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A VIRTUAL REALITY I


pated celebration, one that affords a very public presence to express all the diversity that our community represents within the LGBTQ acronym.


San Diego Pride has always been a yearly occasion that is a much antici-


n recent years, the three-day event – which includes the Spirit of Stonewall Rally, the Pride Parade along University and Sixth avenues, and the Pride Festival in Balboa Park – has drawn upwards of 350,000 revelers, making it the largest civic event in the region and also


serving as the cornerstone of Pride’s fundraising endeavors. Last year, $2.5 million was raised, with $340,000 set aside for grants given to 65 LGBTQ- serving organizations, including housing for the Trans community, HIV/AIDS services and youth programs. Sadly, this will not be the case this year as mass


gatherings were cancelled by Gov. Gavin Newsom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving San Diego Pride scrambling to not let the previously scheduled July celebration go by unmarked for the first time since its inception in 1975. And in this time of physical distancing, Zoom


Happy Hours and the gradual reopening of retail shops, restaurants and bars that populate the Hillcrest area – what’s an organization like San Diego Pride to do? Certainly, to not acknowledge the treasured yearly happening was not an option. They were going to have to think outside of the box, making this year’s Pride a virtual reality instead of a physical one. San Diego Pride Executive Director Fernando Z. López said of the unprecedented undertaking that “San Diego Pride’s volunteers and staff continue to press on, producing more free programming and services than ever before.” Armed with the hashtag of #SHAREYOURPRIDE,


San Diego Pride reached out to community members to share their voices and stories. López expressed gratitude “to the hundreds of people and organizations that submitted videos for our Pride Live event, and we can’t wait to bring Pride into your


homes in July.” The events on the schedule will showcase the


LGBTQ-women’s event, She Fest; LGBTQ-interfaith event, Light Up the Cathedral; and the Spirit of Stonewall Rally. There will even be performances by singer Adam Lambert, recentRuPaul’s Drag Race runner-up Gigi Goode and renowned DJ Paul Oakenfold, among others scheduled to appear. The Rage Monthly corresponded via email with


Alex C. Villafuerte, the marketing and communica- tions manager for San Diego Pride, to find out the logistics of streamingPride Live: Together We Rise.


Obviously COVID-19 was the deciding factor in cancelling the usual celebration for Pride– how devastating was it to do so? On April 16, San Diego Pride cancelled all in-person mass gathering events in July, including the rally, parade and festival. To say that decision was devastating is an understatement, as so many in our community use that as their one opportunity to feel connected, to love out loud and to be 100% their authentic selves out in the daylight. But the health and safety of all must come first


and foremost. And given the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, large-scale events like the parade are just not possible and pose too much of a risk to public health and safety. Many of our staff and volunteers cried at the thought of cancelling our keystone events.


How was the decision reached to have it become a virtual event instead? San Diego Pride’s mission is to “foster pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities locally, nationally and globally.”


So how do we do that while ensuring that our community is safe? By going virtual! We began livestreaming LGBTQ


community leaders and content, as well as meeting in virtual spaces. Just recently, we hosted a bingo fundraiser hosted by local drag queen Paris Sukomi Max, where we connected over 6,400 community members to each other for a chance to win some fun prizes!


Tell us how the virtual spaces will be used for Pride and about the various events happening that weekend? When we cancelled our in-person events, we


quickly began brainstorming what a virtual version of that looked like. We’re still going to kick off Pride week with our


women-centered event, She Fest, onSaturday, July 11and then light up St. Paul’s Cathedral Episcopal for Light Up the Cathedral during our interfaith celebration onWednesday, July 15. Then on Pride weekend, we’ll be honoring our


Spirit of Stonewall awardees onFriday, July 17, during our rally and then we’ll be celebrating Pride Live on Saturday, July 18.


What is your hope for what a virtual Pride can accomplish, in terms of turning disappointment into connectivity for the community? Our hope is that through Pride Live, our com-


munity will still be able to celebrate Pride while having the opportunity to hear from many in our community about what Pride means to them. We hope you’ll join us virtually.


For more information about this year’s virtual festivities go to sdpride.org/pride


July 2020 | @theragemonthly 9


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