Earl Plante ’94 Interview
April 22, 2013
In December of last year, longtime DGALA member Earl Plante ’94 was named CEO of San Francisco Pride, a non-profit corporation that produces the annual San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade, which will be marking its 43rd anniversary over the weekend of June 29th and 30th this year. Prior to joining SF Pride, Earl worked in New York City as Development Director of the Latino Commission on AIDS. Earl also has served as Executive Director of One Voice PAC, a progressive political organization; as CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, a national LGBT nonprofit organization; and as Development Director at the National Minority AIDS. Earl has also held previous senior management positions at Union Settlement Association, Gay Men of African Descent, Funders Concerned About AIDS, and the Empire State Pride Agenda. Earl recently spoke with Green Light about his work and life.(A condensed version of this interview appears in the June 2013 issue of Green Light.)
Would you tell us something about how you got involved in a career relating to LGBT social justice? What are its rewards and challenges? What advice would you give to young alums considering the field?
It’s about passion, being affiliated and believing in LGBT social justice. I wouldn’t spend my time and effort otherwise. We have a limited time on this earth and I want to make sure I’m giving my all. It’s a fundamental reward and challenge…you have to feel it at a very visceral level. So I would advise others to follow your bliss, and do whatever you can…in ways big and small to help move the larger movement forward in positive directions.
How has your Dartmouth background influenced you?
My time at Dartmouth was very instrumental in my life development. I was able to explore my mixed identity, in addition to dealing with my coming out in a very conservative environment.
How is your new job?
It is the most challenging and complex job I have had to date…on all levels it presents many opportunities for personal and professional growth.
What are some interesting and/or exciting things about San Francisco Pride?
This is an amazing time to be doing this work at the largest and most well-known pride celebration in the country. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would be on the precipice of obtaining marriage equality, but in June the Supreme Court will rule on Prop. 8 and DOMA (defense of marriage act) and who knows where these decisions will lead the global LGBT movement, more broadly.
How would you compare living and/or working in San Francisco with New York City?
A. San Francisco is a very tolerant and vibrant environment where everyone has an opinion and they are not shy about letting you know their viewpoints! In NYC, you can be more largely anonymous in your travels; in SF and in my role as CEO of SF Pride, I always “have to be on” as I never know what room I am traversing and what they might think of me or the organization.
What are your thoughts about Dartmouth today?
My perception from afar is that it is a far, more accepting environment. It’s now about living your own truth and that’s something we can all admire and aspire to in our daily lives. And looking back, I am also very proud of my tenure at head of DaGLO/Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance and I hope it made a difference on campus and beyond. It’s definitely a heady time to be living and doing this work. We are seeing transformational change happen right before our eyes, especially with the progress of our LGBT youth, however, that does not mean there is not more progress to be made, but our enemies must see that the writing is on the wall…a generational shift is occurring in literal and figurative terms….change is coming in the political, economic and social domains in not just America, but the world writ large….and its energizing and inspiring to play a small part in this positive overall development.