi Schaim began to respond to the outcries, but was interrupted by a protestor who asked, "Why is the Board not speaking, why is the Emeritus speaking?"

At the end of the evening, no resignations were signed and a compromise was made.

The board will select five of its members and the dissidents will select five of their own in order to address the 14 issues brought up at Wednesday’s meeting.

This committee of ten will meet and discuss the best ways to address the concerns and what courses of action to take to correct them.

The five who have been selected to represent those in opposition to Pride will be: Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Joe Smith, Connor Maddocks, Martha Henderson and Will-Rodriguez himself.

No date has been established as to when the first conveneing of the two parties will take place. 

Will-Rodriguez said in a statement on Facebook that although the controversy is not over, Wednesday’s meeting was a victory,

“Thank you, to the 65 people who came out and to the many dozens more who called and texted their support and the others who wrote letters. Without you this would not have been possible and we truly are stronger together," he wrote. 

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reached out to the Pride Board After the meeting Wednesday for a statement, but they have yet to respond. 

We will keep you updated as the story developes.

See Also: Stephen Whitburn of San Diego Pride dismissed

See Also: San Diego Pride Board responds to Whitburn dismissal hours before protesters will ask all of them to resign 

Special thanks to Timothy Caudill and Will Rodriguez-Kennedy for their video footage of the meeting.

Correction: This article now reflects the correct spelling of  Emeritus Judi Schaim's last name