At the 1980 Democratic Convention, speaker Melvin Boozer delivered the profound statement:
"I know what it means to be called a nigger. I know what it means to be called a faggot. And I can sum up the difference in one word: none."
A gay black man myself, this summation of the challenges faced by individuals from two oppressed communities still sends chills down my spine.
Growing up with the inequalities and prejudices haunting the African-American community, by the time I came to terms with my sexual orientation, I was well acquainted with social injustice.
I've never quietly accepted injustice as an inherent part of life, and certainly not as a natural part of American society. My early career as a community activist working to improve the social and economic conditions in the underserved, working class communities of color I grew up in, helped shape my future as a leader in the LBGT community.
As I came to realize and express my sexual orientation, however, a feeling of isolation overshadowed the sense of understanding, welcoming, and acceptance I deeply cherished as part of my cultural and community ties. My life values are marked by the faith, perseverance and hope I've experienced within the black community and the support and encouragement I received from it. Where, now, did I belong? Who was I to look to for inspiration and support as a gay man?
The eloquent words of Boozer decades earlier remain as relevant to members of the diverse, cross-cultural LGBT community as the day they were spoken. Discrimination and hatred hurt whether based on race or sexual orientation. The fight for equality and social justice for both of my identities, my full and authentic self, demand change and action.
Like the civil rights activists and freedom fighters of the '60s and '70s, LGBT community members today are working to right a fundamental unfairness permeating society, and to bring pride out amongst a population also ostracized and marginalized. It's my life experience and this knowledge that guide me as executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride.
The promise of America grounded in the Constitution, contained in our Pledge of Allegiance, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty and enunciated by generations of our nation's leaders is that America stands for liberty, for justice, for equality for all. This has been America's Pride. Today's LGBT community is fighting an ongoing struggle for true equality. It's fitting this year's Pride theme is "America's Pride" because equality is an American value.
With our theme of America's Pride, we celebrate the exciting victories the LGBT community has achieved in the past year and push forward on issues of equality. We look forward to a fun, fantastic celebration July 20 - 22 of the advances in equality from the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the addition of two more states where gay marriage is legal and the historic endorsement from President Obama for marriage quality. Before long, if justice prevails, we will celebrate marriage equality in California too! If not, marriage equality in California along with issues such as preventing bullying of LGBT youth to ending discrimination against LGBT individuals and families in all areas of life will take center stage as we promote the full realization of America's Pride.
San Diego is fondly known as 'America's Finest City' for its hospitality, excellent climate, and picturesque landscape. On equality, San Diego has been a trailblazing city with Mayor Sanders leading a group of the nation's mayors advocating for marriage equality to having a school system, San Diego Unified, institute a comprehensive anti-bullying policy making it the first and largest district in the country to do so. Further, San Diego is the first city in the nation with a street named for LGBT civil rights hero Harvey Milk. And, as if that's not enough, on Friday evening, we will raise the Pride Flag for the first time on a newly installed 65' tall flagpole at the conclusion of the Spirit of Stonewall Rally.
We're excited about fusing the fundamental ideas of LGBT Pride with the ideals of American Pride. We welcome everyone across the country to join in celebration of America's Pride and to help us focus attention of the need for our nation to fulfill its promise of 'liberty and justice for all.'
For more information on San Diego Pride weekend visit www.sdpride.org.