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Guest Opinion: SF Pride looks to 50th celebration

by Carolyn R. Wysinger

Carolyn R. Wysinger. Photo: Courtesy Carolyn R. Wysinger
Carolyn R. Wysinger. Photo: Courtesy Carolyn R. Wysinger  

San Francisco Pride is marching into its 50th year. Fifty years of joyous celebrations. Fifty years of struggle. Fifty years of new traditions, 50 years of lost family, and 50 years of making LGBTQ people visible in the city of San Francisco as well as the world. We are excited to welcome the world to our party once again next year and I am excited to serve as San Francisco Pride board president for this 50th year.

In 2018, the board of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee embarked on a three-year strategic theme to build up to this moment. It started with "Generations of Resistance," followed in 2019 with "Generations of Strength," and, for next year, "Generations of Hope." The boards believed then, as we do now, that "generations" represents the people who have come into our city for this special event over the last five decades. Resistance represented the origins when our family took to the street to demand that they be seen and heard as members of the community resist what continues to oppress, and hope for possibilities that may never have been reality in our past. Strength represented the resilience of the community over the years as it has pressed on through the hard times, the losses, and the setbacks, yet continued to grow and exist in a world that tried to keep us silent. As we look toward 2020, we do what Harvey Milk taught us, and that's to remind the community that we have to have hope. Hope is found in our youth. Hope is found at the prospect of not just surviving but thriving in the coming 50 years.

In 2016, SF Pride found itself in a financial struggle. The ensuing boards worked hard to rebuild and help the organization find fiscal stability. With that work done we now turn ourselves to strengthening our relationship with our members and our community. Community building is key to our successes this coming Pride year. Some of the ways that we are working at this will be increasing the frequency of our public member meetings and meeting with our community affairs committee to increase the opportunities to engage and support our community. We are also committed to listening to the community recommendations around the pressing issues facing the board.

I have often said that many of the organizations in our community started as small groups or events where people could gather for various reasons. Over time, these events and groups grew. When an organization grows its responsibility changes. In 50 years, for example, SF Pride has become a massive event that attracts and influences communities around the world. With that come much larger responsibilities than our founders faced. As we commemorate our past we face the issues of the present. Today we grapple with things like the involvement of law enforcement and corporations in our festival. We are actively engaging in conversations to make sure that organizations that say they are here for our community do just that. Understanding that the word "safe" means a lot of different things for a lot of people, we are also creating conversations to make sure that our marginalized communities can come out to the festival. These are ongoing conversations and absolutely will not be the last you will hear from us about these matters.

There was once a time that I, as a black queer woman, did not come to Pride. I did not attend because I felt that I didn't really see myself there. Perhaps at a stage here or a booth there but I was not wholly seen as a part of the Pride celebration. One of our major goals is uplift our queer, trans, and people of color communities. This means uplifting black and brown community members and organizations that serve them as honorees, finding ways to help more QTPOC organizations march in our parade, and bringing more QTPOC performers to our stages. Visibility is always key and we remain committed to making that happen in our spaces.

There are several ways that community members can help. The first is becoming a member of SF Pride. It is easy to become a member from our website. Also, joining us for our public board and membership meetings. Board meetings are generally the first Wednesday of each month and member meetings are the second Wednesday. The website also has additional information such as how performers can apply to perform at Pride.

I am so excited to see all of you in 2020. Let's make #Pride50 our best year yet!

Carolyn R. Wysinger is the board president of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee. For more information on SF Pride, visit http://www.sfpride.org/

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