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Leslie Rose 0:00
The Discover Rhode Island podcast is about the people, places, events and businesses of Rhode Island. We will cover a wide variety of topics and have guests from many different backgrounds. Today we are here with Daniel Cano Restrepo, who is the Executive Director of Newport pride. Dani, welcome to the podcast and tell me a little bit about yourself.

Dani Cano Restrepo 0:20
Alright, hello, everyone. I prefer to be called Dani, that’s usually what my friends call me. So I serve as the executive director for the new local nonprofit in Newport pride. I’m originally from Colombia, that’s where I grew up. And I moved to the United States about six years ago. That’s about the time that I’ve be working on Newport Out.

Leslie Rose 0:48
Very cool. How did you how did you find Newport? Or did you move here because of the job? Or how did you find Newport pride.

Dani Cano Restrepo 0:54
So I was in Colombia, I was finishing my industrial design career. That’s what I did for college. And then I met my husband who was he’s an American, and he was learning Spanish in Colombia. And we met in we met at this hostel who was hosting this language exchange event so that the opportunity to interact, practice in English in Spanish. And then from there, like it all kind of like is history. I came to the States just to visit him. And then our story in this community candidate evolved in a way that we got married in Newport. Then we took over this business that originally started with Newport Out, which is a marketing and travel agency promoting Newport events, and specifically LGBT events and like welcoming businesses to our community. And then out of Newport out. We, we started the annual Newport pride fest, which is a bike parade and like a fest with vendors and performers. And then last year, we were able to open that nonprofit for Newport Pride. So now Newport pride is come forward by board, different than Newport out, our businesses with my husband. So during this five years, we’ve been doing this work for the communities through Newport out and Newport Pride. Yeah. Wow.

Leslie Rose 2:28
I have so many questions based on that. So your husband is from Rhode Island, I’m assuming?

Dani Cano Restrepo 2:34
Yes. He grew up in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Went to Medellín Colombia, where I’m from.

Leslie Rose 2:43
So crazy. It’s an awesome story.

Dani Cano Restrepo 2:46
Yeah. I never heard about Rhode Island actually. Yeah.

Leslie Rose 2:50
yeah. Yeah, that’s crazy. Was it hard to leave Columbia?

Dani Cano Restrepo 2:55
Um, not really, I think I was being like, I want to say this word is lonely explorer. Not in a sad way. I just I tend to be like, by myself. And like a traveler. I’ve always wanted to get out of Colombia, just to explore the world. And Colombia is really cool. And I love Colombia, we go back there every holiday is just to visit my family. Yeah. But I just needed the next expansion of myself. And that’s what I found here. Like just seeing these other communities living in different ways. Maybe the LGBT community and inclusion was more accepted than my country. Even though there’s still crazy things happening right now. There’s a lot we’ve accomplished in that time too, so I don’t take that for granted. But I found like Newport to be like, just welcoming for me and my husband. So yeah, we want to just create a city that reflects that and like welcome people the same way we were welcomed.

Yeah, yeah. That’s so cool. If you were, was it hard to be out in, in Colombia?

Maybe when I was growing up. It was maybe definitely harder. I feel like now these new generations are like, we’re queer and we’re here and we’re going to do whatever we feel like and if that means sometimes some of them getting killed by existing the way they are, they’re going to do it. Right? So there is a huge wave that I’m noticing in Medellín and in Colombia in general like the capital of Bogota is also very queer friendly. So these communities have evolved out of like war and drug because that’s what we know for but once you go now is just cosmopolitan in like very progressive in different ways. There is still bad things like here but it has progressed in a lot other ways to Yeah, so I, I feel like I am super inspired by my city and I want to bring those things to Newport just to see like a more vibrant and like diverse multicultural community, not just like LGBT, but for LGBTQIA. Like it’s just were all humans and like we’re all neighbors. So just one that, ya know, just travel and fun. And then in the summer season, like maybe nothing happened, but there is a community that lives here like we’re part of that community. So I want to make sure that’s year round, not just for the fun in the summer. Yeah.

Leslie Rose 5:41
For sure. And so you, you started Newport Out?

Dani Cano Restrepo 5:45
So Newport Out was owned by somebody else who was running it for like, almost 10 years, and he was also the owner of the gay bar in Newport.

