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The annual Oakland Pride festival will take place downtown this weekend.

Organizers prepare for this weekend’s Oakland Pride festival

on September 1, 2012

In the final days before this year’s Pride celebration, event chair Amber Todd has been juggling the demands of being a city employee, a mother of four daughters, and a student. “I have so much crammed into my brain right now that I’m forgetting simple things like locking the car,” she said.

The last-minute preparations, to make sure the four stages are set up properly and everything happens just the way she planned, will pay off Sunday, she hopes — “when I stand on the stage, look out and see people smiling, happy, kids with face paint on, you know, two mamas or two papas walking down the street,” Todd said. “When I see that joy in everybody’s faces, it really kind of lets me know, ‘Okay, we accomplished what we set out to do this year.’”

A dozen square blocks in central Oakland will be closed off for Oakland Pride 2012, which begins at 11 am Sunday, September 2, and will take over Franklin Street from 17th to 22nd Streets. This year’s theme will be “It’s a Celebration.” “The gay community has a multitude of things to celebrate,” said Todd, who works as an executive assistant to the City Administrator, in Oakland, and studies criminal justice.  “We might not have won. But the fact that we are making moves and we are making changes — we need to celebrate that.”

To be celebrated, from the perspective of Pride organizers: The overturn of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which prevented openly gay people from serving in the military; President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage; and a federal court’s recent ruling that the voter-approved Proposition 8’s prohibition on gay marriage in California is unconstitutional.

Because it’s an election year, Todd said, these are part of the informal agenda at Oakland Pride 2012. But the event is not meant to be political, she said. “Somebody as big as President Obama coming out to say, ‘I may not personally agree with this, but I support equality in this country, I support gay marriage,’ is a big deal for us,” Todd said. “The important message Oakland Pride has to send in this political season is that our vote is important.”

As in the past years, the California Democratic party will have a booth at Pride. Asked if the Republican party would be similarly welcomed in the Oakland Pride, Todd said, “To my knowledge, we did not have a booth request from the Republican party. I think they think, ‘Okay, in Oakland we are not going to get any benefit from having a booth.””

The presidential race is not the only election in the background of this year’s festival. Oakland voters this November will elect four city council members and five school board members, and local candidates are aware of the voting power of the LGBT community. “I imagine the race for District 3 is pretty intense,” said Todd, referring to the city council race for the seat now held by longtime councilmember Nancy Nadel. “I think it is going to be a large turnout of candidates.”

Todd said she believes Lynette McElhaney, Alex Miller-Cole, and Sean Sullivan, all candidates running for that District 3 seat, will attend the Pride festivities, along with school board candidate Richard Fuentes. Council members Ignacio De La Fuente and Rebecca Kaplan, both competing for Kaplan’s at-large seat, also need the support of LGBT voters. “The gay community is an important vote to capture, because right now most would believe that, you know, the gay vote, Rebecca has it,” Todd said. “I think any candidate who just assumes that doesn’t know our community really well.”

City officials expected to address the Pride crowd formally include Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who raised about $20,000 for this year’s celebration; and Kaplan, a longtime major supporter of Pride. “She is the main reason why the Pride is here,” Todd said of Kaplan  “Year after year, she’s done everything in her power to make sure that the council supports us, that we get support from the city. You can almost say she is one of the founders.”

Organizers are preparing for a crowd of about 50,000 on Sunday. A variety of music styles, including Latin, Hip-hop, and Gospel, will be presented on four stages, with headliners including Oakland rapper Clyde Carson and singer CeCe Peniston. There’s a new evening block party planned along 17th Street, too, from San Pablo to Broadway, going from 6pm until midnight.

For parents planning to attend the festival, The Family & Children’s Garden will feature programs and activities for children, parents and caregivers.  The Community Health Pavilion will provide information and resources on health and wellness issues related to LGBT community, with HIV testing and AIDS education.

Admission will be $10, or $5 for those 12 years and younger. People are encouraged to take BART (Exit 19th St.) or AC Transit, both of which will run on their regular schedule. For more information on the event, visit

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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