‘All this love’: 48th San Francisco Pride festival celebrates ‘Generations of Strength’

Vivian Wan/Staff

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Saturday’s Pride celebrations at Mission Dolores Park saw their fair share of performers on the Dyke March stage, but one of the most notable wasn’t an act at all — it was a marriage proposal. When Sacramento residents Hannah Burgard and Csilla Richmond became engaged onstage, the tear-filled “yes” spurred cheers from a crowd that, just three years ago, was still fighting to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Proposing in front of … a bunch of just amazing people who are part of our community is pretty much the only way I wanted to do it,” Burgard said. “I just wanted to make sure we both felt comfortable, and this is where we feel the most comfortable.”

Day one of the Pride celebrations was marked with the 26th San Francisco Dyke March, as well as the 23nd annual Pink Triangle installation atop Twin Peaks. These two events were amid the dozens of others taking place at the 48th annual San Francisco Pride celebration, which consisted of a weekendlong festival at Civic Center Plaza and the famed Pride Parade down Market Street on Sunday.

Most of the events were free to attend, including the Civic Center Plaza festival. Voluntary donations of $1–$5 were collected at the festival’s gates, but no one was turned away if they could not contribute.

“Generations of Strength” was this year’s theme, and it was apparent in the flocks of newcomers and seasoned attendees alike. Children, college students, longtime activists and, as always, corporate sponsors flooded the city in a show of support for the LGBTQ+ community.

For Erica Ambrin, a musician from Los Angeles who currently lives in Sacramento, it was certainly a memorable experience, as she performed at her first Pride celebration.

The Pride festival was also Ambrin’s biggest show since moving back to Sacramento from Maui. She said she seeks to make her music universal, and that means openly rapping about her sexuality.

“For me, it means a lot (to perform here),” Ambrin said. “I’ve been out since I was about 14, but I’ve actually never experienced Pride.”

Justin Puerto, a rising junior at UC Berkeley who marched with members of the campus community during Sunday’s parade, expressed similar excitement about his first time at a Pride festival. Puerto described the march as a “dream,” calling it “an amazing experience.”

But despite it being a weekend full of glitter and outrageous rave outfits, it was also a weekend full of protest signs denouncing the current federal government and calling for social change. In the spirit of Dyke March, a “Dykes Only” space was carved out at Dolores Park on Saturday, with Angel Adeyoha, a volunteer who attended the first Dyke March, patrolling with a pink umbrella and ensuring that only self-identified “dykes” entered.

Being a seasoned participant in San Francisco’s Pride festivities, Adeyoha elaborated on the festival’s evolution.

“It went from a protest to a parade,” Adeyoha said. “It all flipped over to liquor companies, and then it flipped over to banks, and then it flipped over to anyone who wanted to pinkwash, rainbow-wash their experience.”

And “rainbow capitalism” was no doubt present in Sunday’s parade. Companies such as Apple, Walmart and Starbucks were all present in Sunday’s parade, with elaborate floats, flocks of employees and loud pop music.

Still, Khuong Lam, whose drag name is Glamda the Fabulous, managed to command attention and cheers of appreciation with a multicolored Donald Trump-inspired dress reading “NO MORE LIES.”

“I wanted to spread my message,” Lam said. “I went to the Resist march last year, and I wanted to make a sign, but I didn’t know what to write, so the best thing I could do so my voice could be heard is make a dress. … And this year, I had to outdo myself, so here I am.”

Another concern attendees expressed had to do with the festival’s police presence. General attitudes, while far from hostile, seemed to be disinterested. As officers from Berkeley Police Department booth handed out stickers, few stopped to take them, instead choosing to peruse the work of independent artists and the stalls of organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign.

“We’re catering to all this love and all this openness and sexuality and being who you are, but then we’re having these police being at our march,” said Novato resident Karina Bueno. “I feel like they have no right being there if they’re not going to protect our lives.”

The weekend’s drama extended to a debacle on the festival’s Main Stage, which was hosted Sunday by UC Berkeley alumnus Honey Mahogany and fellow drag queen Sister Roma. Oakland-born pop singer Kehlani was set to headline, but the concert was cut short right after Hayley Kiyoko joined her onstage to perform “What I Need.” Her now-deleted tweets later credited this to city curfew laws.

Despite these concerns and hindrances, the festivities went on. San Francisco was, for a weekend, completely dominated by the LGBTQ+ community, with multiple streets closed to accommodate the parade and BART running special event lines on Sunday.

Rainbows were also impossible to escape. At times, Civic Center Plaza was so crowded that it was difficult to walk without bumping into someone else. As is typical of Pride festivals, full-frontal nudity was present — but so was community and solidarity, evident in the immense turnout.

“It’s like a giant melting pot of people. … A lot of different sexualities together, celebrating one thing,” said Jillian Patterson, a San Bruno resident. “It’s awesome.”

Alex Jiménez covers LGBTQ+ media. Contact her at [email protected].