by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Social Outreach Seattle's first-ever Orgullo Latin@ LGBTQ Pride Festival was a tremendous success. The inaugural event, produced for SOSea by Peruvian recording artist Jack Mozie, also a founding member of SOSea, and a coalition of organizers named Raza Y Orgullo (R.Y.O.) was held October 11 from 1-4 p.m. at El Centro de la Raza (2524 16th Ave. S.) and featured performances by drag queens, local singers, and commentary by Shaun Knittel, the founder and president of SOSea, as well as two workshops and a number of vendors and local organizations who tabled at the important cultural exchange event.
'Events like Orgullo are important because they are a way for the LGBTQ Latin population in Seattle to be remain visible,' Jack Mozie said. 'El Centro de la Raza was an excellent venue for this event and we thank them for their hospitality.'
El Centro de la Raza is a voice and a hub for Seattle and Martin Luther King, Jr. County's Latino community. El Centro's leadership advocates on behalf of Latino people and works to achieve social justice.
'Through our comprehensive programs and services, we empower members of the Latino community as fully participating members of society,' El Centro officials say on the organization's official website www.ElCentroDeLaRaza.org. 'We also work to raise awareness with the general public, and government, business and civic leaders about the needs of the Chicano/Latino community in the United States.'
In addition, the organization has a strong commitment to the struggle for civil rights for all persons, regardless of race, and a rich history of services to the community. Many of their program participants come back to El Centro de la Raza to join advocacy efforts, to volunteer, or just to visit. Along with their local work, El Centro maintains an international perspective and connections and continues to work for positive social change in the global community.
El Centro de la Raza, however, is known mostly as a straight or hetero Latino organization. As one of SOSea's strongest community bridge-builders, Jack Mozie saw Orgullo as a chance to eliminate such a divide. He approached El Centro leadership and, with the help of R.Y.O. and some special volunteers, worked to create the 2014 Orgullo Latin@ LGBTQ Pride Festival.
'We needed to bridge the gap that existed between the Latin community and the LGBT community in Seattle. We've been celebrating both identities separately for years, but never the interconnection that exists between the two,' said Jack Mozie
One of those volunteers is Maria Guzman-Gavidia, Jack Mozie's mother. Maria is about as supportive as a mother with a Gay son could be - she supports Jack's musical endeavors and his activism and community work in a way that is inspiring.
'I'm always going to support my son when it comes to his sexual orientation,' said Maria Guzman-Gavidia. 'It is painful to see other parents not doing so.'
The two make such a great team that they have begun to plan a SOSea sponsored Spanish language support group for the parents and friends and family of LGBTQ Latinos. The program, which will officially launch sometime next year, will work closely with local PFLAG chapters so as to not recreate the wheel, but add to it instead. The mission is something that is near and dear to Maria and Jack as they understand the LGBTQ immigrant struggle having lived it themselves.
Jack Mozie, whose birth name is Ramiro Alonso Orellana-Guzman, was born and raised until the age of 12 in Lima, Peru. Maria immigrated the family to Washington. Most of Jack's youth, whenever he wasn't learning to play an instrument or writing and singing music, was spent helping to take care of his family - which includes his grandmother and his little sister Nicole Cabrera. Jack took on the roll as man of the house as a teen and despite some financial struggles and working to put himself through college, Jack Mozie found the time to mentor other students in music programs, run his school's Gay Straight Student Alliance (GSA) and become a founding member of Social Outreach Seattle. Jack became a U.S. citizen in October of 2012 - just a few short weeks before the November 2012 general election to decide whether or not marriage equality would remain the law of the land in Washington state. Needless to say, thanks in no small part to the work that Jack and countless others did to lobby to approve Referendum 74, the state-wide referendum to keep the marriage equality law passed by the state legislature earlier that year, millions of Washingtonians made the right decision and history as we became one of three states in U.S. history to win marriage equality at the ballot box.
To say that community service and outreach is a family affair would be an understatement. For Jack and his family, it is a way of life. Nicole, who is now 12-years-old, the same age Jack was when he first immigrated to the United States from Peru, also chipped in to help organize and produce Orgullo.
According to Jack Mozie, many organizations also stepped forward to support the event. Those organizations include Equal Rights Washington (www.EqualRightsWashington.org), JAKE Talks (www.JAKE-Talks.com), Gay City (www.GayCity.org), Latino counseling and referral service Consejo (www.ConsejoCounseling.org), Seattle PFLAG (www.Seattle-PFLAG.org), Bellevue PFLAG (www.PFLAGBellevue.org), and more.
Food was provided, free of charge, by Thai Chifa Restaurant (16005 International Blvd., Suite C). Thai Chifa is a Peruvian cuisine-inspired restaurant. Peru is known for having some of the world's most diverse cuisines. It reflects local practices and ingredients - including influences from the indigenous population including the Inca and cuisines brought in with immigrants from Europe (Spanish, Italian and German), Asia (Chinese and Japanese) and West Africa. Without the familiar ingredients from their home countries, immigrants modified their traditional cuisines by using ingredients available in Peru. For more information about the restaurant, please visit the official website at www.Thai-ChifaRestaurant.com.
