If there is a watchword—a call to arms—that sums up Jacqui Charvet it might be this: Make a Difference.
You can see that the Pride of South Florida chair and president is allowing herself a rare few moments where her guard is down and she might even be thought of as ‘relaxing.’
“Frankly, it almost didn’t happen,” she says with a combination of satisfaction and wonderment.
“It” was PrideFest 2010, which was held the weekend of March 13 and 14 at Jaco Pastorius Park in Oakland Park.
“I remember sitting alone in a big empty room, just me and [fellow Board member] Joel [Slotnick]. We looked at each other and asked ‘how are we going to do this?’”
As was first reported in SFGN, an ongoing investigation into the possible theft of nearly $50,000 by former PrideFest treasurer and Board member Michael Cruz nearly derailed an event that has been a part of South Florida’s landscape since 1977.
Charvet, like her fellow Board members, is respecting law enforcement requests to not discuss the case. She will admit to her disappointment in Cruz’s alleged actions: “Mike was a friend of ours,” she notes with something bordering on sadness.
In addition to putting the event in jeopardy, the allegations caused a mass exodus of volunteers and Board members from the organization.
“We first learned about the investigation in May,” Charvet remembers. “At that point I was still new to the Board of Pride South Florida and then we have this bombshell dropped on us. The next thing, members are resigning left and right.”
Charvet had only just become involved with the landmark LGBT festival the previous year, serving as Stage Manager for PrideFest 2009, which was held at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, the event’s previous venue.
In the aftermath of the Board’s decimation, Charvet and Slotnick decided they would soldier on. Enlisting the aid of the last incumbent Board member, “Miss” Vicki Keller, they recruited Shawn Manning and Sonja Mitchell along with long-time LGBT activist Marc Hansen to reconstitute both the Board and its commitment to both Pride South Florida the organization and PrideFest the longstanding festival.
“We felt that we had an obligation to the event as an entity,” Charvet said. “Whatever it took to make it work, we were not about to let it or the community down.”
That meant long hours and taking on multiple responsibilities to account for the scarcity of man—and woman—power.
“You talk about your activism,” Charvet recalls. “We had five or six people doing nine times the work. But who needs sleep?”
The longtime LGBT activist brought her energy and drive from New Jersey to South Florida in 2006, after participating in numerous organizations and causes in the Garden State.
Ask her what the most satisfying part of PrideFest 2010 was and she answers without hesitation. “Pulling it off.”
Charvet gives credit to her fellow organizers as well as to the corporate and civic partners that helped bring the event about.
“Our team—great, giving people,” she says. “We surmounted so many challenges. It was like being hip-deep in quicksand, with an obstacle to deal with every minute after you thought you had dealt with them all.”
She also credits the City of Oakland Park with rolling out the red carpet for PrideFest.
“They were extremely cooperative. At every turn the city was there to offer help and assistance. It was also nice working with a municipality that is so committed to LGBT equality and with so many openly gay elected officials.
Charvet says her first year as PrideFest chair had challenges not relating to keeping the event alive.
“You’d be amazed how many people ask ‘why am I paying to be gay?’” she says, in reference to questions about the costs for parking, admission and food at PrideFest.
“The monies we raise from all of these things go back into our community. Tuesday’s Angels, Poverello, Transgender Equality Initiatives—these are all worthy organizations who need the seed money we provide, and that comes from our partnering sponsors and from our patrons who support the event. People need to know the good work they are supporting,” she adds.
Asked what she has written on her Wish List for PrideFest 2011, and Charvet is insistent.
“We need more hard-working Board members. We need more Latinas and Latinos, more lesbian participation. We are an all-inclusive LGBT event.”
Charvet says that preliminary calculations suggest the number of attendees may be slightly down from last year. But she isn’t complaining. All things being equal, Charvet and her fellow Board members are satisfied with the fruits of their labors, and confident that their work will continue to pay dividends for the community they support.
“I’ll take it,” she says, a mischievous smile playing upon her face.