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Pearls of Wisdom - Our 30th Anniversary

It's been three decades since a dedicated group of LGBTQ+ Boulderites banded together to form Boulder Pride, which eventually became Out Boulder, which eventually became Out Boulder County and now RMEQ.

To honor our 30th anniversary, RMEQ will feature profiles with former board members, volunteers and program participants taking a glance back at the path they helped forge, and offering their "pearls of wisdom" for our future success. 

This celebration of our past is a runway toward our future, which we’re excited to share more details about in June at The Garden Party!

We're kicking the festivities off with a Q&A with Andrew Burwick, who served on Boulder Pride’s board from 2004 to 2006.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What did the organization look like 20 years ago?

A: Boulder Pride was a grassroots, volunteer-powered organization, working hard to punch above its weight. The organization had secured its official status as a nonprofit just five years before I joined the board. We were based in the “little house” on 14th Street in downtown Boulder — and our annual budget was less than $100,000.

Q: What did Boulder Pride’s programming look like in those days?

A: The kinds of programs Boulder Pride offered were not so different from what RMEQ does now — discussion and support groups, community organizing and outreach, social events. But, of course, the scale and geographic reach were completely different, and we didn’t have the capacity to do the kind of research and advocacy that RMEQ does.

Some programs from those days, like Pride Fest (which we called the Block Party) and Speaking Out, continue to this day. Boulder Pride focused a lot of energy on serving LGBTQ+ youth and organizing events to promote visibility and awareness of the lives of LGBTQ+ people. The organization enjoyed some accomplishments — like the first time we held Pride Fest in the center of the Pearl Street Mall (and had rainbow flags hung on the mall lampposts!) — that felt like simple but meaningful steps toward making Boulder a more visibly welcoming place for LGBTQ+ folks.

Q: What challenges did the organization face then?

A: We faced some challenges related to statewide campaigns that directly targeted our community. In 2006, there was a battle over Amendment 43, which added a section to the state constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. And, in the same year, voters rejected Referendum I, which would have established domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

Boulder Pride worked with so many other local and statewide groups on those campaigns, and they were tough (but not completely unexpected) losses. But, that work also helped grow the ranks of the organization’s volunteers and supporters, strengthening it in a way.

Boulder Pride also faced some challenges related to organizational capacity. With few or no paid staff, it was hard to pull off the kind of consistent, frequent programming we wanted to offer. The organization did get a lot done with the resources it had, though, offering a safe and supportive space for the community — and meeting some of the same needs that still exist today.

Q: As someone who’s worked with a number of nonprofit organizations throughout your career, what do you think has made RMEQ successful?

A: When I've seen nonprofits thrive, it's been due to strong leadership, a clear sense of momentum and purpose among their supporters, and a focus on basic organizational capacity — good governance, strong financial management, and systems for doing things consistently. I think nonprofits also benefit a lot from support from public agencies — like the city and county — that can offer financial resources for big projects.

I think RMEQ has been successful because so many people in our community have put their heart into the organization and been willing to stick with it through ups and downs. Of course Mardi, the current board and donors, and the rest of the team deserve a lot of credit for helping take the organization to the next level and bringing to fruition the community’s vision of a big, beautiful space for folks to gather and support one another.

Q: How does RMEQ make it another 30 years as an organization?

A: By continuing to connect us as a community, helping us be cohesive despite the many different experiences and backgrounds we have, and giving special attention to the most vulnerable among us. By being clear-eyed and responsive in advocating for our community, making a case for positive change that’s grounded in fairness and facts. By continuing to offer a strong vision for the future and bringing a sense of mission and energy to the work.

Q: Any final “pearls of wisdom” to offer?

A: I don’t have any special pearls of wisdom to share, but I will say that our conversation reminds me of a word in Yiddish — “kvelling” — that my mom sometimes uses when she talks about her grandkids. Kvelling is the sense of enjoyment you have from seeing someone you love do something great. And, while I don't take any credit for where RMEQ is today, I do sometimes reflect on those earlier days and feel glad that the amazing group of folks I worked with did what it could to sustain the organization and create the opportunity for RMEQ to become what it is now. It’s terrific to witness that evolution.


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