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Unilever is skipping rainbow merchandise & Pride floats. They’d rather make an actual difference

Sean Coleman
Sean Coleman

Pride started out as a riot and then became just a party to celebrate. But with hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills filed so far this year, the LGBTQ community is asking more from corporations than a pink wave of support for only one month out of the year.

Unilever has taken a unique approach, eschewing Pride parades and costly floats in favor of giving much-needed funds to support efforts in underserved communities. Even better, they do it all year long. They want the community to know that Pride should be 365 days long.

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Unilever’s “United We Stand” campaign will focus on anti-bullying, anti-hunger and nutritional support, mental health and wellness services, housing resources, anti-conversion therapy support, decriminalization of HIV, and fighting against anti-trans legislation.

They’re partnering with Forum for Equality in Louisiana, Freedom Oklahoma, South Carolina Black Pride, The Knights and Orchids Society in Alabama, and PFLAG Springfield in Missouri to focus their efforts on underserved communities. The money earned during this campaign will go to strengthen the services offered by these organizations.

Unilever is also partnering with drag queens and LGBTQ leaders including Jaida Essence Hall, Heidi n Closet, and Jan Sport among others to spread the word via social media.

Rana Reeves, the founder of RanaVerse, an agency that helps with corporate campaigns, says it is important to “hold brands accountable during campaigns to ensure that the LGBTQ community is heard and supported. We have an issue if they’re not making systemic change and empowering marginalized voices.”

Reeves has noticed this is what the LGBTQ community is looking for.

“There’s been a seismic shift that focuses on where brands stand on a systemic and societal level of change. Pride used to be a party, but not anymore,” they told LGBTQ Nation.

Sean Ebony Coleman, the founder of Destination Tomorrow, an LGBTQ center in the Bronx that provides economic support for underserved members of the LGBTQ community, echoed the sentiment. Their work provides a food pantry, HIV testing, an emergency shelter for transgender and gender non-conforming sex workers who are over 25 years old, and housing for LGBTQ individuals 25 and older.

That is why Unilever’s “United We Stand” campaign is so important, and why other corporations should be following in their stead. Unilever has partnered with RanaVerse and Destination Tomorrow, among other organizations, to take back Pride 365 days out of the year.

The initiative will focus on anti-bullying, anti-hunger and nutritional support, mental health and wellness services, housing resources, anti-conversion therapy support, decriminalization of HIV, and fighting against anti-trans legislation. They’re partnering with Forum for Equality in Louisiana, Freedom Oklahoma, South Carolina Black Pride, The Knights and Orchids Society in Alabama, and PFLAG Springfield in Missouri to focus their efforts on underserved communities.

The company is also partnering with drag queens and LGBTQ leaders including Jaida Essence Hall, Heidi n Closet, and Jan Sport among others to spread the word via social media.

Reeves describes their partnership and the purpose of Unilever’s “United We Stand” campaign in one word.

“Unity is the main purpose of this campaign. It’s a celebration of everyone in the LGBTQ community. We’re stronger together and we need to stand side by side with everyone,” Reeves stated.

Reeves and RanaVerse have worked with Unilever for four years now to make systemic change for the LGBTQ community.

“Unilever puts purpose behind their brands. They helped develop this campaign with us and their employees. They’re looking at experiences that are typically observed and not shown in media and commerce. There are so many issues that affect underserved members of our community.”

For Coleman, working with Unilever has provided real change for local communities.

“Destination Tomorrow works with Unilever to address systemic issues by achieving funding for underserved members of our community,” Coleman told LGBTQ Nation. “We work together to find communities that received low scores on the HRC index” and provide assistance to local groups.

“For example, we’re working with TKO (The Knights and Orchids Society) in Alabama among other organizations that don’t receive the usual funding national organizations receive.”

One important aspect of Unilever’s campaign is that it focuses on supporting the community all year instead of just a month; it’s the main reason why Reeves and Coleman continue to work with the corporation.

Reeves explains why Pride all year is important.

“We don’t fit into one box,” the said. “There are intersections every day and we’re constantly evolving. That needs to be celebrated and protected yearlong. We need to move towards LGBTQ allyship versus Pride. Many organizations and agencies that help with Pride campaigns focus their attention on white, cisgender, gay men. But generations are changing.”

Coleman focuses on all of the things that could change if Pride happened all year.

“We need to continue to build things better for economic empowerment. We need to build power within our community to push back against systematic attacks against LGBTQ individuals. What’s next is bringing other organizations on board to help with housing, food insecurity, better wages, and other disparities in our community. That is what allyship looks like.”

And both Reeves and Coleman have ideas for what individuals in the LGBTQ community can do to help.

“We must remember to be united,” Reeves stresses. “LGBTQ issues are not siloed issues, they affect all of us. We need to develop a sense of empathy and understanding for all members of our community, respect is a necessity.”

For Coleman, he has three ideas for what people can do.

“First, we need to speak up for our underserved members of the community, specifically our Black and brown and transgender members. Second, we need to make an actionable change, like volunteering locally and getting involved. Lastly, we need to hold people in power and organizations accountable. Remember, silence is violence.”

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