Young Pride board member
has sense of history
by James Patterson
As the organization that oversees San Francisco Pride prepares for a new board of directors, one of those who will be at the table is one of the youngest members in decades, according to longtime community activists.
Jose Cital, 21, was one of six candidates of the San Francisco Pride Members for Democracy, Accountability, and Transparency elected at the San Francisco LGBT Pride Pride Celebration Committee's September 15 annual general meeting.
Over coffee in the Castro recently, Cital, wearing a maroon T-shirt designed with a bunk bed that read: "Top or Bottom. It's Your Call," talked about his life, growing up gay in Fresno, and his plans as a new Pride board member.
Cital said he realized he was gay in middle school. His mom asked him on his 15th birthday if he was gay. He came out to his family.
"It was not a good birthday," he recalled. His parents and siblings were accepting, but family difficulties arose over his sexuality.
Cital, who described himself as "a huge environmentalist," graduated Central High School, where he excelled in English and journalism. When his gay-themed articles were rejected by editors of the school's Grizzly Claw newspaper, he offered to distribute the paper on campus. He then slipped inserts of his articles into the newspaper.
After moving to San Francisco in 2010, Cital initially found it difficult to afford housing and to make friends. That changed, he said, when he met community activist Bruce Beaudette at the GLBT History Museum in the Castro on Harvey Milk Day.
"It was the final tour of the day," Beaudette said in an email.
Beaudette stirred Cital's passion for history and interested him in joining San Francisco Pride during the height of the controversy surrounding Army Private Chelsea Manning, which stemmed from the Pride board's announcement and quick rescission of Manning, who leaked confidential government documents to WikiLeaks, as a community grand marshal in the 2013 parade. Cital cited Beaudette as his motivation for seeking a position on the San Francisco Pride board of directors.
"Later, I invited Jose to the SF Pride public forum at MCC to hear community comments on the Manning controversy and he stood and spoke about Manning and the community and impressed people," Beaudette said.
When he submitted his board application, Cital said Pride secretary Lou Fischer asked him if he would have time to serve as he had job and school commitments. Due to his flexible work and school hours, he said he told her he might be the member with the most time to spend on Pride's work.
Cital's only concern about his commitment to San Francisco Pride is that he is dependent on public access computers as he does not own one.
"I am trying to save money to buy one," he said.
He said he was "genuine and true" in his run for the Pride board and he feels that came across at the candidate forum in the Castro and when he addressed the membership at the annual general meeting. He said he spoke with an innocence and trust and members rewarded him with their votes.
Other newly elected board members said that they look forward to serving with Cital as part of the team.
"Jose is a breath of fresh air as a young, new resident to the city and the SF Pride board," Gary Virginia, a longtime city resident and newly elected Pride board member, said in an email. "Too often youth are not cultivated for leadership positions in the queer community, whether it be neighborhood associations, nonprofit organizations, or political clubs. I find Jose well-spoken, frank, and wise beyond his 21 years."
Joey Cain, another veteran gay activist, said that Cital is one of the younger people to be elected to the Pride board. Cain served on the board for several years, including stints as president, and will be returning to the board as he was also elected on the accountability slate earlier this month.
"He spoke very movingly at the community meeting Pride held on the Private Manning grand marshal issue and I look forward to working with him on the board," Cain said in an email.
As a new board member, Cital said his first action will be to fulfill his responsibilities and his campaign promises of accountability and transparency in all San Francisco Pride decisions.
Another new face to the Pride board will be Jesse Oliver Sanford, who said he was also impressed with Cital's remarks at the Manning forum.
"He was remarkably articulate, and he has a wonderful silly sense of humor, but it was his grasp of the emotional dimensions of the situation, for board members as well as the community, that made him stand out," Sanford said in an email. "He really spoke to the heart of the matter."
Cital said he sees a decline in participation in the Pride parade and festival by LGBT community elders and he wants to "bridge the generation gap" by bringing them back.
"People should be proud of their age," he said. He feels younger LGBT community members could learn history from elders.
On AIDS, Cital's easy smile disappeared. He paused and said, "I had an uncle who died of AIDS." As a tear rolled down his right cheek, he said he did not learn of his uncle's condition until his death. He said he was honored to serve on the SF Pride board with Virginia, an AIDS survivor.
While he works retail in the Castro, Cital said, "Politics is the most honest work" for him. He said he thrives on the excitement of politics and he enjoys working with people, solving problems, and discussing issues. He cited the late Empress I Jose Sarria as an inspiration. Sarria, who died last month, was the first openly gay person to run for elective office in America when he sought a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961.
Cital is a student at City College of San Francisco, where he plans to double major in film and dance. He has been active on campus, and participated in a teach in at City Hall to call attention to CCSF's dire financial situation and "to fight for education."
While watching the film The Times of Harvey Milk , Cital realized that earlier he had stood near the City Hall offices where Milk and Mayor George Moscone had been assassinated in 1978.
It was then he realized that Milk fought for LGBT equality at City Hall in the 1970s and Cital was also there fighting for something else. It gave him a sense of history, he said.
"I feel a part of the LGBT community now," Cital said. He said he had a sense of history about his role as an SF Pride board member. "I bring a sense and appreciation of history with me to Pride," he said.