Leslie Rose 5:54
I just heard about that yesterday.

Dani Cano Restrepo 5:55
Yeah. And Newport has a history of like being gay in the past. Yeah. And like, sort of went dormant Yeah, seems that last gay bar who aparently like somebody throw like a can through the window and maybe that was like, the end? Yeah. So since then, like he wasn’t doing much. So when I came, he was sort of like meant to be, it was very weird. Like, I came here. I had all these like, design, background and knowledge. And he saw and Sean my husband and I like, maybe you’re the next to receive this so. At that point, I didn’t have my papers. So like, here, on like travel visa. So I was like, I’ll help you just do redo your website. Like I was just doing the profile. Yeah. Then in like six months, I just got like, Oh, my God, like, what is this? Like, I never saw the opportunity to support my community in that way. And I think that’s what happens with many people, like they just don’t know how to get engaged in like activate for change. So I felt like that will be another opportunity to do that in this community. So we bought the company from him, and also just launched a Newport Pride with that new board of directors. Yeah, yeah. So it’s been like, we started with it, because we bought it from him. But then we also brought up a new sister nonprofit.

Leslie Rose 7:28
Yes. And so you said that Newport Out is is more of a tourism and, and travel company?

Dani Cano Restrepo 7:36
Yeah, that’s how it came to us. He was established as a agents like a marketing agency, promoting tourism. But we realized that tourism can’t work without the community that lives here. And it affects a lot of the community that actually lives here. So it does bring businesses, but at the same time, harms our community by becoming this tourist destination. And like nobody can afford to live here, especially younger people. So it’s like a that balance where, yes, we want that, and we also want travelers from all around the world like me to come to Newport and see, like these exist. It reminds me like Ptown, I don’t know if you’ve been to?

Leslie Rose 8:22
I haven’t, but I’ve heard.

Dani Cano Restrepo 8:24
Its just like a place that I feel safe. And like I feel welcome. And I don’t even have to think about my identity. And just me. And yeah, I kind of feel that in Newport in a way that I wanted to build that even more.

Leslie Rose 8:40
Yeah, that is so cool that you saw, well your whole story is cool, but it’s so cool that you sa and we’re and we’re brought to this opportunity that you could invest in a place so much that and you’re not even from here. And you just came here and you saw this and you wanted to make this a home.

Dani Cano Restrepo 9:01
Yeah. And also, it relates to Colombia that I had a group of LGBT friends, like, we were a big group. And so I came here I left all my friends or my family. So it was like, okay, I’m here following love, but at the same time, I miss my community. So we can create that, right. Like we can manifest whatever we want. So it takes time, of course to like build that community. But I realized that it was here it was just like, again, disconnected. So just finding places now we are opening this we opened this new price center after five years that there is a lack of specifically LGBT focus places and that’s why we felt like this plays matter. Is the beginning for even more I don’t want to be the only one doing this. I want more people to do so.

Leslie Rose 9:56
Yeah. Tell me Tell me more about what what you are doing at the Pride Center what you want to do or what you hope it accomplishes.

Dani Cano Restrepo 10:07
Yeah, so I do have an idea and a vision for the space. But similar to our community, we are constantly evolving. So I want this space to evolve, as with the needs of the community. So we welcome ideas from the community, this space was painted by the community, the majority of the furniture that is there has been donated. So I wanted to be built by the community. And the vision is just a space, a safe space for the community where they can learn, they can educate it, that they can find resources to there on the island that most people don’t even know they exist, like HIV testing, or youth support groups that were partnered with the MLK to host a support group like that. And there’s a lot of other resources that we have in the center. And it also works as a space where special events or I want to do like a monthly gallery, specifically queer artists that I can just showcase their work like once a month. It’s just a space for building and cultivating the community out of the core. And I also feel like, education is all about education. And like there’s people who have these fears and these fears, reflecting hate. So the majority of the time is the fear is like out of on a location , or you just don’t understand something, the best way to react to it is with hate. And I think we can help in that way to self educate in the community. Yeah,

Leslie Rose 11:49
yeah, learning instead of jumping to conclusions, yeah.

