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    SF Pride Plans for 2021 Revealed by Executive Director Fred Lopez

    Nearly a year ago today, San Francisco Mayor London Breed along with Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, San Francisco Pride, the Office of Transgender Initiatives, and other city officials kicked off what they anticipated would be a year of major festivities in celebration of the 50th anniversary of SF Pride. Little did they know that just a month later the city would be sheltering-in-place due to a deadly new pandemic.

    Here is what they had originally envisioned: “The 50th anniversary Celebration and Parade, with the theme ‘Generations of Hope,’ will fill the streets of downtown San Francisco from the Embarcadero to City Hall on Saturday and Sunday, June 27 and 28, 2020.”

    The celebrations were, of course, canceled, but there was high-quality virtual programming and people did fill the streets—instead, in largely somber gatherings calling for LGBTQ rights and police reforms in the wake of the then recent death of George Floyd, as well as others who had died. A large group gathered at Polk and Washington streets, the site of San Francisco’s first Pride march, while a second group gathered at Dolores Park.

    On that weekend, the Pink Triangle lit up the sky during the project’s own anniversary year (25). Creator Patrick Carney, the nonprofit Illuminate, Carney’s partner Hossein plus other members of his family, and numerous volunteers made that inspiring display possible. It was a bright note in an otherwise dark and concerning time facing challenges that remain to be fully met.

    So many of us have therefore been wondering about plans for SF Pride this year. While there is hope over the Biden-Harris administration, California’s gradual reopening, and vaccine rollouts to some groups, the pandemic is far from being over, especially with new and more contagious variants emerging.

    June Pride is such a major social event in the city, with participants in a typical year coming from all over the nation and world. Decisions regarding its planning therefore hold tremendous weight and influence given its effect on other local businesses and what planning for it might signal for the summer and even fall of this year.

    In an exclusive interview with the San Francisco Bay Times, SF Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez recently took time to share his thoughts about SF Pride 2021 and more.

    San Francisco Bay Times: First off, congratulations on your first year as Executive Director. How has that gone? 

    Fred Lopez: Thank you! Well, it has been quite a year for everyone. My job certainly hasn’t turned out to be how I initially thought it was going to be. I took the role in January of 2020, and almost immediately, we started facing the reality that Pride 50 would not look like the years before. It was a frightening time, remember, and during all of the change and upheaval of COVID-19, I held the importance of Pride up as a North Star. We tried our best to frame our challenges as opportunities as much as we could. We successfully pivoted to a mostly virtual celebration with amazing headliners like Big Freedia and plenty of performances and speeches representing the full diversity of LGBTQ+ culture in the Bay Area. 

    Now, in 2021, we are approaching the future with optimism and applying the lessons of last year. We feel deeply that our communities seek connection and visibility, and the talented team at Pride are working very hard to find ways to meet those needs. We feel good about the possibilities!  

    San Francisco Bay Times: Great. Can you tell us what we want to know? 

    Fred Lopez: Is Pride happening this year? [laughs] We have some very big details still to be worked out just yet, but what I can say is that while it won’t look like 2019, it won’t look exactly like 2020, either. We’re keeping in touch with other Pride organizations to see what they’re doing. Seattle Pride, for example, is staying with an all-virtual format this year. Many other Prides haven’t made their plans public yet, so we are not alone.  

    What I have seen is that there is a desire from community members to experience Pride over more than just one weekend. So, we are working with longstanding partners like Frameline to create some fun, socially distanced Pride Month events. We had hoped to make one big announcement this month about all of our plans, but it looks like we will need to share with the community little by little, as more information is developed.  

    It’s our hope that by June, the public health data and vaccination rollout will allow for some small-scale gatherings. Of course, it’s not just the speed of vaccinations or the levels of interaction that public health officials recommend, but how members of our community feel about large public gatherings. We know that human connection is the very root of Pride commemorations—the act of seeing and being with one another is why our communities attend every year, and it’s the one thing an incredible online lineup cannot fully provide. 

    But we absolutely must prioritize health and safety above all else, and events must be accessible to all. That’s why we’re embarking on a new strategy called “Pride 365” to deliver fun and informative content and highlight achievements in our communities all year long, instead of just in June.   

    San Francisco Bay Times: You just started rolling it out, right? 

    Fred Lopez: Yeah, [SF Pride Board President] Carolyn [Wysinger] and I sat down for a ten-minute video chat that we uploaded to YouTube. The next one is Carolyn and Honey Mahogany, who almost everyone knows is a rock star trans advocate. That series is called Inside Pride, which was (and still is) the name of the magazine we publish every Pride Month. But we wanted to grow Inside Pride along with the rest of our events, into the future.  

    We’re also profiling longtime San Francisco Pride volunteers, leaders of other LGBTQ+ nonprofits, lots of people. We completely redesigned our website. There’s a podcast coming out later this month. Since February is Black History Month, we’re acknowledging the work of Black LGBTQ+ heroes and sheroes, starting with Ken Jones, who was the first Black President of the Pride Board and who passed away in January. KOFY and the wonderful Michelle Meow helped us put together a 10-minute video tribute ( ) including a message from the Mayor. I hope everyone can watch it. 

    San Francisco Bay Times: Tell us more about this year’s theme, “All in This Together.”

    Fred Lopez: It’s a longstanding tradition that the membership helps to choose our theme. Our member David Hyman suggested this year’s and it went to vote with our community. It actually took two ballots, because we had a tie on the first one, but that turned out to be great because so many people voted in the second round. And it’s such a great message, one that encapsulates everything we’ve been through this past year. I like that it subtly reinforces the need to wear a mask and be responsible, because yeah, we’re only going to get through this if we help each other. And if you’re not a member yet, consider joining SF Pride today!

    We are also asking our communities to help Pride with our fundraising efforts—without the donations we accept at our gates, and the proceeds from beverage sales and the like, we are digging into our savings to get through this rainy day. It will take the support of all of you who visit and enjoy our annual event to stay financially healthy for the future. We are, quite literally, All in This Together.  

    For more information:

    Published on February 11, 2021