City of San Diego Pride Ceremony July 13, 2021
Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park
Good Evening y Buenas Noches,
Tonight’s Pride Celebration brings back many memories of Pride rallies held here in the past that I’ve had the honor to speak at. Tonight, I dedicate my remarks in the memory of a proud LGBTQ, Latino Trailblazer & Icon, Mr. Larry Baza. I know Larry would have me remind you all of whose land we stand on, the land of the people of the First Nation, Native Americans. He would also have me remind you all that we, LGBTQ Americans indeed have bragging rights, for we were here even before Christopher Columbus or Balboa, we were here, LGBTQ people within the two-spirited Natives of the Americas.
This past week my good friends Bob Lehman and Tom Felkner, who by the way were the very first LGBTQ couple to get legally married in San Diego, took me to view the nationally touring exhibit ‘Say Their Names’.
Something that caught my eye was a portion entitled, “We Stand On Their Shoulders”, which honored African-American San Diego Civil Rights Activists who no longer are with us, many from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, many I knew and worked with.
So tonight, I’m going to give you all something very special, a brief history of our community in San Diego, it’s highlights, and whose shoulders WE STAND ON. Many have passed, but some are still alive today, like us of the Stonewall Generation.
The San Diego homosexual community do not really start organizing until the early 1970s. The first groups were Dignity, Metropolitan Community Church, the Imperial Court, and the Gay Center.
In the year 1972:
- homosexual San Diegans started planning the first Imperial Court Coronation Ball.
- Vietnam Veteran Jack Jessop and others started talking about a Gay Center for San Diego and first establishing a Center Help Hot Line, which the Imperial Court funded which was basically an answering machine that Jess ran out of his closet in his apartment.
- The Metropolitan Community Church started services in a local African American church.
- Straight allies Lou Arko and Babe opened up gay bars, remember, homosexuals could not get a liquor license because we were considered sexual deviants.
In 1972 homosexuality was still listed as a “Mental Illness” by the American Psychiatric Association.
In 1972, forty-six states including California still criminalized consensual- homosexual private sex acts.
In 1972 a presidential ban on homosexual employees was still a government policy.
And yes, homosexuals were subjected to lobotomies and electric shock treatment- just for daring to love a person of the same sex.
In San Diego, as in every major city, we were despised, hated, beaten, and arrested.
Then Police Chief Ray Hobbler hated not only homosexuals, but also San Diegans of color.
In the 1970s Mayors Curran and Wilson refused to meet with homosexual activists even saying “there was no homosexual constituency in this city” yet the FBI continued to spy on emerging gay rights groups.
And over a dozen Metropolitan Community Churches across this land were burned down to the ground.
It was in these hateful, dark discriminatory years that San Diegan homosexual activists emerged to build our community, like the late Jess Jessop, David Farnell, Larry Baza, Tom Homamn, Gloria Johnson, Gary Reese, REMEMBER THEIR NAMES!
Tawny Tann and Omar, Corinne McKey, Jim Cua, Stan Berry, Michael Clark, Brad Truax, George Murphy, Gene Burkard, Paul King, Barbara Krusberg, Ron Umbuagh, Herb King, Phil Baldwin, REMEMBER THEIR NAMES!
And those who are still with us, still activists whose shoulders we stand on; Terry Cunningham, Bridget Wilson, Al Smithson, Joyce Marieb, Frank Stirrit, Geri Dilno, Bob Lynn, Stan Lewis, Susan Jester, Teresa Oyos, Rick Ford, Francesca, Cindy Lawrence Wallace, Linda Barufaiti, Chris Shaw, Julia Legaspi, Pat McAron, all still with us and all still fighting for our equality.
Let us never forget Al Best and Neil Good, who not only were the first openly gay candidates to run for public office but constantly received death threats and Al Best was fired from his job. Let us never EVER forget Charles McKain who was a leader in district only elections, without that we would have never seen, Chris Kehoe, Tony Atkins or Todd Gloria elected to the City Council.
Let us never forget John McCusker, and John San Filippo and their families, and the Catholic Bishop who refused to give them a Catholic burial because they owned gay San Diego bars.
Let us never forget those dark years of AIDS when all we had was each other and going to funerals and memorials became a weekly ritual.
Let us never forget our sisters, lesbians, bi, straight who helped and cared for us. Let us not forget the Blood Sisters drive that gave us their blood, they are indeed the unsung heroes of the AIDS crisis.
Let us not forget Susan Jester, Lori Leonard, and her mother Ruth Hendricks, who founded and established San Diego Aids Walk, Mama’s Kitchen, and Special Delivery.
Let us not forget our allies and straight friends who supported us, Assemblyman Pete Chacon, Irma Munoz, County Supervisor Leon Williams, Susan Davis, Evonna Schultz, Lucy Killea, De De Albert, John Hartley, Maureen O’Connor; the first mayor to walk in a pride parade.
As I have always said, a community and a movement that does not know where it came from or whose shoulders it stands on, does not know where it’s going. And where are we going? There is a nationwide right-wing movement to erase our transgender community and youth. There are movements to suppress the vote, to take a woman’s right to choose, to erase cultural and ethnic history.
There are those who are attacking our Asian Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Immigrants, and Jewish communities. With hate crimes on the rise across this nation we must build stronger coalitions and stand together. A hate crime against one of us, is a hate crime against all of us.
It has been great to see thousands protesting and marching in San Diego and across this nation in many cities, but we must march by the millions into the voting booths as the 2022 midterm elections will decide what direction America is heading.
We of the Stonewall Generation have indeed passed the torch of activism and leadership to a new generation, DO NOT LET US DOWN AND REMEMBER OUR NAMES!
God bless you all and Happy Pride!