Dani Cano Restrepo 11:53
And then I also feel like, there’s always room like, I can’t pretend that people are gonna think the same way as I do. So I felt like we should just start with like, being kind and like, respectful with people and see where they’re coming from. And if somebody disagrees with you, that’s fine, you know, it’s their point of view. And I think there should be room for for all of us to exist in the way we are and, and if I want to be treated or call by certain way, I should also have the right to do that and express that without fear of like, people don’t understand that. Especially like these days when the pronouns have come up even more like people want to be using different names or different ways to be referred to. So there’s a learning curve for that too. Like just changing your mindset and the way you’ve been educated. Yeah, so.

Yeah. So obviously, the the pride fest is a big, upcoming event. Are there any other events that are or things that are up and coming at the center that that you hope that people know about? Or people show up to?

Yeah, so this will be late for when the podcast launches, but tomorrow there there is a teen party with that we’re partnering with the MLK to provide a space for teens to celebrate. Yeah, because it’s always constantly these days about hate and like these laws against our community. So we want to do the opposite, just like celebrate what we do have. So that’s happening tomorrow. And then in July. We currently have a gallery opened up the art museum. So we’ll be moving to the center after and then after that, we’re painting a new mural by a local artist and she’s gonna have her art displayed for after the mural. We also have partnerships with like EBCAP, and there’s a trans gender health director. His name is Quinton foster in Quinton has done these gender workshops with us. So we offer that to a community so I hope to schedule a few other ones that the community can just come and learn about gender and then also just a special date. So like there is was like transgender joy day of celebration. So we host some events around those specific dates. So as they come we will design and also design according to what’s happening to several Congress, people have been approaching now is about helping them promote their work but because of the nature of our C three non profit, we can’t really engage with like promoting political candidates. Yeah, I don’t want either, but what we can do is provide a space for like, discussions and like, seeing what are their ideas so people can understand who they want to vote for without us being saying this or that. Yeah. Let’s see what they’re bringing. Yeah. So yeah, that’s really cool. There’s like realms of advocacy, activism, events, marketing, support groups, youth and elders. A little bit of everything.

Leslie Rose 15:33
Yeah. And and what would it look like if, if I believe it’s, it’s open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, right?

Dani Cano Restrepo 15:42
Yeah. So it’s open Wednesday through Friday 10 to 5am. Right. ah, pm, right now, because of my own capacity. I’m the one who usually there. But as we grow our funding, my hope is that can open on the weekends that we can have somebody that could be there that we can just pay them and just staff, like, bring it on your staff? Currently, I’m the only paid staff member. Yeah, the rest are volunteers. So we hope that we can do that soon. Yeah. And we can open even more more hours. Yeah.

Leslie Rose 16:15
So So what does it look like? If if somebody was walking down the street? Or, or somebody saw that you were you were open? And what does that look like if they just stop in? Like, what is the experience that you want people to have?

Dani Cano Restrepo 16:27
Yeah, so it already happened, like has already been happening. Yeah, either. If the door is open or closed, they will come they will knock and say, like, either they already know about it, and come into maybe buy one of our pins, we will sell pins at the place, like have some merch. But then they can also find resources that we have located in different tables. I’m usually there. So they always have a question. Sometimes they don’t know what they’re here for and they just want to experience and see what is this. The majority as a suprise, they feel like very happy to see the flag out. And also, again, just we have this cork board with flyers and resources. And I got like I didn’t know this was happening, or that there is a new nonprofit opening or support group from a school or it’s a way to bring the community together and connect them. Yeah, yeah. And then we usually it feels like just good vibes, you know, like, it’s just a chill space, there’s a couch if you just want to chill and just do nothing. Yeah, I have this guy who he describes himself as a black, gay, autistic person. And I know it’s how hard it is for him to exist in that way. And so having him come to the center sometimes, like last week, he came like three days in a row, to sit in the couch and just talk just to connect with somebody. And that’s what they want, you know, to connect with the community. And it feels like as a middle ground where it’s not about what we do. It’s more about all of us people, right? They’re not here to tell me I worked with this organization, but more to connect in that level. And that’s why I like find important sometimes to talk about my background, being a Latino being a person of color being in this role, direct executive direction, like, I never thought I could do these. And now I’m doing it. And so I also want to show my Latino community that they can do this, they can do whatever they want. Yeah, it takes a lot of time and effort, but it can happen. It feels Yeah. And then I also always want to, like, emphasize that it’s awesome, all that has happened. But I also sometimes experience like, downsides of it, like, depression or feeling sad, or just like, I don’t want to do it some days. And I want people to understand that we’re humans and like, those are all our emotions. And I wish we could, like I wish they teach us how to deal with those emotions. Like instead of just suppressing them and or seeing them as like bad things. Yeah,

