Elevate Burbank presents MultiCultural Comedy Night at Flappers Comedy Club
Elevate Burbank is holding our premiere event at Flappers Comedy Club and Restaurant in Downtown Burbank. Laugh with a multicultural team of comedians led by Jose Barrientos on Wednesday, April 13 2022 at 8 pm. Proceeds will go towards supporting other great events coming soon in Burbank in 2022 to celebrate our city’s diversity, such as Burbank first ever multicultural food festival. Tickets are $25. Note that Flappers has a two item minimum and has a full bar and menu. Purchase tickets at https://www.flapperscomedy.com/shows/elevate-burbank-multicultural-comedy-night/67543/ Join our celebration – come and giggle with the best diversity in town.
#Burbank #BurbankDiverse #ElevateBurbank
Elevate Burbank is proud to be a partner with Burbank Pride in 2022 – stay tuned for details of this extremely special event!
Christian Leonard of the Burbank Leader interviews Elevate Burbank
First published in the Jan. 1 print issue of the Burbank Leader
The first time Elevate Burbank attended Magnolia Park Night Out, the organization came with goats.
It was an effective strategy, the nonprofit’s board President Linda Bessin said in a recent interview. Though Elevate Burbank was officially founded in March 2021, the group’s first outing was in October, when members set up a tent during the monthly event that draws crowds looking for live entertainment and small businesses to the neighborhood. It seemed like a good venue to introduce Elevate Burbank, which Bessin said aims to promote diversity and foster closer connections between community members.
But at that time, the Elevate Burbank website wasn’t ready, and its board of directors didn’t have many printed materials to distribute. To draw in passersby, Robyn Hawkes volunteered her adopted goats Benji and Buttons as the nonprofit’s mascots.
“You bring the goats out, and people will come,” she said.
It seemed to work, Hawkes explained, with many people stopping by Elevate Burbank’s tent and hearing about the groups. While Burbank already has a few groups dedicated to encouraging inclusivity and opposing discrimination, Bessin said, she and her colleagues at Elevate Burbank said they want to facilitate cultural events — such as food festivals and concerts — in which community members of different identities and experiences can feel welcomed.
“We aren’t pushing a platform of [saying], ‘This is what our city government should do, this is what our schools should do, this is what people should think, this is what should happen in Burbank,’” Bessin explained. “We want to unite and bring people together.”
Bessin came up with the idea for Elevate Burbank in 2020, when she made an unsuccessful bid for City Council. As she learned more about Burbank’s electorate, she explained, she realized that the city is home to many communities that aren’t always represented in public festivities. In early 2021, she began reaching out to residents she believed would want to get involved with the nonprofit, eventually forming the board of directors.
Elevate Burbank hopes to organize events that are particularly timely, Hawkes said, because the pandemic has often siloed residents into groups of similar people.
“We’ve been living much of our lives behind screens, and on screens people tend to go into their own little areas,” she explained. “We get in our little areas where we might have biases or blind spots. … And I think if we can kind of get people out of their houses, out from behind the screens and — when it’s safe to do so — face-to-face and have some real conversations with each other, I think that some real connections can be made.”
Elevate Burbank’s main priority this year is fundraising, Bessin said. The nonprofit doesn’t want to charge for events, so the board is discussing options for attracting donations. They’ll also continue to attend Magnolia Park Night Out — with the goats — when they can. Bessin added that her dream event is a food festival that will allow attendees to try cuisines from other cultures while connecting with local restaurants and chefs.
The board’s vice president, Jonas Schwartz-Owen, also explained that the nonprofit is open to working with other organizations, such as Burbank Pride. As a gay man, Schwartz-Owens said he didn’t know the organization hosted a pride festival, and expressed interest in seeing Elevate Burbank — which also regularly promotes other groups’ events on its website — cosponsor an event.
“It’s not about us coming in here and saying … ‘We’re the new cowboys, there’s nothing here that’s been done right,’” Schwartz-Owen said. “It’s to say, ‘There’s all this great stuff that’s right that probably a lot of people don’t know about — let’s try to spotlight it.’” But with the pandemic ongoing, Elevate Burbank’s plans are uncertain. It’s difficult to predict whether it’ll be safe to gather six months or a year from now, board members said, and therefore to put events on the calendar.
When the nonprofit is able to host a concert or festival, board member and John Burroughs High School student Adelina Hernandez said she hopes all Burbank community members understand that they’re invited.
“Creating an organization that everyone in the community feels welcome to … is our major goal,” she said. “Making sure everybody … is able to have fun and express themselves.
Reporter Devin Herenda met with several Elevate Burbank Board members to discuss how Elevate Burbank was started and what our plans are for our community:
Local activist Linda Bessin has initiated a mission to promote an appreciation of cultural diversity in the City of Burbank through her nonprofit organization, Elevate Burbank.
