Sacramento Pride—A Legacy of Stonewall, grounded in a revolution alive today.
Many people are familiar with the police raid at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 credited with igniting a revolution for LGBTQ+ equality. Transgender women, queer folks, and drag queens fought back against the pervasive harassment and abuse they endured on a daily basis living in the Village of New York City. Lesser known, but predating Stonewall by two years, at the Black Cat tavern in Los Angeles plainclothes LAPD officers infiltrated the bar and beat patrons, arrested 14 people charged with lewd conduct for same-sex kissing on New Year’s Day 1967. On Feb. 11, 1967, protesters took a bold step for that era and grabbed their picket signs, publicly protesting the police raid outside the bar.
Sadly, the abuse by police, discrimination, and inequality has continued across America for decades. On March 11, 1979, Sacramento police raided the Upstairs/Downstairs, a gay disco located at 1225 K Street (previously known as Hickory House and the Underground Shingle), requesting identification from each patron but not disclosing any offense committed by the bar. The next night, police returned to check whether the bar was violating its alcohol license, which was limited to beer and wine only. Police opened every bottle in the building to check them for liquor, effectively destroying the bar’s stock of beer and wine.
A few months later on June 17, 1979, the first Pride March in Sacramento commemorating the Stonewall Riots of 1969 took place with the theme “It’s About Time.” Community members marched through downtown and ended on the steps of the State Capitol, a prominent public forum in the fight for civil rights and activism. Participants recall that the event was half activism and half celebration, both a demonstration of how the community had come, but also highlighting the barriers that had yet to be crossed. The first Lambda Freedom Fair, later known as Sacramento Pride Festival, was held in 1989 with 16 exhibitors and approximately 700 people at McKinley Park. The festival later moved to Southside Park and the annual march dissipated. By the late-2000s, the festival had outgrown a neighborhood park, the fight for marriage equality raged at the ballot box, and the community demanded greater visibility. In 2010, the Pride committee moved the festival to Capitol Mall and the Pride Parade began to regain popularity drawing crowds in the thousands.
Throughout its 30+ year history some common misconceptions about Sacramento Pride have developed. Most people know that the Sacramento LGBT Community Center organizes Pride and many believe it is a big fundraiser for the Center. The reality is that for many years, Pride did provide significant supplemental income for the Center’s year-round community programming, but over the past three decades as the footprint and attendance have grown significantly and the cost to produce Pride has grown exponentially, it often just breaking even financially. Today Pride represents less than 10% of the Center’s total income annually before expenses. Any net revenue is still invested back into Pride and other year-round community building programs. Also, while the Center has paid an events manager to coordinate the massive undertaking for the past 10 years, the event is still largely driven by a committee of local community members and staffed the weekend of Pride by legions of volunteers and we are always looking for more community members to help. If you are interested in joining the community effort, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We believe there is always room for improvement and the Pride Committee solicits feedback annually through satisfaction surveys to ensure the events remain community driven and continuously improve. In addition to the annual survey, this year we also invested in future visioning to identify major changes that could improve the Pride experience and support the movement for equality and justice that it supports long-term. We sent out a future-oriented survey, held six focus groups, and met individually with stakeholders ranging from faith community leaders and youth to exhibitors and contractors. Much of the input confirmed some of what we’ve heard in previous years, but also shed light on the focus of activism and inclusion we should look forward to with Pride going forward.
Taking this feedback into consideration, we have undertaken 8 initiatives to improve SacPride 2019:
1. Expand the festival to two days
We heard over and over again that the Pride Festival has become very crowded, it can be hot and uncomfortable with so many people, things are hard to find, and the change to Sunday in 2018 didn’t work for some folks’ schedules. While we have explored alternate locations that offer more space to spread out, shade, and grass, various regulatory and access challenges kept us from moving the event in 2019, but we will continue to explore options in the future.
Instead, in 2019 we are going to try a two-day festival and stretch the boarders of the current footprint on Capitol Mall in the hopes that it will relieve some of the attendance pressure of just one-day and make the event more comfortable and accessible over two days. We have also added additional shaded seating, and additional entry gate, more food and beverage stations, and changed the layout to improve the flow of the event. We will also be publishing more information ahead of the event online and improving signage and accessibility for people with disabilities.