Leslie Rose 19:29
Or having to to to push them aside and because you have other things you need to do kind of thing, like shouldn’t be something that’s pushed.

Dani Cano Restrepo 19:38
So like in that journey. I’ve also learned like just to identify what are the things that works for me like so when I’m in that mood I usually take my tablet like draw or like listen to music, it is very get very introverted and like that’s how I cope with my downside. Oh, yeah. But I know some people don’t know how to deal with them. And they use things to cope with it or like numb those feelings. So yeah. I also feel like there is an opportunity for us to as we do this work, support people in those ways..

Leslie Rose 20:20
Yeah, totally, totally support the, the mental health aspect.

Dani Cano Restrepo 20:24
The mental health. Yes, yeah. Yes, yes. And I feel like when I came here, I felt like this way that I left my nest, so I didn’t have like, all of my family come in with these ideas, which I know they come from a place of love, like, why don’t you have a partner or these or that? So all these questions that like, it gets your brain like, wondering, is there is something wrong with me? Or like, why haven’t those done these things? So when I came here, it was like, I felt so free that I could just be whatever I wanted, right? And that’s another piece of mental health is, like understanding that people’s opinions aren’t going to change you. And how to cope with that, too. When did somebody tell you something? Or bullies you? I’ve experienced bullying when I was in high school. So how could I deal with that? And without carrying the shame of like, like, even hate against them. Like, why? Because I was being me? I was being gay? Yeah. So yeah, I hope that there’s a way that I can just help somebody.

Leslie Rose 21:40
Sounds like with the, the younger side of, I mean, you talked about having having a support group for teens and stuff like that, which is, oh my gosh, just totally life changing. And, and I can only imagine the people that are going to be impacted from from things like that.

Dani Cano Restrepo 21:59
And then so it, with the Pride Center I want it to be open for the whole community. But I felt like what what is that the core of my soul is young soul. So I want to support young young people at the core, because they’re the next generation. And if they don’t get supported, and they get all this aid they’re currently getting on the side, there’s not a support group. So yeah, it’s just really hard. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. In a felt like, especially in Newport, I felt this is this is like a very nonprofit community driven once you start digging into the community that lives here. So I had the good fortune to work with FabNewport, which is a fabrication lab here and Bike Newport, Connection Latina. So also, I couldn’t have done this work without those partners that are already doing a really good job here. In especially FabNewport, I felt like they just gave me the power that I needed. I was like, Okay, I’m ready to rock these. My husband was helping me in the majority of the time, it has been both of us but he just became the Executive Director for their Rose Island Lighthouse. There’s an island off Newport here. Yeah. So he’s just sort of like merging in that way. So it’s sort of like had to step up and say, Okay, I’m the director now. Yeah, so I came to this work, because

Leslie Rose 23:39
Yeah, yeah. So so does hem does your husband work with you, Still now with with Newport Pride?

Dani Cano Restrepo 23:47
Yeah. So he’s part of the board as the secretary. So he helps us with some administrative stuff like finances. Are we’re now looking for new members, board members, because it’s only five of us in some of them are soon to like finalize the third term. And we want like, younger people to be in our board, because the majority people are like, I think I’m the youngest. Yeah. So we also want like, bring in new people to the board. So that’s also what’s coming next is not just the Pride Fest, and then just the center by the evolving our board, so we can just do even more work.

Leslie Rose 24:30
Yeah. Are there requirements for joining the board or applying for the board?

