Arts and civil rights advocate Larry T. Baza, a gay man of Latino and Chamorro heritage, was co-chair of San Diego Pride at a pivotal moment in our history. The organization was formalizing into its own 501c3. The Parade changed routes to start from Hillcrest. The Festival was reimagined to become a self-sustaining event that showcased the art, culture, services, and organizations that make up our vibrant community. The growth and success of our events and organization into one of the largest Prides in the world is a lesson in art as advocacy.
Last year, during our livestream entitled Proud Identities, done in partnership with the San Diego Museum of Art, Larry declared, “this is the convening of all my worlds in one place” and shared backstage “my heart is full.” We had so many plans to expand that work together. We lost Larry to COVID-19, Saturday, February 20, 2021. His legacy lives in our hearts and our continued work bringing together QTBIPOC artists to express their lived experiences and talents to heal, educate, and thrive.
Pride helps us revel in the diverse and beautiful brilliance of our community. At our Festival we’ve hosted queer artists like Melissa Etheridge, Mykki Blanco, King Princess, Kim Petras, Snow Tha Product, Jake Zyrus, and more who use their platform to uplift intersectional identities and advocate for our community’s right to exist. Even now, in times of COVID, our Vibe with Pride series with host Jai Rodriguez further tells the story of queer artists and why their craft is so vital.
Every year, all year round, our programs incorporate arts and culture as a tool for expression and advocacy. Our youth programs use art to teach concepts of gender expression and healthy relations. Our annual Pride Youth Art Show gives young LGBTQ visual artists a space to wield art as a compelling form of storytelling. Our partnership with the San Diego Queer Youth Chorus and our Pride Youth Marching Band creates a safe space for queer young musicians to foster character development and leadership in a culturally supportive community.
As an event turned organization that started with paper bags over our heads, Pride has a robust photography and videography team capturing our joy and struggles to share with the world. Each of our programs is supported by queer graphic designers who create flyers, posters, banners, and designs. Art of Pride showcases local LGBTQ artists in our building, online, and in the festival. There is almost nothing that we do that isn’t touched or uplifted by arts and culture.
I was recently told by a government official that “there is no LGBTQ arts and culture.” They are wrong. However our community understands how often our work, creativity, and brilliance is ignored, abused, or stolen for profit. San Diego Pride is this region’s largest civic event, and we are arts and culture through our core. This annual and year round celebration of LGBTQ art and culture has a 26.6 million dollar impact on our region and has become one of the most philanthropic prides in the world. Yet we, and Prides around the country, continue to be left out of relief funding in large part because we are considered an event, and the event industry has been left behind. Failure to recognize Pride organizations as vital parts of our arts and culture community and economy could have devastating impacts on not only the Pride movement but on the LGBTQ community and the artists and entertainers we uplift.
Even a year into the pandemic, as our favorite DJs stream into our living rooms, our drag queens sew PPP masks, and activists learn new video storytelling tools, our artistic creativity is keeping us connected and relatively sane. Our artists help us be seen, be heard, find family, build capacity, and carve out the space for us all to be unapologetically our true, authentic selves. That is beautiful. That is Art. That is Pride. That is how we are Resilient.
Fernando Zweifach López
San Diego Pride