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Thousands Celebrate South Bay Pride

by Heather Cassell

Stand San Jose, a multicultural all-volunteer group organized for social change in the South Bay, marched in the Silicon Valley Pride parade Sunday, August 27
Stand San Jose, a multicultural all-volunteer group organized for social change in the South Bay, marched in the Silicon Valley Pride parade Sunday, August 27  (Source:Jo-Lynn Otto)

Thousands turned out for a weekend of festivities at Silicon Valley Pride and the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose's Proud of My Family event.

It was hot in San Jose August 27, but that didn't deter people who came out to enjoy the annual Silicon Valley Pride parade and celebration at Cesar Chavez Park in the heart of the city.

The Bay Area Reporter estimated 2,500 people celebrated Silicon Valley Pride.

Thaddeus Campbell, CEO and president of Silicon Valley Pride, didn't respond to the B.A.R.'s request to confirm attendance figures.

Nearly 4,000 families - LGBT and straight - celebrated Pride at the Children's Discovery Museum's third annual Proud of My Family event throughout the weekend, according to Cecilia Clark, the museum's public relations manager.

Jeanee Staton, a 24-year-old bisexual woman who was babysitting her friend's son, discovered the museum's Pride weekend activities while looking for something to do to entertain the boy. Staton didn't disclose the boy's name to protect his privacy.

"Oh my god! I appreciate it so much. I love it! I feel so much more at home now," Staton told the B.A.R.

While kids enjoyed making rainbow-themed crafts at the Crochet Jam at the museum, there was a sense of resistance and delight in the diversity on display at this year's Silicon Valley Pride by marchers and attendees.

Peaceful, cheerful, and colorful Pridegoers decked out in rainbow colors responded to the current political environment and the White House's attacks on LGBT people by filling the streets in celebration and carrying signs supporting diversity and encouraging people to stand up.

The response was particularly on people's minds due to President Donald Trump on Friday signing his directive banning transgender people from serving in the military. [See story, page 8.]

Despite some concerns about potential violence with news of white supremacists and counterprotesters in Berkeley that day, the event was largely celebratory and peaceful with no reported incidents of violence.

Many attendees expressed excitement by the size of the parade and the turnout at Cesar Chavez Park.

"I enjoyed the parade. It was much larger than last year and it's getting bigger every year," said Mike Hoffinger, 50, a gay man who was hanging out with friends on the shaded grass while enjoying the entertainment on the stage. "I love seeing all of the diversity and people showing up, young and old."

Erica Waligore, 26, who organizes the women's support group at the Billy De Frank LGBT Community Center in San Jose, called Silicon Valley Pride a "little gay haven."

Waligore, a lesbian, and her partner, Rey Duprey, a 31-year-old queer woman, described the South Bay as being "pretty sleepy," invisible, and "overlooked by San Francisco."

"It's great to be here and present with one another with all of the LGBT groups, people of color, seniors, disabled," said Waligore. "It's important to know that we are not alone and that other people know that we are here and relevant."

Asia Robinson, a 23-year-old African-American lesbian who was attending her first Pride event, was having fun "being around people like me. It's cool to see so many people, especially people of color," she said.

Duprey agreed, adding that she liked the festivities and browsing at the booths, too.

"It's important that we welcome our neighbors," said Bob Charves, 65, a gay man who is the president of the congregation at Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, at the church's Pride booth. "We are not here to preach, but to welcome everyone."

The church recently celebrated 30 years as a Reconciled in Christ congregation supporting the South Bay's LGBT community.

Jack Beck, a 33-year-old gay man who founded and is director of TurnOut, a new LGBT volunteer connection organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, added that the LGBT community has a history of supporting itself.

"We can't rely on mainstream organizations and this is more important now than ever with the political climate," said Beck, stating that the community can't trust those who are in power and the government at the national level. "We can't trust them to support our community."

The organization currently has 700 LGBT volunteers donating time at more than 50 queer organizations throughout the Bay Area.

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