On Wednesday, June 19th, the St. Petersburg Chamber held the second Now Trending luncheon of 2019. The luncheon event, with food provided by Bayou Catering and sponsored by Duke Energy, welcomed over 50 attendees to the beautiful Metro Inclusive Health Center, located in the Kenwood Neighborhood to hear from a panel of local LGBTQ+ Community leaders including James Keane from Metro Inclusive Health, Jim Nixon from the City of St. Pete, Luke Blankenship from St. Pete Pride, Todd Richardson from Equality Florida, and Bobby Poth from Poth and Associates Real Estate.
Taking Care of the LGBTQ+ Community’s Health
Jeff Baker from Duke Energy served as moderator and began the program asking James Keane to tell the audience about Metro Inclusive Health. Keane explained that Metro fills a gap in health care coverage for not only the LGBTQ+ Community but for uninsured or underinsured patients as well. Their new facility sees over 5,000 patients seeking primary care. Learn more about Metro Inclusive Health here.
What to Expect from St. Pete Pride
Baker then asked Luke Blankenship to give a brief history of St. Pete Pride and give a rundown of events planned for this week. Blankenship explained this is the 17th year of Pride in St. Pete, initially started by a local group of leaders and has grown into the largest Pride festival in Florida. With 5 big events from Wednesday through Sunday (Kickoff Party on 6/19 at Sirata, Stonewall Reception on 6/20 at Museum of Fine Arts, SP2 Concert on 6/21 in North Straub Park, Tech Data St. Pete Pride Parade on 6/22 on Bayshore Drive, and the Festival on 6/23 in the Grand Central District) St. Pete Pride attracts hundreds of thousands of people to St. Pete and has an estimated $22 million dollar economic impact on our community. For more information on St. Pete Pride click here.
St. Pete as a Welcoming and Inclusive City
Jim Nixon was asked what the city has done in recent years to make St. Pete known as a welcoming and inclusive place for the LGBTQ Community. Nixon cited the LGBTQ Welcome Center, the Non-Discrimination Ordinance, and an inclusive business community as the chief reasons for our reputation.
LGBTQ Small Businesses
Baker turned the conversation to Bobby Poth to speak about his experience as an LGBTQ small business owner in St. Pete. Poth started by commenting on the economic impact of Pride and the city’s reputation as contributing much more than $22 million, when you factor in the number of LGBTQ+ people moving to our area because of the inclusivity, extending funds within St. Pete for years to come. He then spoke about being comfortable being his true self and that his participation in Pride and other events is a positive for his business where in some communities it would be a negative.
The Fight for Equality
Lastly, Baker asked Todd Richardson to talk about the successes Equality Florida has won and what they are still fighting for. Richardson spoke about local Non-Discrimination Ordinances and success in electing LGBTQ+ people to public office but also lamented that it is still legal in Florida to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and identity when it comes to housing and employment. Learn more about Equality Florida and their initiatives by clicking here.
Diversity in the LGBTQ+ Community
Before turning to audience questions, Keane brought attention to the fact that the entire panel was comprised of gay, white males and explained that our community needs more diversity in it’s leadership. Poth added that he believes there is a certain privilege presented to gay, white males that traditionally allowed them to be more vocal and involved than other subsets of the LGBTQ+ Community.
The audience’s questions varied from how businesses can learn more and get trained on inclusion (Metro Inclusive Health offers training) to what safeguards are in place for the parade and festival in light of the PULSE shootings and last week’s gun scare in Washington DC., Blankenship ensured that Pride is prepared and taking precautions.
Experience and Enjoy Pride
The St. Pete Chamber holds Inclusivity as one of our core values and is proud to have focused on the “Power of Pride” for this month’s luncheon. Thank you to our amazing panel and we encourage the entire St. Petersburg Community to enjoy a safe and happy Pride! Don’t forget to stop by the St. Pete Store and Visitors Center to pick up local Pride apparel.