2. Create more interactive experiences at Pride inspired by its history of activism and protest
We believe that Pride should be community driven and adaptable to changing wants and needs in the community. We heard from community members that they would like to see more activities than corporate information booths, drinking, and dancing at Pride. We want to make Pride an enjoyable experience for everyone including families and older community members. In 2019, the “zone” areas have grown by 400% to include space for an expanded family zone, an elder and ADA-friendly chill zone, artist showcase, dance tent, pet pavilion, lawn games, library space, and expanded shaded pavilion areas. A new Stonewall Pavilion will also include LGBTQ+ movement history museum, speakers, and interactive exhibits. All of these activities are offered for free once inside the festival. There will also be a contest amongst exhibitors to encourage the most interactive booth space people can think of rather than just handing out information about their business.
We’ve renamed the Pride Parade to the Pride March, honoring the activist roots of the event that began with protest marches across America against police brutality and a demand for equal rights. We believe that while the LGBTQ+ community has won many legal victories in California, the fight for cultural change, economic and social equity, and basic safety in our communities, especially for queer and transgender people of color, is far from over. The Pride March will provide an opportunity to continue the tradition of activism and protest, celebrate the love we have for one another as a community, and demonstrate the support of allies for our cause. Community voices will be centered at the front of the march ahead of corporate supporters in the lineup. All community members are invited to march with the Sacramento LGBT Community Center at the front of the Pride March starting at 11 a.m. from Southside Park or watch along the route for free. Email Christina Arias, if you are interested in marching with the Center at Christina.Arias@saccenter.org.
3. To honor the pain and marginalization of community members who have been harmed by police violence, we have asked off-duty Sacramento Police not to participate in uniform for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall
Historically, queer and transgender people, especially people of color, have been more likely to face discrimination, harassment, and violence at the hands of law enforcement, beginning long before Stonewall. We have consistently heard from many queer and transgender people of color in our community that they can be triggered by the police uniform at Pride, which for them represent personally traumatic experiences and systemic injustices. We believe that while progress has been made in the 50 years since the uprising, excessive use of force, a lack of cultural humility and visibility, and certain practices by local law enforcement have continued to negatively impact some of the most marginalized in our own community.
Out of respect and acknowledgement for the grief, trauma, and pain that has been experienced, we have asked the Police Department not to participate in uniform as Pride March contingents or Festival exhibitors in this 50th anniversary year. We also acknowledge that these are complex issues and not everyone in the LGBTQ+ community will agree, but creating a space where all queer and trans community members feel safe is critically important to the foundation of Pride. We also recognize the struggles that LGBTQ+ officers have overcome to gain acceptance within law enforcement agencies and that they are proud to serve their community. We welcome them to attend or join us in March and Festival with their partners and families as members of the LGBTQ community. We had the opportunity to meet with the Chief of Police and a group of LGBTQ officers to discuss these issues are mutually committed to more intentionally working together over time to build trust, understanding, and systems of support between the police department and the LGBTQ community.
Everyone’s safety at Pride is of paramount importance and as with any other large event, officers will be on duty at the March and Festival in uniform for street closures and security in compliance with the City’s Special Events Ordinance safety requirements. We will have private security and identifiable community safety monitors throughout the March and Festival as an alternative first response to any conflict or need for assistance by guests. We will continue to seek opportunities to reduce the need for police and increase safety at the events.
*A series of meetings between Center leadership and the police department in the weeks leading up to Pride resulted in a set of new commitments by the Sacramento Police Department to engage more intentionally with and improve service to LGBTQ community and an agreement to allow off-duty LGBT officers to participate in Pride activities in uniform.
4. Prioritize selection of diverse queer and transgender performers and support more local artists and speakers at Sacramento Pride
We believe in supporting queer and transgender artists and performers locally and globally. By expanding to two-days and fully programming a second performance area in the Stonewall Pavilion, we have more than tripled the number of slots in the spotlight. Lizzo has been booked as the 2019 Pride Festival headliner along with a diverse array of nationally known and local queer and transgender performers.
