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Oakland Pride celebrates 10th year promoting inclusivity

on September 11, 2019

At the 10th Annual Oakland Pride Festival and Parade on Sunday in downtown Oakland, thousands of attendees enjoyed the performances, food stands and stores spread across festival grounds. Once again, people rallied together in order to recognize community, identity, acceptance, and love for those who identify as part the LGBTQA+ community, and to gather as a show of visibility and to advocate for equality.

Attendees wait fort he 10th Annual Oakland Pride Parade to begin.

“I’ve been waiting all summer for the festival. Last year I enjoyed myself and I know this year will be no different. I can be myself,” said Janice, a 27-year-old attendee.

The term LGBTQA+ represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer asexual, and other non-binary identifying people.

Festivities enthusiastically began promptly at 11:00 am with the kick-off of a parade featuring floats, dancers, families, and members of other organizations such as Blue Cross Blue Shield—all wearing Pride-themed apparel. Flags, pom poms, streamers, and posters that featured encouraging words such as “COME OUT COME OUT WHATEVER U R” set a positive tone from the start.

The procession moved from Oakland City Hall and proceeded to the festival’s entrance at Broadway & 20th Street. The streets were lined on both sides with people clapping and showing their support with Pride-style shirts, hats, and snacks such as a “Pride cake” that had the iconic rainbow motif made out of frosting that one attendee brought from home. Volunteers handed out flags to those standing on the sidewalks so that no one felt left out of the celebration.

“Pride is everything. Look at how many happy people there are out here living they’re best lives! They’re enjoying being alive and being seen and that means so much,” said attendee Chris, 42, who was watching the parade with a small pride flag in his right hand. Waving the flag back and forth Chris continued to cheer as the parade moved on.

The festival’s offerings extended beyond food stands and stores, including multiple stages for those in the community to perform. On the community stage, rappers from Urban Prodigy Entertainment performed several hip-hop songs, evoking an ecstatic energy from the crowd. Bass heavy melodies juxtaposed with intricate wordplay made every person in the crowd eager for the next line.

Rappers from Urban Prodigy Entertainment performing at the Community Stage

Choreographer Corey Action, founder of New Style Motherlode Studio, the first hip hop-oriented dance studio in the Bay Area, gave a performance with attendees and students from his studio. The piece performed took inspiration from many genres of both music and dance such as hip hop, rock, and electronic music. Dancers alternated between popular dance moves you’d likely see on social media dance challenges and intricate footwork that even seasoned dancers would need to practice. Their hard work paid off as the audience could not take their eyes off of the performers. During opportunities for the crowd to fully engage with the performance, move complexity was kept low so that everyone in attendance felt included.

On the Woman’s Stage, deejays such as DJ Shellhart played some of the hottest hip hop hits over the last few years. Between the hits of the bass, the crowd recited the songs’ melodies without hesitation. Those really feeling the energy danced along as their favorite tracks continued to play.

The API stage provided a space for those who identify as Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander to share their own experiences as members of the LGBTQA+ community. A band headlined by Yiann, an independent artist who creates songs about being queer and self-love, performed their poetic stanzas amid soothing trance-like beats. Other performers chose spoken word as their medium of connecting with the crowd. A performer named Jai spoke about coming into their sexuality, identity, and finding greater acceptance. Some in the crowd were brought to tears by the powerful words and relatable storytelling.  

Artist Yiann performs on the API Stage.

Diversity and inclusion were recurring themes, with sponsor companies like Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente promoting their message of acceptance of those who identify as LGBTQA+. Some booths were oriented towards connecting attendees with volunteer opportunities to help those in the area with health education. Others created a fun environment, like multiple mechanical bull stations where people lined up in anticipation of their time to ride.

The kick-off for Sunday’s event started earlier in the week on Tuesday, when City Council President Rebecca Kaplan—Oakland’s first out lesbian elected official—and other attendees enthusiastically raised the Pride flag on the roof of City Hall under the afternoon sun. Rather than the traditional six-striped rainbow flag that most people are familiar with, the flag raised at City Hall contained extra stripes in a triangle shape to represent the trans community (light blue, light pink, white) and two brown stripes to represent people of color.  

Rebecca Kaplan and attendees pose for a group photo at the Pride flag raising at Oakland City Hall.

Comedian and activist Sampson McCormick, who is originally from Washington, DC, but calls Oakland his “West Coast home,” attended the flag-raising and said that Oakland Pride represents a “larger push for diversity and inclusion.” Noting Oakland’s diverse population, McCormick said he believes that the Pride festival and the sense of community that Oakland fosters provides a space where people feel comfortable being themselves.

Also in attendance were several of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an activist organization focused on advocating for the rights of the LGBTQA+ community. Since its inception in 1979, the organization has grown to an international scale while raising awareness and money for sex education and issues facing the community.

People from different parts of the state traveled to enjoy Sunday’s festival along with those from the Bay Area. “Pride means being able to come together as a community and enjoy yourselves,” said Bishop Major, 22, an attendee from Sacramento.

Bishop Major (right) and friend, Jay (left) attend the Oakland Pride Festival.

While this was Major’s first Oakland Pride Festival, he said he felt that the experience was more enjoyable than Pride festivals thrown in other cities. A “diverse crowd,” accompanied by a police presence that’s “not overbearing” helped make the festival more memorable for him, he said.

“I will be back!” he promised.

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