One of South Florida’s largest LGBT political organizations, SAVE is about to get a lot more social.
“We were approached by SAVE,” said Jonathan Barrio, president of the popular Gay Vista Social Club. “They came to us and legally acquired GVSC as their social arm.”
Gay Vista Social Club is a safe, free social space for gay men who wish to get more involved with the LGBT community without having to rely on South Florida’s bar and club scene. Founded by Jonathan Barrio in March 2016, the club began as a small facebook group. Now it has registered members in Ft. Lauderdale, and an even larger national membership.
“We’ve seen remarkable growth,” Barrio told SFGN. “And we are still a free social-professional environment, and we still hold weekly events.”
Tony Lima, the Executive Director of SAVE (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone), recognizes that the political organization needs to connect to as much of the community as possible. GVSC currently has nearly 2,000 registered members who, according to Lima, are extremely committed, civically focused individuals.
“The social part is very important.” Lima said. “Aligning with [GVSC] created more opportunity for community participation. We rely on our army of volunteers, and this adds to our amazing volunteer base.”
The first big event that the two groups will host together is a gala event with The Florida Grand Opera to feature “Before Night Falls,” an opera based on the gay poet Reinaldo Arenas who escaped the Castro regime in Cuba and eventually died of AIDS in New York City.
“Disillusioned by the Castro Revolution and persecuted by the Castro regime as a dissident writer and homosexual,” reads a description of the opera by the Miami New Times. “This opera follows his trials and tribulations as a political prisoner forced to smuggle his manuscripts abroad for publication.”
The Gala will take place on March 11 at 501 Alhambra Circle in Coral Gables.
“I love the premise of the opera,” Lima said. “We are based in South Florida and it is about a Cuban poet who lived an openly gay life and was persecuted for it. It is exciting to celebrate one of the icons of the community.”
“Before Night Falls” will be the first queer piece of opera that will be performed in Miami, and both GVSC and SAVE are excited to expose more people to this opera for their own reasons.
GVSC wants more of its younger members to get involved not only with the LGBT community through its social events, but in order to gain a wider understanding of LGBT culture and history.
“I think it is amazing that the Florida Grand Opera is doing a piece like this in an area that has suffered from HIV crisis,” Barrio said.
SAVE is using the opera and gala as a means to introduce more people to politics who otherwise would stay away.
“The arts are universal, the arts are a way to get people into the fray that makes a connection to the broader community,” Lima said. “We are a political advocacy group, but to a lot of people who aren’t interested in getting involved in the political sphere, these social events will soften our approach and serve as a greater connector for people.”
“We’ve seen a resurgence of younger people join us,” Lima continued. “GVSC has cemented that membership, but the political atmosphere has really helped to mobilize people into political activism. In the wake of the election, people want to get involved and make a difference. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty, people want to get more involved and do something for the greater good.”
SAVE is “dedicated to protecting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer from discrimination,” according to their website. However, due to the recent political climate the organization is attempting to expand those protections to a much wider range of marginalized groups in need of support, which requires more manpower.
“Our mission is not only to promote and protect our rights as a community, but to defend those rights,” Lima said. “And that defense, in this political climate, encompasses everyone who isn’t white. There is a need to be a defensive power for the community as a whole. We need to grow with the need of the community. We are standing up for the LGBT community as well as everybody else.”
Visit www.save.lgbt for more information about the organization.