Dani Cano Restrepo 24:35
Yes, we do have like a document I can send you if you or somebody’s interested in it has like the roles of the board, which are like, the amount of times we meet a year, like twice a like once a month or so. Yeah, I’m thinking of like, what is that you want to do for the organization? We also require board members to help us recruit funding. That’s their mission. Yeah. So, so analyzing what way they can help is either like donating financially or throwing a fundraiser to help us donate or like bringing new people to the table. And also the skills you have. So right now we do need like a treasurer. So somebody with spheres of finances is that needed right now, but we need just more like more areas possible. Yeah. And also just as we are like planning like talking about diversity and inclusion I want to bring all voices is still a table to just one singular one. Like me. Yeah. So it takes time and like trust on people that were doing the work. So I feel like the Pride Center look soley defies that like, yes, we’re here. We’re doing the work and we need just more support.

Leslie Rose 25:55
The Pride festival. We haven’t talked about that. Which is a big a big part. Yes. So I’d love to hear hear more about what what’s going to be going on at the festival. What does that what does that weekend look like?

Dani Cano Restrepo 26:09
Yes, so this is our sixth annual Newport Pride. We only had a hiccup of COVID one year but then otherwise has been on since then. And different than any other else. We don’t do a walking parade but as a biking parade so its a bike parade it’s really fun. It leaves right off the Great Friends Meeting House it’s a two miles loop around town. And that’s in partnership with Bike Newport, free registration. We do partner with this local companies called Bike On from Warwick, they have multiple tricycles. And so if you are in a wheelchair, you can just hop on the wheelchair and one of these tricycle or you can just sit and somebody will pedal behind so it’s accessible to anyone. And then once the parade ends at the Great Friends Meeting House, the festival starts and it’s a festival that goes from twelve to six, and includes vendors with resources in nonprofits, local performers from around Rhode Island and Providence, most of them. But some of the locals too that are just like starting their journey. And also, we have games and like organizations that are going to be there supporting the work. Then later that day, we have a nighttime celebration at Parlor. That’s usually like just one of the most fun events that we host. And then actually the weekend starts with Friday, June 24. And we’re hosting our drag cruise boats downtown Newport and we bring drag queens on board. It’s just really fun community event just to kick off the weekend. And then we enter the fest, bike, vendors like it’s just really fun, fun day. It actually feels like a very grassroots kind of like, town feeling fest. Because I know for some people, they don’t like to go to pride celebrations in bigger cities because it can feel like overwhelming like the amount of people Yeah. What we experienced in the past just feels like very grassroot, but we keep growing. We started with just two bikes at Perrotti Park. That was when we started the parade. And then people show up and people keep showing up. Last year, we counted that we had about 2000 people coming in and out during the weekend and the events of I can’t imagine this year, it’s gonna be even more. Yeah. Yeah. And so really excited. And then on Sunday, we just usually call it like a closing day, not just like an organized event, but just we will be at the beach just like show up and just chill day to close it.

Leslie Rose 29:09
Yeah, it’s very cool to hear that, that this is a celebration, but it’s but it’s geared in a little bit different way. Which is, which is really nice.

Dani Cano Restrepo 29:21
Yeah. And I that’s a nice word to put it like family friendly because the performers we do ask them that it’s a family friendly. So the acts shall be that like, because I know there is certain performance that are geared to adult so we’re just trying to curate that too. And I felt like I feel like maybe the term LGBTQIA now has like evolved so much that we’re seeing our community that diverse than just gay a few years ago and I feel like still in many of the places have still felt like very gay and cis. And our community is not only that, and it’s not only parties or like, fun or sex its just way beyond that. That’s the mission of that to just showcase our diversity, but also for them to connect with for people that are here in the community and like find resources, Connection Latina is one of them. Even though they’re not like part of the LGBT community, they can support the Latina person who is coming to the fest. And I’ve heard of those connections happening within the past, so it just was like really cool.

Leslie Rose 30:42
Yeah, that is really cool. Is there anything that you want people to know about the Pride Center?

Dani Cano Restrepo 30:46
I always just remind people to again, we’re always welcome donations. So on our website, you can support us with Venmo, PayPal, whatever and beyond funding. We also receive donations, like donations to the space. So I’m curating a gallery, a library with books, some of those books are currently banned in some states, around the world now. So books, but physical things to the space, like a printer or a microwave, like just things that can help this space like, grow, we welcome those too. Somebody donated a couch. So donations are super welcome. And also volunteers will always look for volunteers for the fest, or for the space itself. Once we host events. There is always going to be something new that we can discover. So somebody has an idea we can make it happen. Yeah. Movie Night, somebody just reached out about doing movie nights. So I’m just trying to figure it out. How can we make that happen? Do we need any permits and things like that? So ideas from the community are always welcome.

