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New Pride group aims to build LGBTQ visibility

Project Pride building links among gay groups and the broader Sarasota community

When they launched the new Project Pride SRQ to celebrate the LGBTQ community in the Sarasota area just a few months ago, co-founders Joshua Beadle and Katie McCurry were planning a week of activities in June that included guest speakers, a mini-gala, brunches and more.

All those Pride Week plans, designed as the organization’s major public introduction, were put on hold because of the coronavirus. But Beadle and McCurry say they are just getting started with bringing attention to an organization that was created to “give our community more visibility, celebrate our community as much as possible and to support existing LGBTQ organizations,” Beadle said.

They also want to forge more connections with the broader Sarasota community through the organization. Beadle serves as executive director and McCurry is the administrative manager.

Beadle, a longtime nightclub event organizer, operates the website Sarasota OUT, which promotes LGBTQ-friendly businesses, organizations and events and sponsors the monthly G2H2 (Gay Group Happy Hours) at area bars and restaurants. He said Project Pride wants to do more to bring people and groups in the community together on a consistent basis.

He partnered with McCurry, a close friend and makeup artist who operates MOD (Makeup on Demand) Artistry with Alexander Honford. She describes herself as an LGBTQ ally who got involved with the community through her husband, Neil McCurry, president and CEO of Sabal Palm Bank.

“We have many gay friends and I wanted to get more involved. I wanted to help Josh get more done,” she said. “No one has been trying to do this, to bring the community together, like Josh and I think working together we can really make a difference.”

“We’re trying to celebrate pride as much and as often as possible throughout the year, to make the community visible, to promote Sarasota as an LGBTQ-friendly destination,” Beadle said.

Beadle said there have been many organizations, including the League of Our Own gay bowling league, Equality Florida, Sarasota Pride and ALSO Youth, that have brought the LGBTQ and broader communities together for special events.

“But there hasn’t been one that’s done a good job of gathering the community together and keeping them engaged and just being social, to keep some momentum going during the year,” he said.

The original plans to launch Project Pride were a long weekend of events, including a Visionaries mini-gala that would benefit ALSO Youth; a party at Umbrellas intended to pay tribute to the Stonewall Inn; a Saturday Pride on the Beach at Siesta Key and a closing drag brunch. Beadle filmed an interview with Vic Basile, the first Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign, who was to be honored at the opening dinner.

Beadle said he wanted to create a major Pride event that would be held in the traditional month of June. The origins of Pride are linked to riots that broke out after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City in late June 1969.

Over the years, different organizations including the now-defunct Southwest Florida Business Guild, held Pride events in Sarasota in June, but the festivals shifted to the fall and now winter, in part because of the weather. Sarasota Pride will present its Pride in the Park event Jan. 23.

In recent weeks, to raise more awareness and connections, Beadle has been hosting daily interviews on Facebook Live that have touched on a range of subjects with representatives of the Trans community, Planned Parenthood, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, MCC Church of the Trinity and more. There is also a bi-weekly Trans Talk program.

Beadle and McCurry said they have held private fundraising events to support the launch of the organization and to buy supplies to build awareness at other Pride and community events in the area, when they are able to resume. They also are looking to put together an LGBTQ history in Sarasota to “recognizable and memorialize” some of the “amazing people, organizations, night clubs and bars” that have been in Sarasota.

Last December, Sarasota OUT organized the first LGBTQ float in the downtown Sarasota holiday parade.

“It was amazing to see the community, just the greater community of Sarasota, cheering extra hard for us waving our flags,” Beadle said. “It was almost like validation for what we were doing.”

The organization is also developing plans for an online fundraiser and for an old-time style radio broadcast featuring Sarasota notables and building up information and resources on its website,

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