Our Story

A Brief History of Prism United

Uncovering the Truth

In 2015, Newsweek and ABC’s “20/20” exposed an ex-gay operation in Mobile, AL holding over 30 LGBTQ+ youth against their will in an effort to change them. Physical abuse, starvation, forced exercise, and solitary confinement were among the strategies employed by the faith-based boot camp.

purple arrow pointing right

The Catalyst for Change

During that same year and not a mile down the same street, Open Table United Church of Christ set out to create a peer-support group for LGBTQ+ high-schoolers. Pulling together a team of community leaders, Open Table partnered with a Huntsville-based organization to provide bi-monthly, non-religious gatherings for LGBTQ+ teens in need of a loving community.

purple down arrow

Prism’s Early Program Curriculum

The images of hands featured on our homepage showcase an early curriculum activity from 2017. In this activity, the teens painted self-selected Pride flags on their hands to represent their identities. Many of our earliest activities were designed by educators and artists, and they sought to give program participants an opportunity to express themselves and build friendships through art and creative writing.

Bi Hand
Trans Hand
Rainbow Hand
purple down arrow

Establishing Prism United

Over time, the support group unearthed broader issues facing LGBTQ+ youth in the area, underscoring the urgency for an adequate response. In 2018, with the continued support of Open Table, Corey Harvard and Justin Litaker created a nonprofit. By a vote, the teens who would benefit from its programs chose its name: Prism United.

purple down arrow

Celebration & Solidarity

Today, Prism offers its three core programs in Mobile: Prism Teens, Prism Preteens, and Prism Families, bringing support groups and referral services to LGBTQ+ youth and their families. Prism also throws four annual standout events in the Port City: Prism Prom, The Jack O’ Lantern Jubilee, Bent Broadway, and the The Wig Walk.

Group of smiling individuals at an outdoor event booth with promotional materials and rainbow flags.
purple down arrow
Group of smiling people at a party wearing colorful whimsical wigs and party attire, with balloons in the background.
A diverse group of people sitting on grass at an outdoor event, listening attentively, with some holding pride flags.
A person standing behind a booth adorned with rainbow flags at an event.
a woman and a drag king emcee on stage

Community Response & Growth

In 2019, Sarah Rutledge Fischer collaborated with Prism United to establish Prism Teens in Fairhope. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program swiftly adapted to virtual programs, broadening Prism’s impact to online communities. In 2021, Sarah led the effort to organize Color Fairhope With Pride (CFWP), Fairhope’s inaugural Pride celebration. This growing support and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community catalyzed Prism United’s decision to expand to Gulf Shores.

purple down arrow

Advocacy & Visibility

In 2021, state legislatures across the country began introducing bills that target LGBTQ+ youth. In response, Prism began working with trans videographer Maxwell Kuzma to produce videos that would raise awareness about the harmful legislation. As the political climate worsened in 2022, Prism again partnered with Max to create the Who We Are Campaign, a series of short interviews featuring LGBTQ+ youth in southwest Alabama talking about their lived experiences. That visibility campaign attracted over 20,000 views online within just a few months.

See The Videos
purple down arrow
Two individuals playing with a giant soap bubble at sunset by the waterfront.

Vision for the Future

In 2024, Prism will embark on its most ambitious project yet: launching a capital campaign to create an LGBTQ+ Youth Center in Mobile. The center will become a container for our programs and services and allow us to serve housing-insecure LGBTQ+ young people in the region.

Learn About The Youth Center