Downtown Lake Worth will be awash in a sea of rainbow colors March 30 and 31 when Compass Community Center hosts the annual Palm Beach Pride festival and parade.
“Your first Pride is a whirlwind, and you feel more alive than ever,” says Julia Murphy, Compass’ chief development officer.
“You can come as who you are. You can come in plain clothes, you can come dressed up, you can come in character—but who you are is okay.”
The two-day event takes place in Bryant Park and features music, vendors, and lots of activities. The parade occurs on Sunday and kicks off at Lucerne Avenue and M Street. As Murphy explains, Palm Beach Pride is all about acceptance. This family-friendly festival celebrates LGBTQ individuals and culture, but everyone is welcome.
“You feel that love and energy,” she says. “It’s great to understand and feel like you are part of something bigger.”
For Compass, that “something bigger” centers around breaking down stereotypes about the LGBTQ community, while also supporting their health and happiness. Founded in 1988 as the Stop AIDS Project of South Florida, Compass became the county’s gay and lesbian community center in 1992. Today, more than 25,000 people take advantage of the vast services offered at its 14,000-square-foot center in Lake Worth.
“We’re the direct service provider to the LGBTQ community, and we do that in several areas,” says Murphy.
iven Compass’ history fighting HIV/AIDS, that battle is still an integral part of what the organization does on a daily basis. “A lot of the wider community believes HIV/AIDS is over, and it absolutely is not,” says Murphy, who notes that Palm Beach County is third in the state for new infections. Compass provides on-site case management in order to connect diagnosed people with health care and support, ranging from insurance to food and transportation to financial issues. “Any barriers they’re having to care, we’re trying to help address them,” says Murphy.
Emboldening youth and promoting pride within all LGBTQ people regardless of age is another key element of the Compass mission, one it accomplishes in myriad ways. It hosts support groups, teaches cultural competency, cultivates an LGBTQ-friendly business alliance, and works within the school system to foster teen outreach and resources for educators and other service providers. “We go in and talk about healthy living, how to balance stressors in life, and also what it means to be LGBTQ and a supportive ally,” Murphy explains.
This is all in addition to an array of inclusive events, such as the Equality Prom in May, the Stonewall Ball in June, and a drag queen story time hosted every quarter. In the coming years, Murphy and her colleagues plan to expand their space and services to include more health care and outreach elements, all in an effort to decrease isolation. “You don’t have to be alone,” she says. “There’s a whole community here to support you.”