By Ian Morton | Profiles in Advocacy
I am writing this on the evening of Sunday, July 17, 2016 — about an hour after I packed up the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition booth and dropped off some of my fellow coalition members at their homes.
As last month’s column was only a couple of weeks after the Pulse Orlando massacre, this one comes on the heels of a the shooting of both men of color and police officers, an attack on the airport in Istanbul and the truck rampage in Nice on Bastille Day.
We have also seen one of the most anti-gay GOP party platforms in history introduced mere days ago.
Yet in an uncertain world, we can still find moments that anchor us to what is good and beautiful and just in the world. So I challenge you: Look back over the weekend of July 15-17, 2016, and find your “Pride moment.”
On this, I want to say, let us not conflate “Pride” — the culmination of years of protests and struggle for basic rights — with “Pride,” the production piece in any major U.S. city that strives to find ways to serve a multi-general, multicultural, gender-diverse population.
In any given year, you may find your moment in a parade, or a music festival, or a rally, but you can also find it in those tender moments in between.
This year, I came into Pride feeling the intersection of my identities as a gay man and a black man more keenly that ever before.
After Orlando, I felt despair, but after the shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis, I felt resolve. It occurred to me that I have black family members, who I have not yet met, who could be the next casualty. And in a stunning and unexpected turn of events, my somewhat social media-phobic father joined Facebook long enough to turn up some of his estranged family members and help my sister and I become connected with them. I am discovering and re-connecting with people whom, through divorce, the passing of time and moves across the country, I haven’t seen in 25 years.
As a result, in the terms of many of my friends, I have become “woke.”
And it’s true; I’ve been a bystander in my black identity for many years and I realize that it doesn’t serve my community and actually harms me to live in the space. I’m suddenly more connected than ever.
This year marked the first year of the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition marching in the San Diego Pride Parade. Like so many of you, I had some different options for participation this year. My employer, the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation, is made up fellow staff members who I think of as family. I also intersect with San Diego’s leather community and would have loved to march with the giant new leather pride flag created by Jay Heimbach.
But this year it was important for me to honor the heritage I have too long kept in the background — and be a part of my black community.
So on that picture-perfect Saturday morning, marching in the San Diego Pride Parade with about 20 other coalition members, I had my Pride moment.
About one-third of the way through the parade, a woman ran out from the crowd to talk to us. She had just moved here from Atlanta, Georgia, and hadn’t found a black member of the LGBTQ community in San Diego yet. She was laughing and crying and hugging us all, because she now knew we were here … and that was the moment I will most remember from Pride 2016.
So here is the important part of this equation: It took work to make that moment happen.
It took reaching out to San Diego Pride and saying, “We are an organization with no money,” and asking if they would consider donating a space in the Rainbow Free Zone so we could increase our presence. It took San Diego Pride saying, “Yes,” and offering us a space in the parade, as well.
It took us showing up, without a fancy float or music system and believing that our presence and some homemade signs were enough … and that was enough for a woman from Atlanta to find her community.
And that’s the final secret. Your Pride moment may not happen in the VIP section of a fabulous event and your Pride moment certainly can’t be bought. It may happen when you least expect it, but it will happen because you’ve opened yourself up to your community.
So dive in. Take chances. Your Pride moment will be waiting for you.
—Ian D. Morton is the senior program analyst at San Diego Human Dignity Foundation and produces the Y.E.S. San Diego LGBTQ youth conference. To nominate an individual or nonprofit for this column, please email the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.