The entertainment at Orgullo was topnotch. Attendees first got to witness the vocal prowess of Michael Cagle (www.reverbnation.com/michaelgagle). Before moving to Seattle last year, Cagle spent 11 years in Las Vegas where he performed in venues throughout the city. He opened for or appeared with such stars as Reba McEntire, Kenny Loggins, The Drifters, and Sheena Easton to name a few. From there, Latina drag queen Scarlett Vandiryk (www.Facebook.com/Scarlett.Vandiryk) kept the energy going with a wonderful performance which led to a two-song appearance by the 2014 Seattle Out & Proud Pride Idol winner Ruth Soto, more commonly known as Latin Rose (www.LatinRose.bandcamp.com). She is easily one of Seattle's best live vocalists and arguably one of the only members of the LGBTQ Latin community, aside from Jack Mozie, that has a crossover audience both in and out of the LGBTQ and Spanish Language communities. Latin Rose went on to win the Ms. Latina 2014 title at the 2014 Entre Hermanos Latino Pageant last Sunday (www.EntreHermanos.org). It is safe to say that Latin Rose is having a banner year, which is well deserved considering the amount of philanthropy this local star has done throughout 2014.
SOSea Founder and President Shaun Knittel spoke at the event. Knittel says Orgullo is something he'd challenged Jack Mozie to produce for over a year because he, much like Jack himself, has felt that despite a robust annual LGBTQ Pride celebration, minority communities are often lumped into the mainstream celebration, which has become increasingly corporatized. 'While I am glad for our acceptance from the greater-Seattle hetero populace, I can't help but notice the cultural aspect of Pride being lost to the corporatization of the parade,' he said. 'We talk a big game about the diverse population that makes up the LGBTQ community, but then ignore the different demographics by throwing corporate sponsors ahead of actual community organizations that are here for the community year-round. A good example, as it applies to Orgullo, would be that it makes no sense to me to have the LGBTQ advocacy organization Entre Hermanos behind the parade contingent of a corporate bank or insurance sponser.'
'In order to remain visible and to come together and celebrate the different demographics of our community, many of the cultures that help make up our rainbow have formed to produce Pride events throughout the year that represent who they are and what identities they choose to share,' said Knittel, referring to Official Pride ASIA, an annual Pride event that takes place at Seattle's Hing Hay Park in the International District. Knittel is a founding member of Official Pride ASIA (www.PrideAsia.org) and SOSea is the group's official sponsor. 'Official Pride ASIA's mission statement sums it up best. Founded in 2012, Pride ASIA's mission is to 'celebrate, empower and nurture the multi-cultural diversity of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Ally communities through the Asian-Pacific Islander American lens.'
'In other words,' says Knittel, 'Cultural diversity matters and whether or not that diversity is on display at Pride ASIA or at Orgullo, it is important that our community continues to offer a safe space and platform to celebrate it within the greater-LGBTQ equality movement, Pride celebrations, and day-to-day life.'
At the event Knittel thanked attendees for showing support for the inaugural event and promised Orgullo will return next year with even more workshops, entertainment and outreach packed into the program. 'We are here to make sure that you remain a visible part of the greater LGBTQ community,' he said.
Perhaps the most valued part of the 2014 Orgullo Latin@ LGBTQ Pride Festival was the Immigration Law Workshop led by Michael Tisocco. The workshop focused solely on immigration matters that Tisocco, an immigration lawyer, practices before the immigration service and in immigration courts throughout the United States. Tisocco handles a wide range of cases including removal defense, asylum, non-immigrant visas, and deferred action for childhood arrivals, family petitions, naturalizations, U-visas, VAWA claims, and adjustment of status. Michael Tisocco is a first-generation American, a native of the Midwest, and is fluent in Spanish. The workshop was well-attended and participants were engaged in dialogue throughout the 1-hour discussion and information workshop which Tisocco facilitated as a sponsor of Orgullo.
Additionally, a second workshop, led by Ray Corona, dealt with LGBTQ sexual orientation and gender expression. The workshop was full of attendees and a lively discussion ensued about sexual orientation and gender identity, which included a handout for participants to take with them of the 'Genderbread Person.'
'Orgullo is dedicated to organizing a free educational and entertainment experience for the LGBTQ Latin community and allied communities of all kinds,' says Jack Mozie, adding, 'In order to keep Orgullo free, however, SOSea needs funding.'
'You can help,' he said. 'Help make this and future events a success by making a donation at www.socialoutreachseattle.com today by clicking on the DONATE tab and following the prompts. Any amount helps.'
Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) seeks to empower Seattle's LGBTQIA communities to proactively address social justice issues that affect us at-large. Working together, the possibilities to heal and strengthen our communities are endless. SOSea uses social media, video production, photo messaging, editorial content, and more to obliterate inequalities that face us on a daily basis. SOSea supports businesses, organizations, clubs, groups, and individuals that are equality-minded; this may include, but is not limited to: LGBTQIA candidates running for public office, advocacy work, youth aid, and more. SOSea's motto is: 'We Are One Community, Working Together.'
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