Producer, tech consultant, promoter and community activist Christine De La Rosa does it all. She also gives back to the LGBT community. Now, she is launching the Eden LGBTQ Youth Foundation and expanding Eden Pride to the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.
With a completely accidental career in producing, De La Rosa explains that both Eden and fiveTEN were created due to a love for connecting people and in response to a lack of resources for LGBT event attendees.
“I think 2011 was my first event and I didn’t even know it was an event,” De La Rosa tells 429Magazine.
At the time, she was running butch.femme.com, a community for butches and femmes with over 60,000 members. Prior to the advent of Facebook and MySpace, the site, though now defunct, was 3rd behind gay.com for social networking. Some of those in the online community, wanting to meet in real time, decided to attend a “meetup” dinner in Provincetown. At a space large enough to host 20-30 people, 60 people came together.
“We didn’t have any events planned and went to all the events the Provincetown people had. We just hung out as a group [which]was pretty amazing.”
Four months later, an attendee from the Provincetown event reached out to De La Rosa while she was in Seattle looking to connect. De La Rosa has been organizing events ever since.
De La Rosa’s first San Francisco Pride was in 2008, immediately after she moved to the area. It was then that she realized there was no single source with event information that was specific to the LGBT community.
“There’s all this information when you go to places, but you can’t decide if it’s lesbian friendly…we were kind of all stuck in the Castro,” she explained.
In 2009, after De La Rosa did the Women’s Stage at SF Pride, and spent a significant amount of time in the crowd, she decided to organize an entire weekend of festivities.
“There was nothing that said if you are from out of town and a lesbian, you go here, here, here … if I go to these places I’m going to have these things,” she said.
The idea was for non-locals to hook up and travel through the weekend together. And thus, Eden was born.
She decided to organize a welcome party with the intention of bringing in 400 women. Three events were organized including a comedy show, a Friday night party, and a Saturday night party. 1,400 showed the first night.
“That’s when we saw this is definitely a thing,” De La Rosa explained. “People really want this.”
Now, Eden hosts 10 events during Pride weekend with about 6 parties and 4 alternate events in San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento – and the Pacific Northwest coming up this year and Hawaii in 2014.
Last year, they had about 6,000 women in San Francisco. With a diverse range of demographics ranging from 21-60, the group methodically programs in order to accommodate all with a variety of different events, in addition to outreach to other communities.
“The cornerstone of my mission around this event is that everybody should feel welcome; like they belong,” De La Rosa said.
“Every race and demographic needs to be there and I feel like we’ve succeeded in producing an event that does bring a lot of different types of people together under one roof; and it’s really beautiful to see.”
De La Rosa’s first fiveTEN event was in 2011 when Oakland held its first Pride. Partnering with a number of groups, they threw their first test block party in downtown Oakland with an after party following. The event was so successful that they launched fiveTEN the following year.
“I thought we needed to do what [we]were doing for San Francisco for Oakland, but we wanted to do it with a different event name that was more local to Oakland.”
The production company now does various events in the area ranging from the recent butchLYFE to The Black Weirdo Party this weekend thrown by The Satisfaction.
Looking to reach out to the LGBT youth community that is too young to attend their events, De La Rosa put together the Eden LGBTQ Youth Foundation, where all the profits from Eden events will fund college scholarships and grants for programs specific to LGBTQ youth.
“We should give this money and donate it back so we are building the activists and producers and event givers that are coming up after us,” De La Rosa said.
She is also thrilled that all tickets purchased are tax deductible; meaning everyone in attendance has offered a charitable donation.
“This is amazing that we are able to do something that we love to do and give back to a demographic that doesn’t come to our parties,” De La Rosa exclaims.
This same idea falls in line with the creation of her team.
“Were not only building a big dream, we each have these individual dreams all of us support,” she says.
“When you meet people you never know where they’re going to fit in your life. All of these people have been an amazing support system for me.”
In addition to production, De La Rosa has done consulting work for corporations and the government, building databases for 15 years; and writes a column for Oakland Local called Mix Chris Picks, compiling local events.
“I love having an idea…from the moment that you have the idea to the moment that you’re standing there watching your idea play out in reality…that’s what excites me: people have an idea and we help make it happen.”
De La Rosa expressed that she is able to balance so many responsibilities as she loves each project equally, and that her life is set up in a way where she is able to be autonomous.
“Sometimes when you do stuff you don’t know how it’s going to end up for you. Or why that’s the thing you should be doing…just follow your gut. I had opportunities to work full time for companies, to get the 401K and get benefits, and made the decision against that because I want to have some autonomy in my life. Thank God for that because it allows me to do all this other stuff that I’m doing.”
With that, De La Rosa has a sundry of events coming up including Sacramento Pride and Eden Pride Weekend, which will be announced April 2.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” De La Rosa said. “I always tell people, you think you’re starting something, and you think it’s one way but you never know where that path will take you.”