As is the case with any festival popular enough to be replicated around the world, LGBTQ Pride celebrations — whether in San Francisco or São Paulo — tend to share a few familiar trappings: a parade, a proliferation of rainbow flags, and at least a few men clad in leather chaps. Still, it's inevitable that each city would bring something unique to the template. In Oakland, which the 2010 US Census found to have one of the largest populations of same-sex couples of any American city, Pride has come to be something of a family affair.
Since the annual event was revived in 2010, after a six-year hiatus, it's been attracting a significant number of LGBTQ families, said organizer Amber Todd — so much so that it's become common to see kids tottering around the festival with face paint and balloons. It's a trend that Todd, a lesbian with four children of her own, sees as both a boon for the movement as a whole and a distinctive feature of the largest LGBTQ celebration in the city. "Relatively speaking, we've made our mark as not just as a Pride, but as a Pride that's accomplishing what so many others don't embrace," she said. "We should be supporting our LGBTQ families and their kids, and showing them that it's okay to have two moms and dads."
To put things into context, it's now been more than four decades since the Stonewall riots — a nearly week-long protest against the New York City Police Department's raid of a popular Greenwich Village gay bar — sparked the first gay pride marches. The rallies paved the way for the LGBT civil rights movement and set in motion the now far-reaching tradition of Pride celebrations. There's no doubt still an underlying activist element to the events, but it's also become the case that, just as gay marriage is becoming more accepted and policies like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are being repealed, Pride events, as a whole, are becoming more family-friendly.
Todd stressed that Oakland Pride's familial atmosphere — buoyed by a sizable children's area complete with a petting zoo and ample arts and crafts — hasn't tempered events for kid-free folks who come for the unbridled entertainment. "It is Pride," she said. "So you're still going to see very interesting stuff."
This year's festival, on Sunday, September 2, features four themed music stages on which Santana tribute band Caravanserai, R&B vocalist CeCe Peniston, and the Flipmode Squad's Rah Digga will be some of the headliners. A "Community Health Pavilion" offers free HIV screening, counseling sessions, and other LGBTQ-related wellness services. But it's fair to say that much of the revelry will be shaped by the festivalgoers themselves, the tens of thousands of people who Todd anticipates will show up to celebrate. "It's not just about Oakland Pride," she said. "It's about community and civic pride. And being proud of who you are." The festival happens in Uptown Oakland (Franklin St., between 17th and 22nd sts.). 11 a.m.-7 p.m., $5-$10. 510-545-6251 or OaklandPride.org