Oakland Celebrates Pride

  • by Michael Nugent
  • Sunday September 17, 2017
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Grand marshal Michael Morgan, music director and conductor of the Oakland Symphony, rode in the Oakland Pride parade September 10
Grand marshal Michael Morgan, music director and conductor of the Oakland Symphony, rode in the Oakland Pride parade September 10

The parade was bigger than previous years and more people watched it go up Broadway as warm weather brought tens of thousands to the East Bay to celebrate Oakland Pride.

A more intimate celebration than the behemoth across the bay, Oakland Pride's September 10 festivities offered attendees a rainbow of genders and colors - along with signs of resistance amid the revelry.

The daylong event was Oakland's eighth annual LGBTQ Pride festival. Attendance was estimated at 50,000.

People from across the Bay Area and beyond came out to show their support.

"I live right down the street and this is my third year coming. I really enjoy the plethora of interesting people I've seen here," said Ashley Coats, 33, a queer woman.

"I came from McKinleyville, a small town in north Humboldt," said Gloria Meyer, 60, who is a lesbian. "It's amazing to be around so many gay people together. I came here to support Oakland Pride."

Some people offered embraces at no charge.

"I come to Pride to give free hugs," said Amos Lans, 60, a gay man living in Oakland. Lans was working the Billys booth with a "free hugs" sign around his neck. "This is a day I look forward to all year. It's gratifying for many sections of the population - especially heavy, older, or disabled people - who are not the objects of positive attention and affection. So I go out of my way for those folks."

The value and experience of diversity was on full display at this year's Pride.

"I'm deaf and I came to Oakland Pride for the first time because this is the first year they have top quality accessible interpreters. Music and gay culture are culturally sensitive specializations - not every interpreter can sign them," said Barbara Hyde, 51, a lesbian from San Leandro. "Diversity's always celebrated here. This is a piece of what the United States should be. I love Pride and being around gay people."

Others came to check out the scene.

"I like coming to community events. I get to see people I wouldn't see every day," said Connor Lucas Prideaux, 34, a trans/two spirit person who performs as drag king Ryder Moore.

Straight allies were also in attendance.

"I'll celebrate anyone's right to live as they want - I welcome it," said Chris Holl, 35, a straight ally from San Francisco. "This is my first time at Oakland Pride. They do a good job."

Politics and Pride

The political context of this year's Pride was on the minds of many. Some who marched in the parade carried signs that read "Yes to Dreamers," a reference to the Trump administration's announcement last week that it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The DACA program protected recipients, who were brought to the U.S. as children, from deportation.

President Donald Trump has appointed many anti-LGBT people to his Cabinet, and in July announced that trans people would no longer be able to serve openly in the military.

"This event has renewed political importance," said Ralph Doore, 60, a gay man from Castro Valley. "In the 1970s, it was about coming out and getting visibility. We have to be out and visible at Pride, especially in these times."

Others who specialize in helping the trans community were also concerned, given the political climate.

"I've always been an ally and gone to Pride," said Katie Carroll, 34, a straight woman from San Francisco. "I do electrolysis for trans people. I'm worried now about losing my job and people losing these services. In light of Trump, anytime we can find ways to all come together I show up and do what I can do.

"It takes shitty things like Donald to make people come together sometimes," Carroll added.

Milo Carter-Daniels checked out a trombone with his friend, Fundi Cade-Lopez, at the Oakland Symphony's "instrument" zoo at the Oakland Pride festival. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

More than 100 booths lined Franklin Street and some side streets during the festival, with organizations from PFLAG and the Billys to Equality California and Turn Out, an LGBT volunteer coordination nonprofit. For-profit companies like Wag and Lyft also were represented, as were several churches.

"I think that it is really important, given the current political climate in the country, that folks can have a sense of coming together, especially [at] Oakland Pride," said Carlos Uribe, 35, a queer man who is the board co-chair of Oakland Pride.

The festival headliner was Grammy-nominated "Rise Up" singer Andra Day, with special guest Alex Newell.

Our Family Coalition's children's and family area featured an animal petting zoo and an "instrument" zoo in association with the Oakland Symphony.

Oakland Symphony music director and conductor Michael Morgan, a gay man, was the parade grand marshal. Danny Wan, the city's first gay City Council member, was the legacy grand marshal.

It cost about $275,000 to produce this year's Oakland Pride parade and festival, said Uribe.

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