recent parades
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The Recent Gay Parades

June 1999: We've come a long way, baby. Stonewall is now 30 years behind us. Our Pride celebration has grown into the largest outdoor event in the world, and has evolved ( I dare not say "matured") into something that the participants in the early parades never dreamed we'd see in our lifetimes. What started out as a remembrance of the 1969 gay riots in Greenwich Village, grew into a celebration of our newfound freedoms and in the late 1970's became a protest march and rally in response to those who led the battles to deny us our civil rights. Today it is again a celebratory event but is now a major production staged by media professionals and dominated by corporate advertising. I suppose this is a sign thet we've arrived, but the little guys who were the heart and soul of the early parades have been demoted to "audience". Anyway, I decided that it would be a good idea to log some of my comments about current Pride Parades and Festivals.

In 1999, an estimated $103,000,000 was spent in San Francisco directly as a result of the parade. This figure does not include other related events of the week-long Pride Festival. Today hundreds of cities throughout the world celebrate gay pride with parades and festivals.

The June 25, 2000 parade was called the 30th Anniversary parade and was titled "IT'S ABOUT FREEDOM". We've come a long way since Stonewall. This year, major sponsors for the parade included San Francisco Chronicle ("We Come Out Every Day") and United Airlines. United is licking its wounds from losing a battle with the City over Domestic Partners Benefits. Apparently this sponsorship will show us that they love us and want our business!

Queerific was the theme for the 2001 San Francisco Pride Celebration held Saturday and Sunday June 23 and 24. The size of the crowd at the parade was estimated at up to one-million people. $110,000 was raised for local charities.

The 2002 theme was "Be Yourself, Change the World". Celebrity Grand Marshals were British actor Sir Ian McKellen (Gandolf in Lord of the Rings) and Sharon Gless (Debbie on Queer as Folk). It was one of those near perfect days in June in San Francisco that are pleasantly warm and sunny with just a bit of wind in the late afternoon.

The 2003 theme was "You've Gotta Give Them Hope" , a theme frequently used by Harvey Milk in his political speeches. He understood the importance of giving gay youth a sense of pride in their heritage and a sense of optimism about their future. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Milk's assassination. It is also the 25th anniversary of the Rainbow Flag which was created and first displayed by Gilbert Baker at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Pride Celebration. Armistead Maupin, author of the immensely popular "Tales of the City" series was Grand Marshal of the parade which was held on June 29. It was reported that over one million people attended the parade and festival. The San Francisco Pride Parade has become the world's largest outdoor event!

The 34th annual San Francisco Pride Parade was held on Sunday June 27, 2004. The theme was "Out 4 Justice." I was at the Civic Center Saturday afternoon for the early edition of the Pride Festival. There are so many entertainers and speech makers that they can't fit them all into one afternoon even with stages all over the Civic Center. It was a beautiful sunny day but typically, the wind came up around 3 PM putting a chill on the party because so many came unprepared for our summer weather. By 4 PM most people were on their way to find warmer places to continue the party.

I was disappointed to see so many corporate booths like airlines, banks, etc. They certainly used a lot of space that could have been used by gay/lesbian organizations, charities, and artist booths. I know that corporate big bucks help pay for the event and it's nice to see that they finally admit that we are an excellent consumer market to exploit. For a long time they were reluctant to do so because they are afraid that the straight community might get the idea that they approve of us. They really don't belong at the Pride Festivals, but isn't it nice to see corporate greed outranking bigotry! Their presence at our party doesn't impress me. I'd be more impressed with them if they'd stop discriminating against us in the work place. They could wish us well without commercializing the event. This is our annual party, a gathering of the tribe, a celebration of who we are and what we've accomplished since Stonewall. It is not a corporate promotional event.

Sunday was different. It was the 'real' Pride Celebration, an incredibly fine day both for weather and for celebration. It seemed like a million people were there, and there may have been. The Chronicle said 750,000. Associated Press said 1,000,000. The corporates took a back seat to the real celebration, our pride in our unity, in our diversity, and in our progress toward achieving equal civil rights. It's a completely different sentiment to see a group of Bank of America employees marching together with pride than to see banking hype at the festival. Mayor Gavin Newsom was welcomed with non-stop cheers as he rode proudly down Market Street. Just about every conceivable facet of our community participated. The entire parade was shown live on KRON-4 (Iy has been for quite a few years.) and broadcast again in the evening. A good time was had by all. A faaaabulous time was had by most! We've come a long way, baby!

Stand Up, Stand Out, Be Proud were the keywords for Pride 2005, marking 35 years of Pride. My Pride weekend started on Friday at the 27th annual Pride Concert presented by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus, Gay Men's Chorus, and Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. It was held this year in the beautiful Grace Cathedral atop Nob Hill. IT was a stunning production. Sunday, the weather was perfect. The mood was festive and colorful. The parade was the best yet. The celebration at Civic Center was the biggest and liveliest I've ever seen. There were at least 10 stages presenting various types of live music. I worked all afternoon in a booth for HMCHMC (Harvey Milk City Hall Memorial Committee), a group trying to raise money to put a statue of Harvey in City Hall. I had a great time talking with at least a hundred people about all kinds of things. If you'd like to know more about this project or contribute, check out their website

On May 22, 2008, Harvey's 78th birthday, we partied in the rotunda of City Hall to celebrate the installation of a beautiful bust of Harvey on the 2nd floor at the top of the grand staircase. Harvey Milk is back in City Hall!

United by Pride, Bound for Equality was the slogan chosen for 2008. Having been to the parades since the very beginning, I've seen them evolve from an unbridled free-form gay "coming together of the clan" into a very organized, very expensive, very predictable spectacle. So it's been a few years since I attended a Pride parade. But this year I was invited by Grand Marshal Stuart Milk (Harvey's nephew) to ride with him in the parade because I am, in his words, "the most important flame keeper of Harvey's memory on the internet". What an honor! It was estimated that a million people turned out for this year's parade. The streets were packed, the crowd was festive, and it was a nice balmy day. I can't describe the thrill I felt in riding up Market Street, a sea of cheering happy people celebrating our freedom. We've come a long way since the first gay parade. Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, considered by many (incorrectly) to be the beginning of the gay liberation movement.



This page created July 5, 1999 and modified July 8, 2008
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The information presented here is entirely my own opinion
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