shows city's fun side
by Catherine Pickavet
Running on the theme "It's a Celebration," the third annual Oakland Pride festival held Sunday was just that: a celebration of all things East Bay LGBT.
A diverse crowd of about 20,000 people, according to the Oakland North blog, from all over the Bay Area made the trip to Oakland's Uptown neighborhood September 2 to experience how this East Bay of riches shows its pride: sunshine, good food, strong drinks, and live music on four stages.
Headliner CeCe Peniston treated dedicated fans to a collection of new and old tunes. Toward the end of the day, festivalgoers danced on tired feet to gear up for the after parties that spilled out into various locations throughout the city.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Oakland Pride was the way the event brought the community together, highlighting the vast diversity and sheer size of the East Bay LGBT community.
Aman Tobar, 44, has been a volunteer at Oakland Pride every year and this one was no different. He said he has noticed there had been more attendees milling about this year over last, which is sure to motivate Pride organizers who have already announced next year's event, set for September 1.
"It's about time that we started developing ways to communicate to everyone out there that we're united and that we love peace – all inclusive, never exclusive," Tobar said. "I don't want to leave Oakland because I like the diversity, and having events like this one shows that we embrace the diversity."
Like Tobar, Cheyenne Purrington, 29, noted the way in which Oakland Pride highlights the diversity of the East Bay's LGBT community.
"Pride brings a disparate community together and really galvanizes a sense of belonging in the larger community," Purrington said, adding that she, too, noticed that there were more people this year.
Mike Gifford, 63, who described himself as a "third-generation homeboy," enjoyed the crowd and said it gets better each year. But there is just one thing missing: artisans.
"There are a lot of gay artists," he said, "but where are they?"
His friend Doug Marques, 58, who is a member of the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men's Chorus and LGBT chair for ALCOSTA (Alameda Contra Costa Unions) agreed with Gifford's artist observation, but understands the importance of the event to the East Bay.
"Everybody focuses on San Francisco, and they don't realize the large gay community that exists in the East Bay," Marques said. "Not everybody can make it to San Francisco, but they can make it here."
Darin Jensen has lived in Oakland for 25 years, and this was his first Pride. Initially surprised by the $10 entrance fee, he said he and his partner decided that they ultimately wanted to support the community.
"If it costs money to keep this happening in Oakland, the town we live in, then we will pay the money," Jensen said.
Tucked away in their respective booths lining Franklin Street were community groups and businesses that gathered to support the event and to disseminate information about their unique roles in the community.
The East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club had a booth to celebrate with the community its 30th anniversary. In addition to handing out LGBT for Obama paraphernalia, the group was promoting its upcoming Trailblazer Awards, which will honor 30 LGBT allies who have given back to the East Bay LGBT community.
"Oakland Pride is a celebration," said Brendalynn Goodall, president of the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club. "Oakland has a large LGBT community that needs to be recognized – and to see the political power that we have."
Wendy Howell of the Service Employees International Union's Lavender Caucus said the group, a union of health care workers, had a Pride presence so that they could conduct health care screenings and promote good health in the LGBT community. She noted that the gay community in the East Bay doesn't get as much attention as the one on the other side of the bridge.
"I live in Oakland. A lot of our members live in Oakland," Howell said. "We have a lot of community here in the East Bay, and I think it's really important for Oakland to have its own pride."
Local and out politicians also took advantage of the festivities to meet their constituents. Abel Guillen, who is running for the open 18th Assembly District seat in Oakland, told the Bay Area Reporter that diversity was what he most appreciated about the gathering.
"We're very fortunate here in the East Bay to have a rich LGBT community that celebrates our rich diversity," Guillen, who identifies as two spirit, said. "What I really like about our pride is that it's very inclusive; it's very family-oriented, and it's really diverse."
Mayor Jean Quan was there early in the afternoon, before flying off to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. Also spotted were gay Berkeley mayoral candidate Kriss Worthington, out Oakland City Council candidate Sean Sullivan, and the city's only out elected councilmember, Rebecca Kaplan.
The Family and Children's Garden offered anything parents and kids could have possibly needed to enjoy themselves in the sun.
Our Family Coalition, which promotes the equality and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer families with children, sponsored the garden, greeting those who wanted to celebrate family-style.
"Family and Children's Garden at Oakland Pride is essential to any Pride event, because our families, LGBT parents, feel isolation – one as being queer parents and then, two as being parents in the queer community," said Julia Po, San Francisco program manager of Our Family Coalition.
"Creating a space where they can bring both identities as being parents and queer is a great space: Our families need to see other families who are just like them, because we still live in a heterosexist, heteronormative world, and kids want to see other kids and see themselves reflected in their own communities," Po added.
Occupy offshoot hits Pride
Pride problems were relatively few, but the Oakland Tribune reported Tuesday that an offshoot of Occupy Oakland went on a vandalism spree after becoming upset that the Pride event was charging admission. Video of the incident posted online showed one person breaking windows at a Bank of America branch. Other businesses were tagged.
Pride board Chair Amber Todd told the B.A.R. last week that the event charges an admission because it is barely breaking even, despite good attendance numbers and corporate sponsors.
Official attendance and revenue figures for Sunday's festival were not available by press time.
"Our goal is to fundraise so that all the bills are paid before we open the gates, so that the money collected at the gates can go toward the following year and creating sustainability," Todd said last week.