We had the good fortune of connecting with LISA FORMAN and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi LISA, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When I first started Pride and Less Prejudice, I never expected it to become what it is today. In 2019, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a second grade teacher about an instance in her classroom where a kid said something like “a girl can’t have a girlfriend,” and she stepped in to correct them. We began talking about what LGBTQ resources exist for elementary schools, and how important those resources would have been for my queer daughter, who didn’t really figure out her sexuality until she was in high school. It was then that I came up with the idea to start an initiative to send LGBTQ-inclusive books to elementary school classrooms from preschool to third grade. But never in my wildest dreams did I envision that we would turn into a non-profit organization that has raised more than $115,000 and donated over 7,500 books to classrooms across the United States and Canada.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Pride and Less Prejudice is the only national organization that provides LGBTQ-inclusive books to elementary school classrooms from preschool to third grade. In just three short years, we have been able to send more than 7,500 books to all fifty U.S. states and seven Canadian provinces, which I am really proud of. But getting to where we are today has not been easy, and I’d say that the biggest challenge we have faced is finding funding.
When we first started out, I was worried about finding teachers who would be interested in LGBTQ-inclusive books for their classrooms, but the demand has been incredibly overwhelming, to the point where we have been consistently receiving about 300 book requests per month. In order to meet this demand, we have worked with a number of celebrities to share our mission and help us fundraise. In 2020, we released a #ReadOutProud celebrity campaign video with 13 LGBTQ celebrities, including Adam Rippon, Harvey Guillén, Darryl Stephens, and Nicole Maines, and raised over $10,000 to support our organization. We have also done two virtual Banned Together auctions during Banned Books Week, which have included donations from over 30 celebrities, including Billy Porter, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Emily Hampshire, and Shangela. We never thought we’d have this kind of support – but along the way, I’ve learned that it never hurts to ask, and the sky’s the limit when you have an incredible team of passionate volunteers.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My husband and I recently moved from northern New Jersey to northern Virginia, and have really enjoyed taking day trips into Washington, D.C. If my best friend was visiting the area, I would start the day at Planet Word, which is a relatively new immersive language museum that investigates the origins of language and highlights books that have impacted our culture over time. After Planet Word, I would visit Barcelona Wine Bar, which is a Spanish tapas restaurant with an ever-changing menu of small plates. I love getting the chance to try a lot of unique food combinations in one sitting. Once I’ve had lunch, I would head over to the Hirshorn, which is one of my favorite art museums in the area. As a mixed media artist myself, I love walking around the Pickett’s Charge installation; together, its eight canvases are 400 feet wide! In the afternoon, you’d probably find me at my favorite bookstore before heading into Old Town Alexandria for dinner on the water. And if I’m lucky, I’d see a concert somewhere in the evening since I love live music.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many mentors and organizations that have helped us along the way, but today, we’d like to give a shout out to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which has given us several grants, including Community Grants and the Trans Youth Grant, to support our work. The mission of the Tegan and Sara Foundation is to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ women and girls, and thanks to their support, we have been able to send almost 600 additional books to nearly 300 classrooms across the United States and Canada. We are especially grateful that the Foundation was an early supporter of our work and that they have always seen the value in LGBTQ-inclusive education.
Other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0UnNZZfBIc&t=9s (mission video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NohuK7Icu5g&t=3s (campaign video to link in article)