Guest Opinion: Pridefest offers a new beginning in Oakland

  • by Sean Sullivan and Christie James
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022
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Singer-songwriter Mýa drew a crowd at last year's Pridefest. Photo: Giotographer/Pridefest Oakland
Singer-songwriter Mýa drew a crowd at last year's Pridefest. Photo: Giotographer/Pridefest Oakland

After years of working to create a safe space and build a sense of community in The Town, our town, we couldn't believe the words we were hearing about the spirit of Pride in Oakland — that "Pride was dead." Surely, this was a joke and this poor soul was misinformed. The spirit of the LGBTQ community, which has long stood for resilience in the face of hatred and adversity, could not be extinguished simply because of COVID and thus, Pridefest Oakland was born last year with a street festival. Initially, we thought this would be a placeholder event but after its success, at the behest of Oaklanders, we began planning a 2022 celebration in January.

Pridefest Oakland was born out of a spirit of resilience and determination not to let the spirit of Oakland die, albeit that's a somewhat dramatic explanation for the beginning of what we hope will be a kick-ass, power-to-the-people, all-out dance festival that showcases the best of local and national LGBTQ+ talent.

At its core, Pridefest Oakland is a diverse group of Oakland's LGBTQ community leaders, coming together to bring a renewed sense of Pride to Oakland. Our mission is neither a slight to festivals past nor a reckoning of new ideas that may spring forth from this seed we are planting, but a joyful celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride and joy after a rollercoaster of a ride of COVID shut-ins and political nightmares.

On Sunday, September 11, a day of reflection for our country no doubt, we are taking to the streets of downtown Oakland on 20th Street/Thomas L. Berkley Way from Broadway to Harrison Street to show up and show out and celebrate the love and Pride that is ingrained in our community.

Now more than ever, celebrating our LGBTQ/queer community is necessary and powerful against a national tide of political attacks against our community and another pandemic. It is important we come together to celebrate.

With domestic terrorists, white nationalists, and the politicians that cater to them literally coming to threaten us, we gather to show our strength, the power of our community, and to send them the message clearly, they won't break our joy.

In Oakland, our elected officials have banded together with us to help reduce the burdens of bureaucracy, raised, and even donated funds to make Pridefest Oakland happen. It's a family affair y'all!

We represent "100% Pure Love" as one of our many headliners, Crystal Waters, states in her hit song of the same name. We are thrilled to have a dance music icon who has been such a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ community in the Bay Area, and as a whole, performing at this year's festival.

We are especially grateful to Oakland's LGBTQ Community Center for sponsoring her performance for Pridefest Oakland 2022 and look forward to a high-energy show that will no doubt appeal to Oakland's diverse audience.

"The center is super excited to be participating in Pridefest this year," stated Joe Hawkins, co-founder of the center, which is the fiscal sponsor of Pridefest. "Last year for our fourth anniversary, we held our 'Pride in the Park' event, and when members of the organizing body of Pridefest reached out to us after last year's successful event, we were happy to support however we could. The team at Pridefest has really worked hard to be inclusive, community-centered, and transparent. It just feels good."

Our intention was and is to create a diverse festival that feels good and inclusive to all our community. We were intentional in seeking Oakland vendors where we could and are proud to partner with A2Z Media Group, a local, woman-owned, and minority-owned advertising event agency to help produce Pridefest Oakland 2022.

We have asked the many talents who have kept you entertained through parties and events to help us program the stages. It's a DIY local love event and we couldn't be prouder about it.

Together, we are all committed to making Pridefest 2022 an unforgettable event and showing that Pride is not only alive but also thriving in Oakland!

Sean Sullivan and Christie James are Pridefest Oakland co-chairs. Sullivan co-owns the Port Bar with his partner, Richard Fuentes. James, who identifies as bisexual and pansexual, is a DJ and hosts "Morning Drive with Christie Live" on 107.3 FM. For more information on Pridefest Oakland, which takes place September 11 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., visit the website.

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