By Isabel Ashley
On Saturday, Nov. 18, Changing Tides Collective will host their inaugural Speakeasy Gala fundraising event at Brickworks, filling the evening with prohibition-era entertainment, local food, silent and live auctions and allyship. The non-profit organization, dedicated to protecting and empowering LGBTQA+ youth, plans to donate the proceeds to a variety of organizations both on and off island that are geared towards improving and creating safe spaces, autonomy and access to gender-affirming health care for LGBTQA+ youth.
During a time of political unrest as an unprecedented surge of anti-trans legislation was being passed in different states, a group of friends on the island got together and formed the collective last March.
“We just wanted to figure out a way we could provide a safe haven and safe community [to LGBTQA+ youth] and support our local organization, San Juan Pride, as well as national organizations that we want more involvement with on the islands,” said Amy Salomita, founder of Changing Tides.
With many of the founding members being local vendors and business owners, it was decided that their shared talents would be put towards hosting a gala to raise funds to support these organizations.
Although 1920s Gatsby-esque parties are in no shortage these days, there was specific intent when choosing the gala’s theme. The 20s are often considered as a sort of “sexual revolution” with the rise of flappers and their shortened hair and dress lengths, but these trends were constantly at odds with prohibition laws, forcing people back “into the closet,” or speakeasies.
“While it was remembered as a time of freedom, it was a time of fear for many,” said Salomita. “And history seems to be repeating itself.”
The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a silent auction, appetizers provided by Salmonberry catering and prohibition era cocktails and mocktails from Blind Tiger Brewery’s mixologist. Following the auction will be the entertainment portion, with performances from MC and Broadway star Michelle Dowdy and international circus performer Saffi Watson. Additional entertainment is currently being arranged as well. The evening will conclude with a live auction and desserts from Natalia Swan catering.
The gala will also include different keynote speakers as well. One speaker is a pilot from Elevated Access, a non-profit organization that provides flights on private planes at no cost for those seeking gender-affirming care, and they will address the importance of providing safe havens and access to care. Another speaker is MarJoe Davidson of Lopez Island. Davidson was involved in one of the first civil court cases regarding child custody for queer people in the 1960s, and will speak about her experience as a queer person and having her home life disrupted.
The auctions will include a variety of goods and services donated by local vendors, such as a stay-cation at Saltwater Farms, dinner and a show from Coho Restaurant and San Juan Community Theater, a three-day, all-inclusive kayak trip and much more. The prizes have been consolidated into packages and attendees can bid on a total of 24 packages for both the silent and live auction.
“Something that never ceases to amaze me since moving here is how people are willing to step up and help and do everything they can,” said Jamie Lindenburg, Changing Tides member and Entertainment Coordinator.
Despite there being a range of more affordable and discounted items in addition to the larger packages, the event organizers stressed that attendees should not feel pressured to bid.
“Just showing up and supporting by being part of the gala and the event is enough,” said Lindenburg.
The organizations that will be recipients of this support from the gala include Camp Ten Trees, a Washington-based youth-empowered summer camp community for LGBTQ, nontraditional families, and their allies; Lavender Rights Project in Seattle, dedicated to elevating the power, autonomy, and leadership of the Black intersex and gender diverse community through intersectional legal and social services; Elevated access and the San Juan Island Pride Foundation.
As for future growth of Changing Tides Collective, the members plan to reconvene after the gala and assess the event and how the organization should move forward in its mission of providing resources to gender-affirming care and support on a local level.
“We really want to put energy and support towards the community we have here,” said Salomita. “It is really important to us all to make the island more accessible.”
“We would really like to continue to work in tandem with local organizations and support them as best we can,” said Lindenburg. “The more organizations we have with a presence for that same cause in a small county, the better.”
For those who are unable to attend the event who would still like to support, you can make a contribution by going to The Speak Easy Gala Tickets, Sat, Nov 18, 2023 at 6:00 PM | Eventbrite. More information on the gala and where to buy tickets can be found at https://speakeasygala.org/about/.