In 1990, Vertez Burks joined our board and in 1992 became the first Black co-chair of San Diego Pride. Vertez Burks, was instrumental in formalizing us from an ad-hoc committee into a nonprofit organization and shifting us to a profitable model that led us on a path to becoming the most philanthropic Pride in the world. Vertez, was followed in that work by other Black LGBTQ community leaders serving as co-chairs like Phyllis Jackson and current co-chair David Thompson.
In 2011, San Diego Pride’s first Black executive director, Dwayne Crenshaw brought a vision of utilizing the momentum of our joyful Pride celebration to empower our movement’s vital justice work, turning us into a year-round education and advocacy organization. In the eleven years since Dwayne invested in that vision we’ve grown from 3 staff to 13, 30 volunteer leaders to 200, and now have over 30 diverse intersectional programs.
In 2006, our multicultural festival stage expanded into separate distinct stages honoring and uplifting Black and Latinx arts, culture, and entertainers respectively. The then-new “Ebony Pride Stage” was booked and built out by and for our LGBTQ community, as our board made a commitment to always include this intentional space going forward. Now called “The Movement Stage” the area has been connected for years to our “Black Pride” community resource area developed through a partnership with one of our annual grantees, the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition, who ensure LGBTQ Black resources are available along with the entertainment, coupling our art and our advocacy.
We remind ourselves of this legacy of work in honor of Black History Month, and to remind ourselves that we must know and respect our Black history so we can continue to invest in Black futures. The Tracie Jada O’BrienTransgender Student Scholarship Fund administered through San Diego Pride is the first and one of the only Black Trans-led scholarship funds in the country, and last year gave out its 100th scholarship! Our work must continue to be intersectional if we are to realize true progress for all of our LGBTQ siblings. Black LGBTQ brilliance is resilience. It has led our movement locally and across the world, as we pursue Justice with Joy.
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made them a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.