By Albert H. Fulcher
Dedicated to honoring local LGBTQ torchbearers and allies, The Community Wall of Honor at the San Diego LGBT Community Center is one of the only dedicated walls in the nation. On Oct. 17, community leaders gathered with a full house to honor this year’s eight inductees.
2019 San Diego LGBT Community Wall of Honor inductees include community activists Tracie Jada O’Brien, Venice “Lady Pepper” Price Brooks, Connor Maddocks, Andrea Villa, Julia Legaspi, Teresa Oyos, and business leaders Chris Shaw, Doug Snyder and Maureen Steiner.
The Center’s CEO Cara Dessert said she saw the wall in her early 20s and although she did not know any of the inductees, she was deeply inspired by looking at the photos and reading their history.
“At that moment in time, I understood that there was a generation that came before me that has and still is fighting for this community, working to make it better for the next generation,” Dessert said. “That experience made me feel less alone and it gave me a deep sense of hope for all of our futures. This month is LGBT History Month and I can’t think of a better time to honor these living legends.”
Assembly member Todd Gloria said that the honorees are people that helped the community to be able to gather together in a safe place. Speaking for all of the LGBTQ elected officials in this region, Gloria said that they would not have the opportunity to serve without the people being honored that evening and the many people honored in the past.
“The fact is, because we are often told we are courageous in the way we are standing out there in public office,” Gloria said, “none of us would have the courage if it wasn’t for so many other people who have knocked down doors, shattered glass ceilings and made it possible, not only in politics, but in business, social services, civil rights and other forms of activism. Our individual successes are our collective successes. We are a community, we are family.”
Gloria said that Nicole Murray Ramirez, founder of the wall, was instrumental in remembering that we cannot work toward the future without remembering the history of the people that allowed a platform.
Ramirez said that many of the honorees came from an environment of police harassment, laws against homosexuality, job discrimination and the many fights still before us — starting with the Stonewall riots and building a foundation of activism that is still creating a difference today.
“Tonight’s honorees truly reflect our rainbow flag in all of its beauty,” Ramirez said. “Tonight’s honorees include individuals who were activists and leaders in the early 1970s. Let us never forget that it wasn’t until 1976 that homosexuality was made legal in California. Today, these are still challenging times for our great nation, for the people of color in our communities, for women and our LGBTQ community. While this administration is trying to erase our trans brothers and sisters, we here in San Diego are proudly honoring four transgender San Diegans who we felt belonged on this wall. We are sending a message that an attack on one of our brothers and sisters is indeed an attack on all of us.”
Local activist Bridgit Wilson, a former inductee to the Wall of Honor, said the honorees were a long list of “worker bees.”
“[This list] are people that kept their heads down and continued the work of our movement,” Wilson said. “You have people that have served on boards, people that raised money to keep our institutions open, and people that moved quietly to help each other.”
Maureen Steiner said that she has only been able to serve the community in her many capacities because of the community that surrounds her.
Community activist Julia Legaspi said that it was an honor to be in the company of such an amazing group of people that have dedicated their lives to the LGBTQ community and dedicated the honor to all of her transgender brothers and sisters.
“Although the transgender community has gained visibility, there is still a long way to go,” Legaspi said. “We must continue to fight for equality. We want acceptance and understanding for the transgender people that are part of this community. For if not, we will be invisible again.”
Community activist Conner Maddocks said that the work that this class (2019 honorees) did is amazing. “It is only going to get so much better having you in our community,” Maddocks said. He added that his work in the trans community since he came to San Diego has been a “work of passion” and that he has never felt so much a part of a community before.
Honoree Tracie Jada O’Brien, along with her sister, read the names of the trans women of color that have been killed this year. “This is 21 too many,” she said.
“We stand here as two lovely blessed trans women,” O’Brien said. “We must speak out about trans women who are being murdered every day. The trans community needs your assistance. We’ve been here since the beginning and it is time for us to move from the back of the bus to the front of the bus.”
Activist Venice “Lady Pepper” Price Brooks said that though she is honored with this recognition, but she said that she is not done with her work in the community, alongside current and past honorees. “With the help of God, we are going to win this fight,” she said.
Community activist Andrea Villa said she was honored, but that the community and she are standing on the shoulders of those honored before.
“Anything that I have ever done is because of the people that I have seen do it before me,” Villa said. “And more importantly, when someone asked me to do something, I said ‘yes.’ One does the work that is set before you. So when someone asks, just say ‘yes.’”