The first time I went to the Spirit of Stonewall Rally was in 2000. It was only a few weeks before that I had been homeless and living in my car. I was from the rural border town of El Centro and didn’t know what Pride really was, but I knew there were LGBTQ people there and I knew it was in Hillcrest. I stumbled upon a large group of people standing in front of The Center and for the first time in my life I heard the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender” said with pride on a loudspeaker instead of as a slur or behind a whispered hand. As I listened to the speakers that day, I was filled with hope for the first time and a sense that I wasn’t alone. I had found a community.
Since the first Pride in San Diego, we have had a rally. It is a time for us to honor our origins, celebrate those who are leading the way, and call our community to action around some of our movement’s most pressing issues. The first rally was where our Festival now is, but it has moved around the Hillcrest and Balboa park area over the years. This year, you will find us at the Pride Flag in Hillcrest right inside the free, open, and all-ages Pride of Hillcrest Block Party.
We have some incredible awardees this year like our Stonewall Generation, LaRue Fields, Ricardo Gallego and Orlando Espín, and more. Our speakers will call for the end to the killing of our black trans sisters, address asylum as an LGBTQ issue, and demand that our government pass the Equality Act.
I think that sometimes in the giant celebration, glitter, and rainbows of Pride weekend it can feel to some like “Pride is just a party,” and while it is an opportunity to celebrate, our Spirit of Stonewall has always been there. It’s my personal favorite part of Pride. It calls me home, lifts my heart, and helps me remember what we’re fighting for. I hope you will join me there this year as we all take part in this Legacy of Liberation.
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 him a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.