A few years ago, I was on a plane that was struck by lightning, causing a big explosion. In the blink of an eye, all of the lights went out. The silence that followed was deafening. And the next second, all the lights came back on and all of the passengers were left stunned. There were no announcements from the captain for nearly half an hour to let us know what had happened, or if we were going to be ok.
I’ve never seen strangers connect with one another more than in that moment. People immediately reached out to those around them, as we waited for more information. Within three minutes, I’d formed a deep relationship with my seatmates. It wasn’t out of panic—it was support, it was warmth, it was connection. It was millennia of human instincts telling us to connect with one another in a moment of deep fear and uncertainty.
Earlier this week, on my way back from a convening for leaders of equity-focused foundations that was cut short due to COVID-19, I found myself in a similar situation.
In the middle of the San Diego airport, I was surrounded by strangers scrambling to get home to their families, as I was. I watched as people reached out to the strangers around them—to ask questions, to seek understanding, to ease their own anxiety through laughter. The entire scene was filled with nervous anticipation, out-loud processing, and attempts to genuinely connect with one another.
The connections we make, the genuine care we feel for one another—these moments will continue to sustain us through a time of crisis.
I returned home Thursday to a community, both here in Seattle and across the Northwest, who takes care of one another—and has for decades. One whose priority is doing everything we can to keep one another safe, and build the systems of support we know we will need. This is not the first massive health crisis that the LGBTQ+ community has faced, and we have a history of resilience and care to draw from in this moment.
The health and safety of our community is Pride Foundation’s utmost priority in this moment, as it always has been, and I’m writing today to let you know of our plans for the foreseeable future.
Centering those most impacted by COVID-19
Taking care of one another in crises like this extends far beyond our internal organizational planning, especially in recognition of the disproportionate impact this virus has had, and will continue to have, on people in our communities.
LGBTQ+ older adults, people living with HIV/AIDS, and other high-risk groups are facing imminent health threats on a daily basis. Asian and Pacific Islander communities are experiencing discrimination, stigma, and violence at high rates across the country. People who are low-income, and those who lack healthcare or paid sick leave are left with few options, and are being forced to choose between their livelihood and their health and safety.
There are so many in real danger, and this is contributing to community anxiety that impacts all of us. Pride Foundation is committed to showing up for everyone in our communities, and centering those who are most impacted by COVID-19.
We are in the midst of setting up a responsive fund to be able to support community groups and organizations responding to this crisis and whose work is being impacted by the factors surrounding the spread. Details on how you can support these efforts and how groups will be able to access support will be shared later this week. In the meantime, Pride Foundation will put any donation to good use to create a network of stability and support for LGBTQ+ communities across the Northwest.
Logistics for the days, weeks, and months ahead
Since March 6th, all Pride Foundation staff have been working remotely and our Seattle office has been effectively closed. We have implemented a continuity plan to ensure all of our operations are uninterrupted by this situation, and we anticipate minimal impact on the day-to-day functioning of the organization. Our focus is on ensuring stability in our work so that we can respond to the emerging needs of our community.
The best way to get ahold of staff will continue to be via email (listed on the staff page on our website), and we will also be checking voicemail remotely on our main office line (206.323.3318).
All Pride Foundation events, including The Equity Awards gala in Portland, and staff travel are on hold for the time being. We are practicing social distancing, knowing that it is our shared responsibility to do everything in our power to contribute to the prevention of the spread of this virus. This not only includes the events we are hosting, but also staff participation in community events, and meetings. When possible, we are hosting virtual meetings and offering our video conferencing software as a support tool.
Looking toward the future
Today, we honor the fear that is real for so many of us. We acknowledge the uncertainty that is our reality right now. But we also strive to move forward with a sense of calm and clarity, knowing that we must move forward intentionally—and that we all need to be in this together.
More than ever, we are so grateful for you and all of our supporters who give us hope that we can create a safe and healthy world together that is filled with love and justice—no matter what comes our way.
With pride and hope,