Queen of the Sharks
by Bryan Santos
Imagine being asked to participate in a fundraiser at sea and being told there would be fishing rods, drag queens, and sharks. That’s exactly what happened when The Field School Foundation contacted us. We were happy to accept the opportunity and then we were advised that the one and only Miss Toto would be performing and participating in the fun. This was a cause that was near to Miss Toto because of her background in marine biology and passion for sharks. As a person of color and part of the LGBTQ+ community, Miss Toto wanted to bring attention to the need for support within a community that is underserved and experiences significant disparities in healthcare, resources, education, and housing. The field of marine biology is predominantly a cis-gendered hetero-white-centered study due to a lack of educational opportunities. Miss Toto tells the Miami New Times "It’s not that the dream isn’t there [among queer and Black youth], It’s that they’re not seeing people doing that type of work that makes it seem realistic to them." (Matinez, 2021)
The Field School Foundation chose Pridelines as its beneficiary after learning more about the support we offer LGBTQ youth. They found it was a great partnership because our mission to empower youth was common ground and we work directly with youth that is marginalized as mentioned by Miss Toto. The fundraiser took place over a two-day event. On Friday, Jamal Morrison (Marketing and Outreach Coordinator) and Bella Monae (Peer Navigator) represented Pridelines at the social mingle where they learned more about the importance of the work The Field School Foundation does and how it connected to Miss Toto. They learned all about the opportunities available to youth via mentorship, educational programming, and fellowship programs. Friday concluded with a special drag performance by Miss Toto and a scenic sunset viewed aboard a boat.
The next day we set sail on a beautiful sunny day and our Jay Min, (Director of Finance) represented us at sea and according to Jay, “it was such a great experience and the start of a beautiful partnership.” Jay was able to share more about what Pridelines does for LGBTQ youth and how the support from them would impact our programming. Jay was able to share the power that programming such as Project S.A.F.E has in assisting youth of color, especially those experiencing any form of displacement. Throughout the day they continued to fish and tag several sharks as both Miss Toto and the Field school shared how the information gathered would go to learn about the behavioral patterns of those caught. Miss Toto further tells The Miami New Times, she had a kinship for sharks and how she related to them as a queer person of color. She mentions how sharks were misunderstood and otherwise painted in a negative light due to media and film. She stated how typically dolphins are seen as a favorite however many aquatic mammals hunt for fun whereas sharks operate off of instinct and the need to survive. (Matinez, 2021)
Overall the event was a success and it allowed for the opportunity to engage with the community, disseminate information about our mission, and learn more about the important work that The Field School Foundation does. We are so grateful to be the recipients of upwards of $6,700 in money raised, and donations are still coming in. We here at Pridelines want to thank all those who made this happen and those who contributed through participation and or donation. We look forward to working with The Field School Foundation in the future and have some ideas in the works to help connect youth with opportunities to learn more about Marine biology and experience the passion that Miss Toto shared with us.
If you would like to learn more about The Field School Foundation contact them at the link below as they have many opportunities for student mentorship, fellowship, environmental conservation research, and educational outreach opportunities.
Field School Foundation. FIELD SCHOOL FOUNDATION. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2021, from https://www.fieldschoolfoundation.org/.
Martinez, A. (2021, September 28). Miss Toto's shark tagging and drag collab raises thousands for LGBTQ youth. Miami New Times. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/shark-tagging-and-drag-performances-b....