Leslie Rose 32:03
Yeah, yeah. Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, I think of like a book club.

Dani Cano Restrepo 32:10
Also, we do have a monthly group that has been happening for like, a year, or like our signature. It’s it started as a book club and now evolved into a program its called queer connections. Oh, yeah. Because we realize people weren’t exactly reading.

Leslie Rose 32:29
Yeah they don’t want to read they just want to hangout.

Dani Cano Restrepo 32:32
So it was a Hangout. So we’re like, okay, what can we do beyond book, so it turns into like arts and crafts. Oh, fun. So last session, it was in May, it’s once a month, the last Wednesday of each month, last wednesday of each month. In May was earth month. So we painted like mini pots and like replanted plants. So that was kind of like the the activity and we do get to read like poems or short readings, then this next June session, which is June 21. So next week. Shawn is very into historical context of Newport, specifically, and he’s been writing a script for a movie. And so out of that script, we’re trying to create a history walking tour, and he already has identified some of the locations. So we’re gonna take the queer connections group in this sort of like mini tour, just to test it out. And then we end by the water just to enjoy the session. And yeah, so it changes every month as we find a special date or somebody has a talent they usually want to teach like, there is somebody who does jewelry, so she wants to do a jewelry class.

Leslie Rose 34:05
But it is so it’s open to anybody.

Dani Cano Restrepo 34:08
It’s free, and we welcome donations, but it’s if you don’t have.

Leslie Rose 34:14
yeah, yeah

Dani Cano Restrepo 34:15
just one last thing. So. So we are open like year round. That’s kind of like the the organization now. But we are planning a gala in the fall. So we will be posting more information about that. But we’re trying to make that as like our signature event of the year just to raise funds for the location to be able to cover myself and then if when I can do my work, and I can bring in more people. So definitely just we’ll be sharing more information about that.

Leslie Rose 34:48
Yeah, yeah, for sure. That’s awesome. Something fun that I want to ask is, you can choose one one question to answer. So, so I either want to know, your favorite book. Or if you don’t read, your favorite musician or band, or you can answer both.

Dani Cano Restrepo 35:09
yeah, I was thinking about both

So it’s interesting because I haven’t been a reader I’ve been more of a drawer. But I found this book is called Gender Queer. It’s one of the books that that is currently banned and it was like, it’s sort of like a comics in the way that it is designed. And I was able to digest this book so well. And it also allowed me to understand things about gender and like identity. So I felt like that’s has been like one of the last books that I read that I just like resonated so well with me and like, open my eyes to some things. And then musician, there’s this Colombian band is called Bomba Estéreo that I just love. It was like very tropical, but they have these like electronic sounds to it. So it just makes me feel at home and like being in the beach. Yeah, they’re like, their vibe is just so cool. So I always try to play it where ever I go. Do you know Bomba Estéreo?

Leslie Rose 36:26
I’m totally gonna listen now.

Dani Cano Restrepo 36:27
Yeah. It’s really, really cool. Yeah, that from Santa Monica. It’s one of the cities that are on the coast.

Leslie Rose 36:34
Oh, very cool. Just because you said you you enjoy drawing more than reading, I’m curious about what is your what’s your favorite outlet to be creative?

Dani Cano Restrepo 36:49
I think it used to be dancing now has been changing because of my priorities in life have changed. And so now I’m using my tablet, as well as music just to cope, both of them but it’s like technology. Because when it’s on paper, I can draw but it needs a lot of practice to become a good like a good artist, but with technology and the tablet like it gets some like help to design like cool things. I’m geeky so.

Leslie Rose 37:26
I love it. I love it. I love it. Cool. Well, that is that is all I have. Thank you for coming here and talking with us and I will look forward to seeing you at at the Pride Center, at the Pride festival.

Dani Cano Restrepo 37:43
So everybody’s welcome. So hope to see you at one or the other.