SF Pride members elect new board members, select 2023 theme

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday September 14, 2022
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A marcher carries a flag in the 2022 San Francisco Pride parade June 26. Photo: Rick Gerharter<br>
A marcher carries a flag in the 2022 San Francisco Pride parade June 26. Photo: Rick Gerharter

San Francisco Pride members have chosen an apt theme for the 2023 celebration following the challenges of the past three years in putting on the West Coast's largest LGBTQ event during the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic. They opted to go with "Looking Back and Moving Forward" among the various suggested themes up for consideration.

Last June saw the return of an in-person Pride celebration after two years of virtual gatherings due to the global health crisis. This year Pride leaders also had to grapple with the very public controversy over the participation of uniformed police officers in the annual parade, which ultimately led to a compromise that saw some members of the police department march in uniform.

The voting on the 2023 theme took place in the 72 hours following what was a genial annual general Pride membership meeting September 10 at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. The members also elected four board members to assist in planning for what will be the 53rd anniversary of the two-day celebration and parade that annually takes place the last full weekend of June.

The election results were decided by 85 of 188 eligible SF Pride members who had until September 13 to vote.

Board candidates

Four candidates ran for four open seats on the board, with each of them receiving the needed majority of the votes cast. Taking the most votes was trans man Robert Louie with 61 votes; incumbent trans woman Anjali Rimi, 54 votes; lesbian Linda Martley-Jordan, 53 votes; and gay man George Smith III, with 46 votes.

Speaking from the dais at the front of the center's conference room, each of the candidates had four minutes to state their cases for election to the nonprofit's board.

Louie, an Asian Bay Area native, brings experience working with several nonprofit social justice organizations, including Democratic Socialists of America, Gender Illumination, and the Bay Area TransMasc Calendar, which launched its first edition earlier this year.

"I want to really flex my connections with the transmasc community, especially of color," he told members during the candidate statements. "Because over the years, I've just really begun to learn that we're underrepresented and our issues don't come up."

Louie told members that "for the longest time, I thought Pride wasn't for me and I really want to change that. I want it to be a space for people like me to connect with my community..."

Rimi, who was running for a second term, said that being on the board had allowed her to serve the community in even greater ways.

"I did not know that I would have an opportunity to serve this community in large ways that I have been able to, and San Francisco Pride has been one of those platforms," she told meeting attendees. The Hindu, Indian immigrant said that, despite recent victories, much still needs to be accomplished.

"And we have done a decent job with accountability with one particular party, which is the police," she said, "but we have a lot more work to do."

After SF Pride announced that uniformed officers would not be welcome to participate in the parade in May, following up on a policy the board adopted in the fall of 2020, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced she would not participate unless that was changed. The San Francisco Fire Department and the San Francisco Sheriff's Department also announced their withdrawal. Ultimately, however, following further negotiations, law enforcement participated. Breed came down with COVID and had to skip Pride festivities.

Martley-Jordan, an educator and Black woman who's the project manager for the San Francisco Unified School District's African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative, Post Secondary Pathway, said that she is an advocate.

"I speak for the voiceless and the marginalized, in particular youth," she said.

The SF Pride board, she said, should play a role in helping trans and transitioning students in ways the school district can't.

"We have young people in schools who are trans, who are transitioning and they are walking through the hallways and — I'm talking to the public at home — and not all of them are having a very good time," she continued. "Some of them are getting through, some of them it's happening for. But they need a lot of support. The schools can't provide it."

Smith, a Black self-described family man who has served on the SF Pride board before, spoke of inclusion and the need to make Pride more inclusive of Black and Brown members of the community, and to keep the spirit of Pride going all year long.

"I really, really would like Pride to be sustained throughout the year," he said, "especially those folks to whom the business of Pride is very important, the opportunities that Pride gives to folks. I want to see our folks represented in that. It's not only about celebration, it's about the people that invest in Pride, giving us an opportunity to work, to support our communities, to support the fight in our communities."

Theme selection

In addition to choosing board members, Pride membership also chose the theme for 2023's celebration.

Members had 11 different options to choose from: "1,000,000 Loves;" "All Genders Welcome!"; "Awakening;" "Leather Pride!;" "Liberty and Justice for All;" "Live, Laugh, Love;" "Looking Back and Moving Forward;" "Pay Love Forward;" "Pursuit of Happiness;" "Rising Tides Lift all Boats;" and "Ties that Bind."

"Liberty and Justice for All" was the 1980 SF Pride theme, according to a list of past themes on the organization's website.

Before voting got underway, however, there was a little campaigning from members who had submitted some of the themes themselves. After being asked about the context behind "Rising Tides Lift all Boats," East Bay member and trans woman Di'ara Reid explained.

"Basically, it's just describing that we're all in the same boat and if we lift up those that are most marginalized, all of us rise up with it. So it includes the whole community," she said.

Another member wondered about "Looking Back and Moving Forward." Board candidate Martley-Jordan had submitted that one.

"I like 'Looking Back and Moving Forward' because it reminds me of the Sankofa bird out of Africa," she said. In East African lore, the bird whose name means "go back to the past and bring forward that which is useful" represents the need to understand the past to move forward successfully.

"If you don't know where you came from, how you goin' know where you goin'?" Martley-Jordan continued. "And to me, that talks about what we're doing."

Her pitch worked, as that theme won with 51 votes.

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