By Velvet Wahl
The Southern Arizona Aids Foundation (SAAF) is hosting its fourth annual Out Brunch in Tucson to honor three different community members for their positive impact in the LGBTQ+ community, and this year it will be after dark.
The event, which takes place on April 17, will look a little different this year as SAAF works on maintaining social distancing while still bringing the community together.
“We thought ‘Let’s not cancel it. Let’s reimagine it. Let’s do it differently,’” Travis Craddock, the director of development for SAAF, said. “We’ve all been doing that this past year. If you’ve not been thinking creatively or solving problems differently than before, then you’re not doing it right.”
This year, the event will be held at the local drive-in theater El Toro Flicks Downtown and SAAF hopes to stream the event live so people can watch it from home. At the drive-in, SAAF plans on having cars properly spaced out to allow attendees to sit on chairs in front of their cars.
Events Manager Jess Patrick said they are excited to see the community brought together safely with proper social distancing and mask usage. The event will also have vendors including the LGBTQ+ youth vocal ensemble THEM, who will also be performing at the event.
“They were with us last year and they just wowed the crowd. We fell in love with them,” Patrick said. “This year, they’re going to do some pre-recorded sessions for us and come back and be with us again.”
There will be a mix of pre-recorded segments, live entertainment and speakers at the event. As with previous years, a video for each award winner will also be included.
There are three different award categories. The Steve Hall Award is given to a volunteer in the community. The Godat Award is given to a community leader and is a lifetime achievement award. The Dr. Jean Baker Community Ally Award is given to an ally who has made significant contributions to the community.
The awards were originally given out by Wingspan, an LGBTQ community center in Tucson that had it’s programs taken on by SAAF after it closed. This will be the twentieth year the awards will be given out and the list of past recipients is long.
The new CEO of SAAF, Ravi Grivois-Shah, received the Godat Award in 2019 and the former mayor of Tucson, Jonathan Rothschild, received the Dr. Jean Baker Community Ally Award in 2013.
“I [also] want to recognize our award winner last year and her name is Erin Russ. She was the founder of Southern Arizona Gender Alliance here in Tucson, which has been an active organization addressing issues around transgender and non-binary folks,” Craddock said.
All the proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to SAAF for their programs and initiatives. Past SAAF initiatives include banning conversion therapy in Pima county and installing Arizona’s first rainbow crosswalk.
“We also pride ourselves on the role that we take in providing a voice and visibility for the LGBTQ community, so that’s what funds will go towards,” Craddock said. “Our programs and those initiatives and just overall support of SAAF so that we can continue to do the important work that the community trusts us to do.”
Craddock also emphasized that community support is extremely important in everything SAAF has accomplished, especially because it’s hard to find sustainable funding for LGBTQ+ programs.
“All of what we do is made possible by community support. It’s been a really tough four years for the LGBTQ community, especially for transgender folks. I think that needs to be stated that they most certainly have had the most difficult time,” Craddock said. “The time is now to really step up and support folks.”
It’s extremely important to bring the community together every year to reflect on the work that has been done, especially during the past four years Patrick said.
“It’s been a rough four years and I think that it’s really been important for us as a community, in the LGBTQ and queer community, to acknowledge every year [that] we are still doing work,” Patrick said. “We’re still here. We’re still valid. We’re still important and we need to be seen and heard. We need to see and hear each other and acknowledge that work. Hopefully from here we’ll have a lot more to acknowledge and celebrate.”