Pride names grand marshals
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee announced several grand marshal selections April 24 for this year's parade and celebration.
Former bar owner Marlena was selected by public vote. Through the longtime bar Marlena's, which she recently sold, the community icon – whose real name is Garry McClain – has given many nonprofits a place to raise money and have fun.
He couldn't immediately be reached for comment on his selection as a grand marshal, but shortly after he was nominated, Marlena, whom many know as Absolute Empress XXV of San Francisco, Marlena the Magnificent, said, "It truly is a special honor to even be considered for this. I'm overwhelmed. I'm full of warmth from all the people who talk about it."
Pride's board members also made several community grand marshal selections of their own.
Mario Benton has produced the Soul of Pride float, among other accomplishments, and has described himself as a community leader. His work has also included helping high-risk and foster care youth.
Chili D, whose real name is Diane Felix, is a well-known DJ in the Latin community who's worked in HIV and AIDS education, according to Pride staff.
(Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)
Veronika Fimbres, a licensed vocational nurse, was a veteran's affairs commissioner for several years and worked at San Quentin State Prison.
Perry Lang and his partner, Kenneth Monteiro, are also being honored this year. Lang is the executive director of the Black Coalition on AIDS. Monteiro is dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University.
Betty Sullivan, editor and publisher of the San Francisco Bay Times, was also named grand marshal.
(Photo: Lydia Gonzales)
Additionally, Pride's board has invited California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a straight ally, to participate as a grand marshal.
Pride's membership has selected former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who's now director of the city's Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement program, as their choice for grand marshal.
"It's very meaningful," Dufty said of the recognition. "I've had my opportunity to serve, and now I'm serving in a different way. I'm very passionate about how we as a city respond to homelessness and poverty."
Pride's electoral college, which is made up of former grand marshals, has selected Army Private First Class Bradley Manning as its choice for grand marshal. Manning has admitted to leaking 700,000 classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks and is facing court-martial. He is currently in custody and will not be attending the parade, although he will have supporters appearing on his behalf.
[Updated: Late Friday afternoon (April 26), Pride board President Lisa Williams issued a statement saying that Manning would not be a grand marshal after all. She attributed his selection to an unnamed staff member acting under his own initiative.
"It was a mistake," Williams said in the statement, "and should never have been allowed to happen."
The B.A.R. will have more coverage in its next issue.]
Public vote also determined that Bay Area Youth Summit, which seeks to empower LGBT and allied youth to make the difference in their communities by taking a leading role in the fight against bullying, will be this year's organizational grand marshal.
The Boy Scouts of America has been chosen as this year's recipient of the pink brick award for its anti-gay policies.
Celebrity grand marshals and other honorees are expected to be announced before this year's Pride events, set for June 29-30. For more information, visit http://www.sfpride.org.
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)