News Briefs: SF's official band changes name

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday June 26, 2024
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The city's LGBTQ band is now named San Francisco Pride Band. Photo: Courtesy SF Pride Band
The city's LGBTQ band is now named San Francisco Pride Band. Photo: Courtesy SF Pride Band

San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the city's official band, is now San Francisco Pride Band.

The change became official earlier this month, as the Bay Area Reporter noted in a photo caption accompanying the pink triangle ceremony that took place atop Twin Peaks June 8.

In a recent news release, band officials said the organization wanted to emphasize that it includes "all members of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies across the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity."

"Now more than ever, as politicians across the U.S. push transphobic agendas, the band wants to emphasize that it welcomes and embraces trans musicians," the release noted.

Board members stated that they were pleased with the change.

"I'm so proud of our organization for taking this step to expand our name to be more inclusive," stated Chris Hewes, board president. "We're extra proud to be spreading our message of music this Pride season and beyond."

Hewes added that the band will now work on updating its logo and visual identity.

The name change is just one step in the band's efforts to promote inclusivity. In 2020, the band established a commission program for Black, Indigenous, and people of color composers and has since commissioned and premiered two pieces from two talented composers, Roger Zare and Mattea Williams. The B.A.R. wrote about Williams, a Black bi woman, last year.

Established in 1978, San Francisco Pride Band is the first openly gay musical group in the world, the release noted. The late Jon Sims founded the band as the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps, to reflect the name of the Pride parade at the time. In the 1990s, the band adopted the moniker of San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band to more explicitly include the lesbians in the band's membership.

"When I joined the band in 1998 as a teenager, the band had just changed its name to San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, which at the time was so important for visibility, as those who identified as lesbian were made invisible in what had then been known as the 'gay community,'" stated Mike Wong, artistic director of marching and pep. "Twenty-seven years later, the band has again moved forward, making clear that we welcome and represent everyone in the community: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, nonbinary, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allies, and anyone who falls under the LGBTQ+ umbrella."

After members started a discussion about making the name more inclusive, the band spent several months conducting research and surveys to decide on a new name that captured the spirit of inclusivity at the heart of the organization, the release noted. The band also looked to the other LGBTQ+ musical groups that are part of the Global Pride Bands Alliance, many of whom have undergone similar name changes in the last several years.

In December 2018, Mayor London Breed signed into law the ordinance designating the band as the city's official band for perpetuity.

For more information, go to

Alice Pride breakfast

Gay Pennsylvania state Representative Malcolm Kenyatta (D) will deliver the keynote address at this year's Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club Pride Breakfast. The event takes place Sunday, June 30, at 8 a.m. at the Hyatt Embarcadero Ballroom, 5 Embarcadero Center.

Mawuli Tugbenyoh, Alice co-chair, stated that other speakers will include Bishop Yvette Flunder, who identifies as same-gender loving and leads City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland; Honey Mahogany, a trans person who is the new executive director of the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives; gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman; and gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who will give a state legislative update.

Individual tickets start at $150 and sponsorships are available. Tickets for students and seniors are $75. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to

Choral members take part in a GALA Choruses Festival. Photo: Courtesy GALA Choruses Festival  

Choral groups set to meet in Minneapolis
GALA Choruses Festival, the largest LGBTQ choral event in the world, will gather about 7,000 singers from 122 choruses July 10-14 in Minneapolis. The festival will include choirs performing at world-class venues in downtown Minneapolis, including Orchestra Hall, the Minneapolis Convention Center, and Central Lutheran Church, a news release stated.

Ten choral groups from the Bay Area will be attending. They are: GAPA Men's Chorus; San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus; Queer Chorus of San Francisco; Golden Gate Men's Chorus; Oakland Gay Men's Chorus; Sacramento Women's Chorus; Sacramento Gay Men's Chorus; Silicon Valley Gay Men's Chorus; Rainbow Women's Chorus; and The Choral Project.

The last festival was held in 2016 in Denver. The next festival, scheduled for 2020, was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.

Festival 2024 in Minneapolis will mark a historic eight-year gap between events, while also being the largest in the history of the LGBTQ choral movement, the release stated. In addition to North American LGBTQ choirs, the festival will also showcase groups from China, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, and Taiwan.

"I believe that GALA Choruses has evolved with the changing times," stated former GALA Choruses board president Michael Tate. "While the core mission of supporting new and existing LGBTQ+ and allied choruses has not changed, we have continued to expand and recognize the many colors of our amazing rainbow community. In particular, providing better visibility for and with trans and nonbinary individuals has been an exciting and deliberate expansion of our work."

Folks at home can join the event remotely by purchasing a digital ticket for $35. For more information about the streaming pass, click here.

For more information about the festival, including a full schedule of events and ticketing details, visit

GALA Choruses is a nonprofit organization that serves an association of LGBTQ choruses in North America. It cultivates the artistic development of 15,000 singers from nearly 200 choruses in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

CA vs Hate to have presence at Pride
As part of an ongoing statewide outreach campaign, California vs Hate has participated in several Pride festivals and will be in San Francisco for Pride weekend, June 29-30. The campaign seeks to inform Californians that there is support available whey they report hate.

"In California, we don't just tolerate our differences, we celebrate them," Kevin Kish, director of the California Civil Rights Department, stated in a news release. "During Pride Month, we're excited to march with and support communities up and down our state in the fight against hate."

Officially launched a year ago by Governor Gavin Newsom, CA vs Hate is the state's first-ever non-emergency multilingual hotline and online portal that provides a safe, anonymous reporting option for victims and witnesses of hate acts. The hotline, which is administered by the state civil rights department, is in direct response to an alarming increase in reported hate crimes, which, in recent years, have risen to their highest levels since the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001, the release stated.

According to the California Department of Justice, reported hate crimes targeting people based on their sexual orientation increased 29% from 2021 to 2022, with anti-transgender hate crimes rising from 38 reported events to 59 over the same period, according to the release. Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization, stated that it's important for the state to have the hate crimes hotline as a resource.

"Devastatingly, the LGBTQ+ community continues to see an increase in hate taking place across the state," noted Tony Hoang, a gay man who's executive director of EQCA. "We are thankful for Governor Newsom's leadership in ensuring that all acts of hate can be reported through CA vs Hate, regardless of whether it is a crime."

To access the non-emergency multilingual hate crime reporting hotline, call (833) 866-4283 Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. People can also visit the website at

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