Pride is still protest

Dear Pride Family,

“What happens when the celebration is more well-known than the purpose of the celebration?” NCLR’s Imani Rupert-Gordon asked this question in her piece for The Advocate about Juneteenth and Pride last week, and it resonated deeply.

As Pride organizers, it’s our job to create that celebration every year, and that celebration is vital. We need these spaces of joy, these spaces to be so unapologetically ourselves, in order to shore ourselves up for what feels like a constant battle. And that unbridled queer and trans joy and unabashed embrace of our identities is itself its own form of resistance. And: Pride commemorates the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, when our community members fought back against state-sanctioned police brutality and sparked what is now the global Pride movement. Pride is a celebration, yes, and it is also protest – the purpose of this celebration is liberation.

We’ve seen a dramatic increase in anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and policy across the country, including here in San Diego, over the past few years. We have made progress that deserves to be celebrated, yes, and we still have a lot of work to do to achieve full pride, equality, and respect for all LGBTQIA+ people locally, nationally, and globally, and that work requires intentional reconnection to our roots as a movement for social justice and to our roots in throwing the first brick (*or penny, or punch, or shot glass – the stories vary!) at Stonewall 55 years ago. During San Diego Pride, we come together to reconnect to those roots at the Spirit of Stonewall Rally, where we get to honor the folks in our midst that are doing the work and come together to take action. 

This year’s Keynote Speaker is Kierra Johnson(they/she), Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. I am lucky enough to have known Kierra since 2012, when we first met in reproductive justice organizing spaces. They are an absolutely brilliant leader who is able to beautifully combine passion with compassion and strategy with radically imaginative vision. 

Chairwoman Erica Pinto of the Jamul Indian Village will offer an acknowledgment of the unceded Indigenous territories on which we celebrate. The Rally’s featured speakers include two folks who also happen to be members of groups receiving Spirit of Stonewall Awards this year. Ady Huertas (she/her) is a librarian (lesbrarian) at San Diego Public Library, will remind us what is at stake when LGBTQIA+ books are banned and challenged. Hon. Christine Kehoe (she/her), San Diego County’s first out LGBTQIA+ elected official and part of San Diego Pride’s Founding Leadership, will give remarks about the history (and future!) of San Diego’s LGBTQIA+ movement. 

As an organization that prioritizes arts and culture as part of our movement, we’re so proud to also have some phenomenal artists and performers joining our Rally stage this year. Spoken word artist (and alum of our Pride Youth programs!) Espi Ouapou (pen name Espi Love) will perform a piece during our Rally, beautifully bringing together arts and advocacy. Performing artist ViRR will bring us the Black national anthem, Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing, and Larissa Balzer from the San Diego Women’s Chorus and will join us to perform America The Beautiful while a group of LGBTQIA+ veterans present the colors in an all-veteran honor guard. And, of course, our Pride Youth Marching Band will help us kick off and close out the Rally, and will play while our partners at Fabulous Hillcrest raise the giant Pride flag over our gayborhood.

Our Pride celebrations began as a protest. Pride is still a protest, and our work is not yet done.

I hope you will join us as we rally together in action, in celebration of the progress we’ve made, in support of those who are making history now, in working toward liberation, and in radically imaginative vision for what we can build together. 

In Solidarity,

Jen LaBarbera (they/them)
Interim Co-Executive Director


About San Diego Pride

San Diego Pride raises funds primarily through festival ticket and beverage sales, and through sponsorships, and exhibitor fees. These funds support San Diego Pride’s community philanthropy which has distributed more than $2.5 million in advancement of its mission to foster pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities locally, nationally, and globally.