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Oakland Pride Month is going strong, with some events live and others virtual

on September 17, 2021

Oakland Pride Month is celebrated through September and features myriad events. But this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic still a menace, the celebrations have been varied. 

Oakland Pride’s festival was initially scheduled to take place in person. But it switched to virtual around a week before because of safety concerns. 

But in person at Lake Merritt last Saturday, dozens of people gathered under white tents for the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center’s inaugural Pride in the Park: LGBTQ + Health & Wellness Fair, marking the center’s fourth anniversary.

“A lot of people don’t know the safety precautions that they can take in order to keep our community safe,” said Arthur Shanks, a community health promoter at Oakland-based HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County. He spent the day showing people how to administer naloxone to someone who has overdosed.

DJs blasted music from the Black queer club scene. Attendees danced and greeted friends, and Oakland LGBTQ+ Community Center employees and volunteers encouraged people to let everyone know that singer Cecilia Veronica “CeCe” Peniston would be taking the stage.

Occasionally interrupting the upbeat music, employees reminded the crowd that they could receive HIV tests, COVID-19 vaccines and other health services at the fair. They also gave out naloxone kits.

Karen A. Anderson, a program coordinator for Lavender Seniors, came to Pride in the Park to recruit volunteers to help fight loneliness among LGBTQ+ seniors, who are twice as likely to live alone than straight aging individuals.  Launched in 1994, the Oakland-based Lavender Seniors hosts support groups and trains licensed professionals on how to support LGBTQ+ seniors.

“We encourage young people, anyone who’s interested in supporting our community to come in, give us a hand, make a phone call,” she said.

Jesse Brooks, a local HIV+ activist who attended the event with his small, friendly dog spent the day learning about organizations and local businesses.

“I love my community,” he said, “so I’m out here to support, to have a good time.”

Long after the colorful balloons were put away and people went home, Ashlee Banks, a wellness services coordinator at the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, encouraged people to reach out for help when they need it.

The LGBTQ+ community faces barriers to health care, especially for trans and non-binary people. Banks said the issue is important to Pride.

“It’s very important for us to make sure that our community is healthy and safe, and all the resources that are here for them,” she said.

It was with safety in mind that the larger, Oakland Pride organization decided not to proceed in person this year, after also holding a virtual festival last year. 

 “We are saddened that this decision had to be made, we feel it’s the best choice considering the obstacles we faced planning a safe event while in the middle of a pandemic,” Oakland Pride wrote on its website

Those who missed the online event can still participate in its digital marketplace, where people can learn more about LGBTQ+ businesses and organizations in Oakland and surrounding communities. That page will be available for people to shop well after September.  

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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: oaklandnorthstaff@gmail.com.

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