Host: The State of Florida and local conservatives have closed a lot of spaces for LGBTQ people. But one new space is opening up in downtown Sarasota now, and you can expect some pushback locally on controversial measures that affect young people. Led by recent high-school and now college activist Zander Moricz, the SEE Alliance – that’s spelled S-E-E and stands for “Social Education through Equity” – opened an office yesterday that will serve as a launching pad for what they call “action-based collaborative”. Our news team interviewed Moricz, to find out what the plan is.
Johannes Werner: Yesterday afternoon, an estimated 50 people of all ages were engaged in top-of-the-lungs conversation in the SEE Alliance’s ground-floor office on South Orange Avenue.
During the opening of SEE Space Sarasota, a lanky, curly-haired college student made sure he welcomed every new arrival coming through the front door. That is Zander Moricz, who founded the SEE Alliance in 2019 when he was a Pineview High student.
Moricz first made waves at high school graduation. He happens to be gay, but after a warning by his school’s administration, he refocused his commencement speech on being different because he has curly hair.
Last year, the Alliance put itself on the map by organizing Walkout 2 Learn, the largest student-led protest in the history of Florida. He also is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law. So, at age 20, he has probably more mobilizing experience than some of the most active Sarasota senior citizens.
And he wants the new office space to be a launching pad for action, offering infrastructure, resources, and technology to support marginalized Floridians, as well as a safe space for young people.
Zander Moricz. Photo: Arlene Sweeting
Zander Moricz: We’re partnering with organizations like ALSO Youth, Planned Parenthood, Girls Inc, Project pride SRQ. We’re really working with all of the resources we have here. The unique need that the SEE Space fills is that, when you’re looking at safe spaces for young people, they cannot take aggressive or polarizing political action – because then they will receive backlash. What that mean is, ALSO Youth specifically does not go into school board meetings. In order to do that, then they would receive people from school boardrooms coming back to ALSO Youth. So the way that the SEE Space is positioning itself is, we are allowing ourselves to engage in that political activity that is more controversial. Because we’re working with organizers and politicians and people with that experience that are prepared to help young people navigate that terrain. We’re working with all these local organizations to help navigate young people to where they best fit and find their needs are. If a young person is looking to receive counseling, we’re not the best place for that to go, and we send them to ALSO Youth. If a young person wants to learn how to protest, ALSO Youth is not the place to go, so they’re going to send them to us. We’re really a powerful addition to Sarasota, because we’re finding more and more young people who not only need a safe space, but they need a place to take action. People are posting on social media, and they’re talking amongst their friends. But all of that energy and all that emotion can be channeled into productive work that benefits our community, if they have a place and if they have the support to do that.
JW: The funding for the undertaking comes from a foundation.
ZM: We’re primarily funded by the JDL Foundation, which is a large family, community foundation. They’ve funded huge queer rights projects throughout the last several decades, and they’re looking at Florida for the foreseeable future. They’ve named us as the primary project that they believe can help push us into the Florida we all want to see.
JW: So, what’s ahead in the next weeks?
ZM: We’re having meetings with tons of different people and tons of different community partners that want to get involved. Who maybe want to reserve the space, use the space for their meetings, or want to get involved in organizing, or have a volunteer or internship with the space. I would say, any person who didn’t make it to the sneak peek is welcome to stop by Monday through Friday, 9-4, and learn more about how they can get involved.
JW: This has been Johannes Werner, for WSLR News.
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Thursday, December 7, 2023
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