Sistahs Steppin' in Pride to step out for the last time

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Sunday March 27, 2011
Share this Post:

Sistahs Steppin' in Pride, Oakland's annual dyke march and festival, this year will mark its 10th anniversary and final year as the community has come to know it, said core committee members.

For a decade, Sistahs Steppin' in Pride has brought the East Bay's diverse queer women's community together in celebration during the last weekend of August. Up to 2,000 queer women have attended the event at its peak, said Peggy Moore, co-founder and visionary.

"We were all somewhat in agreement that it was okay to let it go as we know it," said Moore about the committee's decision, made earlier this year. She emphasized that in the "same spirit" of the group's decision that "we are going to go play full out" for the 10th anniversary event; the march is scheduled for August 27.

The 10 committee members, many of whom founded Sistahs Steppin' in Pride, made the decision to let go of the event due to personal commitments, said Moore.

"All of us have stuff going on in our lives," that was demanding more attention, said founding member Lisbet Tellefsen. "It seemed like in the grand scheme of things this is an opportunity to transition it that might be a softer blow."

Another reason for the group's decision was the return last year of Oakland Pride. Re-energized with a new board, Oakland Pride will be holding its second street festival over the Labor Day weekend. It is hoped that Pride organizers can incorporate something similar to Sistahs Steppin' in Pride for 2012.

"We are excited about the energy in Oakland in terms of the LGBT community," added Moore.

Sistahs Steppin' in Pride started as the East Bay's version of the dyke march in conjunction with East Bay Pride, until the Pride event dissipated in 2003, said Moore. Sistahs Steppin' stepped up the following year with the march and festival to ensure a queer presence in the East Bay.

The founding members are proud of what they created in Oakland and how they have inspired other women's Pride events, in particular women of color pride celebrations across the nation, said Moore.

Oakland Pride is hoping to tap into Sistahs Steppin' In Pride's power, said Moore and Joe Hawkins, co-chair of Oakland Pride. If not, Moore hopes that a new generation of community leaders will take up the reins to guide Sistahs Steppin' In Pride into its future, she said.

"We are so available to help facilitate [new leadership] in any way possible," said Moore, adding that she hopes a new committee of community leaders can "morph it into something that is good for our community."

"I look forward to the next generation. I know that there will be another community event," added Tellefsen.

Steppin' out

To mark the occasion, the founding members are planning a bigger and better celebration this year to wrap up a decade of dyke pride, said Moore.

"This year ... my heart is really, really passionate. I really, really want the march to be the largest that it has been in the past 10 years," said Moore. "We've had 10 years that have been extraordinary celebrating the community, particularly the women's community, which is very rich and deep. What we hope to do this year is not only celebrate where we come from, but really celebrate where we are today."

"Sistahs Steppin' in Pride is the one day a year where I can feel our community in its totality," added Tellefsen.

Moore said the committee is currently planning this year's celebration and looking at presenting the best of previous events from the past decade. The committee is also planning to produce a commemorative program to document the historic occasion.

"We want this community to go out in a bang! We want to have a good time and tell our story," Moore said. "I want to engage the community this year and encourage people to be a part of this story and show up to be in the march."

Moore estimated that the annual event cost about $25,000 to produce at its most expensive, but usually was less than that. She is proud that the event was produced on a lean budget and that the core committee never overextended itself financially, she said.

It is possible that some semblance of the dyke march will be incorporated into future Oakland Pride events.

"Maybe the Sistahs [will be] stepping right into Oakland Pride," said Hawkins. "If it's going to go away, we want to somehow keep some of what Sistahs Steppin' is alive and incorporate it into [Oakland] Pride, because it still has value. ... I see it as leading the way for Pride in a whole new way."

Moore and Tellefsen couldn't agree more with Hawkins.

"We are very excited about this year [and] what we've accomplished," said Moore. "We are just really proud of Oakland and the energy that is here now."