10 years ago San Diego Pride hired our first Black Executive Director, Dwayne Crenshaw. That same week Dwayne called me out of the blue and asked me if I would join in his vision to turn San Diego Pride into a year-round education and advocacy organization – Pride 365. Dwayne was familiar with my political organizing experience and my policy advocacy work with Equality California and Marriage Equality USA, and hoped I would bring those skills to the organization. I remember thinking he was out of his mind and said “No.” He asked me to coffee and fully explained the potential he saw in the power of Pride’s visibility, economic strength, and volunteer base. 10 years ago this Friday I was cautiously optimistic as I joined the Pride Family.
Right away Dwayne had me engage with our LGBTQ small businesses on policy recommendations, join labor coalitions to support worker rights, and partner with the ACLU on criminal justice reform. He quickly became and continues to be a brilliant mentor, a trusted confidant, and most importantly a fierce friend.
Dwayne would part ways with Pride to more deeply pursue racial and economic justice as he co-founded RISE San Diego, the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition, and in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and our ongoing national reckoning on race, he has most recently rebranded and reorganized another organization he founded [email protected] as The Humanity Movement with a mission to help eradicate racism and advance liberty and justice for all humans. Always in his wake are new organizations founded, new programs developed, marginalized communities elevated, and new leaders lifted and connected to an intersectional network of support.
While San Diego Pride has benefited from generations of inspiring LGBTQ leaders passing the torch, without question Dwayne showed us who we could be, dared us to dream, and pushed us to work for it. In these last 10 years we have grown from a 4-person staff to one of 11, from a team of a couple of dozen volunteer leaders to one nearly 200, and from a handful of year-round programs to over 30 year-round volunteer-lead initiatives. We’ve shifted school policy and expanded youth programs. We’ve turned out thousands upon thousands of LGBTQ voters to the polls each election cycle. We’ve become the most philanthropic Pride in the world. We’ve started music and art programs, hiring hundreds of LGBTQ artists on a typical Pride year. We’ve seen active duty service members walk openly in our Parade – the first anywhere in the nation – and we legally officiate weddings at our Festival. We’ve elevated dignity and respect for the LGBTQ community by spearheading the naming of the first Harvey Milk Street in the country, and supported the Hillcrest Business Association’s efforts to bring the Pride Flag monument to reality. We’ve had over 100 faith leaders condemn anti-LGBTQ hate, and worked with Republican elected officials to come out in support of the Equality Act. I could go on for a decade’s worth of inspiring moments.
As a formerly homeless, first-generation Mexican-American, queer nonbinary kid from the rural border town of El Centro, California who was bullied their whole life, I never thought that I’d survive this long, let alone have the privilege of serving an organization like San Diego Pride. I will be forever grateful to Dwayne, a gay Black man and a son of a Baptist Minister, for seeing what was possible and for inviting me along. I’m proud to announce Dwayne Crenshaw J.D. as this year’s Champion of Pride recipient for the Spirit of Stonewall Awards. His legacy is one that has made our organization, community, and movement that much more Resilient.