We are also committed to providing opportunities for local performers to showcase their talent. This year’s stage programs feature 93% of people who identify as LGBTQ+, 67% people of color and 60% identify as women, 64% are local to the Sacramento area. Of the entertainers who are people of color, 16% are Latinx, 20% are black, 7% are Asian & Pacific Islander, 24% present as multi-racial and 31% are Non-Hispanic white.
||People of Color
5. Ensure the SacPride Festival is affordable and accessible for all community members
Keeping Pride affordable for our entire community is a high priority, as is ensuring it remains financially sustainable in perpetuity. While other big city festivals have increased their admission price to $25 or $30 per day. In 2019, Pride will continue to hold the one-day admission price at $10, which has not increased in more than 25 years. A two-day weekend pass will be available for $15 if purchased in advance. We also believe no family should be turned away for an inability to pay and kids 12 and under will continue to be free. We also give away thousands of free tickets annually to partner agencies serving low-income community members to distribute at their discretion with a focus on LGBTQ+ youth, foster youth, people living with HIV, and young people experiencing homelessness. Any agency working with low-income community members may request an allocation of tickets by reaching out to our Pride Director at Tyler.Bertao@saccenter.org by June 3rd.
Beyond affordability, we are striving to create a more accessible space for guests of all abilities and life experiences including, but not limited to:
- Creating a high-contrast website for better visibility that is free of flash and animation
- Using mindful and inclusive/affirming language on the website and promotional material
- Website content is available in English and Spanish
- Training staff and volunteers to assist people with disabilities prior to SacPride and prepare them to address any needs or concerns on-site
- FREE Signs of Pride rent-an-interpreter service will be available on-site
- ASL interpreters (Signs of Pride) on the Pride stage
- Wheelchair accessible restrooms are located throughout the Festival
- Additional designated accessible seating and space at each of the stages and at the March grandstand
- Accessible parking near the Festival grounds in official garages
- Communication encouraging each contingent in the March to have those folks with disabilities to lead their group as pace-setters and to increase their presence and visibility
- A quieter, scent-free, calming tent at the festival for those that would like to step out of the overstimulating experiences at the Festival
6. Ensure small community-based organizations can participate
We believe the heart of Pride is based in community. More than 75 percent of exhibitors are local nonprofits or small businesses. While we have worked hard to control costs in order to keep exhibitor fees lower than other local events, some small organizations have told us that the lowest entry point for nonprofits and community-based businesses was still out of reach and a lot of work for limited one-day exposure. In 2019, we dropped the nonprofit exhibitor entry fee to $200, created a lower-cost local community business commercial rate, and made tent rental an at-cost option instead of mandating inclusion in the exhibitor entry fee.
Responding to nonprofits and commercial vendors alike, we are also separating the tent rental cost from the registration fee will allow exhibitors to choose bringing their own branded tent, renting a tent through our vendor, or not having a tent. The expansion to a two-day event will also create greater value and exposure for organizations to interact with community members.
7. Prioritize alignment of corporate support with our mission
We have heard concerns about the level of corporate involvement in the Pride March and Festival and the types of corporations allowed to participate. The Sacramento LGBT Community Center and SacPride are committed to prioritize alignment of corporate sponsors with the mission and work of Sacramento Pride and the Center.
We strive to engage with corporate and local organizations whose values and actions support the queer and transgender community members year-round. We use the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, news reports, and local experiences to evaluate potential sponsors’ alignment with the Center’s mission to create a region where LGBTQ+ people thrive and we attempt to review their record of affirmation for their LGBTQ+ employees, customers, and communities.
We also strive to encourage cultural change within the corporations we work with. That often looks like working with businesses to ensure their internal policies and practices promote LGBTQ+ inclusion and equity, to provide training for their employees, and finding opportunities for their workforces to volunteer and learn about the issues faced by our community.
We are also encouraging businesses and nonprofits alike to plan activations that demonstrate their pride and commitment to the LGBTQ+ community at their Pride exhibitor booths rather than just hand out information about their business. For the first time, there will be an award given for the most creative Pride March entry and exhibitor.
7. Increase accessibility of food and beverage options.
Community members shared that there have not been enough food options that meet the diverse dietary needs and taste preferences of our community and that the lines are too long. We are making every effort to encourage more food vendors to participate in the event in order to provide more options including those that support gluten free and vegan diets. We are striving to double the number of food vendors in 2019 and will spread them throughout the festival, which we hope will shorten lines and improve the experience for guests
We have also lowered the price of the most popular beverages at Pride controlled beverage booths and we hope that an increase in the number of food vendors will encourage competition to moderate the price of food options offered by private food vendors.
If you are a food vendor, food truck, or know someone who might want to showcase their culinary delights for the queer and trans community, please direct them to our website, we’d love to have them in the future.