Bessin decided to begin this endeavor while she ran for a spot on the Burbank City Council in 2020. After researching Burbank with a voter demographic analysis, Bessin found that there was a cultural variance in the city that has not yet been explored to its full capacity.
“I realized that there are a lot of different cultural communities in our city that are way below the radar,” Bessin said of her Burbank demographic research. “[They] are here and we don’t see them, we don’t hear from them. They kind of keep to themselves…But it really is a problem because we have this wonderfully culturally diverse city, and most of us who live here would never know that.”
To shed light on these cultures, Bessin created Elevate Burbank. Together with a team of seven multicultural, multiracial and multigenerational activists who are local to the city, she has formed a progressive group that is devoted to advocating for diversity awareness through events, engagement and partnerships.
Entrepreneur, designer, mother, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion activist Carmenita Helligar serves as a member of the organization’s board. She says she was inspired to get involved with Elevate Burbank due to Bessin’s philanthropic vision of how members could together bring a higher level of unity to the city.
“When Linda came up with this, it just was really a breath of fresh air,” Helligar said. “Everything else I think in this country is very much so capitalistic, but to think of elevating Burbank by bringing communities together to learn about different communities, to learn about their recipes [and] how they connect with families, it really meant a lot to me.”
Another factor that impressed Helligar is how Bessin made sure to include not only a wide range of ethnicities in their activities, but also a variety of ages, as parents, family members, and children are all welcome to take part in the organization. Moreover, Bessin hopes that student participation may provide a potential opportunity for Burbank Unified School District children to gain service hours as they give back to their community.
“I have teenagers and I have adult children, so [it allows] for them to have a place and a mission,” Helligar said. “A lot of times people don’t consider diversity in age as well, so that was momentous.”
Elevate Burbank Treasurer Yvonne Green is a CPA, mother, and Burbank community supporter. The passion and skills of all team members drew Green to lend her abilities to the project from the beginning of its development.
“Linda has formed a diverse board of high-energy, talented individuals who are dedicated to the community,” Green said. “I was thrilled to join the board and have the unique opportunity to be a part of something special from the very start.”
Thus far, the group has attended a few local events, such as Magnolia Park Night Out, which recently returned following a 16-month pause due to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Here, Elevate Burbank members have been able to speak with event attendees and raise awareness on the importance of experiencing and celebrating all cultures of the community.
In addition, the Elevate Burbank mascots, two goats named Benji and Buttons, provide an opportunity for Burbank residents to have fun interactions with unique animals. The two appear at the organization’s event setups, and visitors have shown a strong interest in learning about these rare pets, whose owner is board member Robyn Hawkes.
“[People] love those goats. It’s so adorable,” Bessin said. “All ages, all races, all genders, they all love the goats.”
While in the past, United States municipalities have been described as melting pots in which all cultures mix together and eventually lose their distinction, Elevate Burbank sends the message that the city can operate as a whole society while retaining and recognizing individual cultures.
“Now we’re being taught and we’re teaching our children that we’re more like a salad. We’re still in one bowl, but this person is a crouton, this culture’s a tomato, and this one is a cucumber,” Helligar said. “We can honor each culture, be different, but still be Burbankians.”
In this analogy, Bessin says the organization is the vital component that forges connections between various ethnicities and produces a harmonious outcome for all.
“Elevate Burbank is the salad dressing,” Bessin said. “We cover everybody, we bring it all together, we make it into the complete dish.”
The Elevate Burbank team plans to hold a food festival for their first official event, which they hope to conduct by the spring of 2022. For the gathering, they will collaborate with vendors, restaurant owners and caterers who produce cuisines from various regions and can bring their foods for visitors to sample. Not only will this initiate conversations about cultural customs and meals, but it will allow businesses to thrive as they inform locals of their delicious and diverse menus. Furthermore, Bessin is committed to making events free for guests so that all can be welcome to join in on the festivities.
“We won’t be collecting any money,” Bessin said. “It will just be a relationship between the attendees and that vendor, and that’s what we want. It’s [about] creating relationships that are beneficial going both ways [and] creating a sense of community, so people are really excited about that.”
Following their successful appearances at Magnolia Park Night Out, Elevate Burbank participants plan to continue attending this monthly event in 2022, where they will be set up in the Bank of America parking lot. In the future, they will also host independent events such as poetry readings, dance recitals, concerts and more.
The work of Elevate Burbank members is a groundbreaking step towards building equity amongst all races, ethnicities, ages and genders of Burbank residents. Local outreach will be the next step for the team, as they want to create meaningful experiences with as many different cultures in Burbank as they can.
“There are all these little niches that exist, and it’s really going to be our responsibility to seek them out, bring them into the fold and invite them to celebrate their culture for the whole community,” Bessin said.