Richmond marks Pride with message there's more to do

  • by Ana Tellez-Witrago, Richmond Pulse
  • Wednesday June 21, 2023
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Gay Richmond City Councilmember Cesar Zepeda, second from right, enjoyed the recent Richmond Rainbow Pride festival with friends. Photo: Tony Tamayo, from Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez's Facebook page.
Gay Richmond City Councilmember Cesar Zepeda, second from right, enjoyed the recent Richmond Rainbow Pride festival with friends. Photo: Tony Tamayo, from Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez's Facebook page.

[Editor's note: This article was first published in Richmond Pulse, a community news and media outlet committed to amplifying the voices of the city's under-served residents. Reporting is led by young people, with the intent of serving the entire community. This Pride project was in collaboration with the Bay Area Reporter.]

When Richmond Rainbow Pride held its ninth annual event June 4, the message from many attendees was that more work needs to be done regarding equality and the LGBTQ community.

The festival at Civic Center Plaza included drag, comedy and musical performances, speeches by elected officials, community organization resources, and HIV testing by the Contra Costa Health Department.

The theme was "Pride and Joy." It was the organization's first in-person Pride event since 2019, according to Ashley Scarborough, a Richmond resident and member of Richmond Rainbow Pride.

"Richmond has been very supportive, with over 200 people coming out to celebrate," said Scarborough.

The event, previously held in Marina Bay, was moved to Civic Center Plaza "to make the event more accessible to everyone," gay Richmond Rainbow Pride co-founder and City Councilmember Cesar Zepeda told the Pulse via text message. "Marina Bay was a little out of the way and not as transit friendly as Civic Center. We had a lot more people coming out to celebrate."

The master of ceremonies for the day, KaiKai Bee Michaels, shared what the LGBTQ+ community and Pride means to them.

"The LGBTQ+ community means family," said Michaels. "My blood family has not always been supportive, but this community is chosen family, and Pride gives us the opportunity to look at the struggles of the past while also enjoying where we are now, understanding that we have a long way to go."

The Bay Area, including West Contra Costa County, is typically open to LGBTQ+ people.

"We are spoiled," said Danu Calderon of Pinole.

But that doesn't mean they take that for granted.

When Donald Trump was president, Calderon says she felt she had to be more cautious when moving to a new neighborhood. She wondered if her new neighbors were going to be accepting. She ultimately had no issues with them, but she worries about the anti-LGBTQ+ narrative the nation is still dealing with.

Over 540 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced and 45 anti-LGBTQ laws enacted so far in 2023, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights organization. Several LGBTQ+ community members expressed concern with the attacks by extremist lawmakers across the country, but Calderon said the pushback was also a "badge of honor" for all the progress that has been made throughout the years.

"It makes me feel angry and disappointed in the general conversation, but I also take encouragement because it is a backlash against a lot of gains and an acceptance of people just living their lives — of people having the bravery and courage to live in their truth," said Amber Hatfield of Richmond. "The LGBTQ+ community is a safe place for people who have been historically ostracized in our society."

Irving, who asked that his last name not be shared, didn't know about the Pride event but was walking past when he saw all the rainbow flags and decided to lay on the grass and enjoy the performances. He thought it was "cool" that Pride wasn't only being celebrated in San Francisco but also in Richmond.

"Now, it is more important than ever to show up for one another," Irving said. "I don't believe in hate."

Those interested in volunteering for next year's 10th anniversary of Richmond Rainbow Pride, can email [email protected].

Community resources

The Richmond Pulse asked LGBTQ+ community members to share organizations that have helped them build community and connect to services. Below is the list in alphabetical order:

Planned Parenthood LGBTQ services

Richmond Rainbow Pride

RYSE Center in Richmond (youth programs and LGBTQ support groups), (510) 373-3401

The San Francisco LGBT Community Center

Showing Up for Racial Justice Bay Area Queer and Trans Committee; for more information, email: [email protected]

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Bay Area

Somos Familia (LGBTQ resources and support for Spanish speakers)

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