By Chanelle Ignant
Richmond kicked off LGBT Pride Month with a family-friendly celebration in Marina Park. The second annual Family Day, held on June 5, was hosted by Richmond Rainbow Pride, a group of LGBT individuals and allies who live and work in Richmond. The event welcomed all members and allies of the community to a day of celebration.
Attendees lounged on blankets and beach chairs under a ring of rainbow flags adorning the Marina Park meadow. Live performances from local artists and a mix of ‘90s dance music from DJ Jacatac provided entertainment while resource tables and an arts and crafts booth offered both information and a creative outlet.
The event had something for everyone.
That spirit of inclusivity is one of the guiding principles of the event’s host, Richmond Rainbow Pride. Founders Cesar Zepeda and Duane Chapman met in 2014 to discuss the homophobia they saw directed toward Councilmember Jovanka Beckles.
At the time, Beckles, the city’s first openly lesbian councilmember, was dealing with homophobic slurs at City Council meetings.
“We needed a group to come together and advocate for ourselves,” said Zepeda.
“It’s difficult to build community when you don’t have focus or a place that people can go to feel accepted.”
Last year the group hosted a picnic in the park to create that space, and Zepeda says the group wanted to build on last year’s success.
This year, Mayor Tom Butt and Supervisor John Gioia gave remarks at the opening ceremony which was emceed by Sister Jezabelle of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an event sponsor.
City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles was awarded a leadership award for her contributions to the local LGBT community.
Board treasurer and Richmond Rainbow Pride cofounder Duane Chapman also received a lifetime achievement award for his work in the community. As a resident in the 1980s, Chapman helped shape the conversation around AIDS in Richmond by helping to get services for patients.
“Both of them are trailblazers who have set the groundwork and stepping stones for others who are going to be coming out,” said Zepeda. In his acceptance remarks, Chapman expressed “how proud [he is] to be gay and to be black.”
“We are all one,” said Chapman.
Zepeda says the perception of the LGBT community in Richmond is that you can only be yourself in your own house. He hopes events like Family Day draw more of Richmond’s community to come out.
“This will allow them to feel comfortable in their own city,” he said.