It hasn’t truly been a year for Advocate Alliance of Broken Arrow yet, but we wanted to hop on the trend of re-visiting the things we experienced in 2022. From March until now has felt like several years and I still can’t believe it hasn’t even been a full 365 days yet.
To say that none of us planned to be in this position at this point in our lives is an understatement. In March, someone on Facebook suggested that a Pride event wouldn’t get the publicity that other events get from the city leadership. That sparked the idea of putting together a small Pride Fest. Five individuals that had never met in person came together at the Neinheus pavilion to talk about it and on April 1, 2022, the first Pride Fest in BA had its special event application submitted. We held a community meeting at Broken Arrow Brewery and met with lots of potential sponsors and volunteers.
April 13, 2022 – AABA became an official not for profit corporation. Thanks to the help of Kirk Hamilton, we filed and received our articles of incorporation and became a legal nonprofit in the state of Oklahoma.
May 2022 – We received our final letter of nonprofit status from the IRS and had officially received sponsorships through our payment portal with Youth Services of Tulsa. The crew there were integral in helping this stay funded and organized financially.
June 11th brought us our first big fundraiser in the community. We weren’t sure what to expect on the day the Big Gay Garage Sale took place, but were pleasantly surprised at the amount of people that stopped by after seeing our Big Gay Garage Sale signs. I think it was on that day we realized that we could make this happen. A week later, we had our last event at Broken Arrow Brewing Company. It was a very small Gayme Night but we had a lot of fun.
July rolled around and we really felt things starting to get real and ramp up. Meetings with city coordinators and vendors for tents, porta potties, and more, coupled with media interviews made life interesting for all of us. As introverts, we jumped in with no flotation devices and weren’t sure how to tread the water. Looking back, I still don’t know how we did it. July also brought lots of negativity from a small group of people that didn’t agree with the LGBTQ life. People spoke at city council meetings, commented on social media, and at one point, we were advised to file a police report because one man was harassing us with articles about events being met with violent protests. I would be lying if I said we weren’t concerned and even a little fearful at times, but there was no way we were backing down at this point.
Once we got to August, it was an absolute whirlwind of emotions and events. Media coverage only increased because of the very vocal opposition to our last fundraiser before Pride Fest. Now it’s time to meet Drag Your Bike to Brunch, the event that almost broke me. We were originally slated to host the event at the Broken Arrow Brewing Company before they opened on a Sunday. We would have beermosas and mimosas, breakfast burritos catered in, a drag show and lots of fun after the Pride Ride with This Machine around the Rose District. Sadly, we were notified by our partners at This Machine that the Brewery was backing out of the event and we would need to find a new location. The ride was still on but brunch was hanging in the balance. Thankfully, after a mad dash and scrambling to contact other possible locations, Rattlesnake Café swooped in and saved the day. Marketing kicked back in full gear and it was the most successful and FUN event we’d had leading up to Pride Fest. Granted, the protestors made it slightly uncomfortable for our guests and the staff at Rattlesnake, it was still a huge success and helped push our funds over the edge towards our goal.
In the final week, I don’t think I slept more than an hour a night because of excitement, nerves, and anticipation. We made lists, checked them twice, hydrated to the point of bloat, and willed the temperature to stay below 100. So much paperwork and scheduling took place that I genuinely don’t remember the events unless I list them chronologically. The morning of August 13th hit, and all of our hard work became tangible. It was far from perfect and there are SO many things we are going to change for 2023, but history was made. Our community was strengthened, and people just kept thanking everyone all day. We had some intense protestors throughout the day. Thankfully, BAPD and our security team from First Strike acted quickly and set clear boundaries. Mix 96.5 became legendary when they kept moving their live broadcast van to try and drown out the protestors with loudspeakers. One group that was across the road continually shouted to me that I was an abomination and tried to get me to come talk to them. I just smiled and drove by on the golf cart. The event was a mess, but it was a beautiful mess and full of love, compassion, strength, and JOY. Remember us partnering with Youth Services of Tulsa? We were able to donate $1700 to the LGBTQ program thanks to the sponsors, vendors, and kind people that supported us financially. I can’t wait for PFIBA 2023.
Now, we get into the meat of what AABA was about. Our goal was to build a safe place for the underserved and overlooked. We wanted to help elevate the voices of those that went ignored or were continually being silenced. To us, that looked like community events and resources.
Being brand new, having a very small, almost non-existent budget, and still not knowing what we were doing lead to timid event planning. Our first small scale event was Pumpkins in the Park the week before Halloween. Then we kicked off our annual Winter Accessories Drive in November. This is one of my favorite initiatives. We gather as many gloves, hats, scarves, etc in youth sizes and distribute to elementary schools in BA. We hope to continually expand our reach with this project and are proud to say that we donated 81 scarves to Rhoades Elementary as well as 195 pair of gloves, 88 beanies, and 12 ear warmers to Timber Ridge Elementary. Once again, this was only possible through donations and our two sponsors hosting donation boxes at Hamilton’s Bud & Bloom and AfterFX Spa & Salon.
In December, we made history in BA one more time by being the first LGBTQ presence in a parade. It was freezing but we took part in the BA Civitans Christmas Parade and handed out 240 rainbow candy canes and invites to our final community event of the year, A Very Merry Skate Jam. Speaking of, we hosted the event at BA Roller Sports with free Santa Pictures, a snowball fight, gifts for all the kids, and lots of fun. We were able to reserve spots for 50 skaters and their families, rented a photo booth set up from Laurie Biby Photography, and Santa Scott Claus was on hand with Mrs. Claus to take pictures with and throw snowballs. Each kiddo got to go home with a stuffed snowball and a green monster ball. We had several people ask if it would be a yearly event. Psst, it will be.
In the final week leading up to the holiday rush, we were able to sneak in one last donation to Forest Hills Care and Rehabilitation Center of 30+ pairs of fuzzy socks with grippers on them and a blanket as well.
All in all, I learned that imposter syndrome is real, I’m ok at this planning thing, I’ve got lots to work on as far as leading and managing, and nonprofits are a business. I can’t wait to see what an entire 365 days will look like if this is what we accomplished in just 8 short months. I’m so thankful for what this process has brought into my life and the passion it has ignited in me again. Can’t wait to share our goals and plans for 2023 with you all. Thanks for everything!