Pride demonstrations were born out of the necessity for the queer community to advocate for their rights and acknowledge the inequality in their community. From the Stonewall Uprising to the gay liberation movement, the community has long fought for their protections, even through the constant pushback they received from society. Despite the stigma they faced and the laws that were put in place against them, the LGBTQ+ community persisted to fight for basic freedoms, and slowly over time, they have made strides toward equality.
The community has come a long way, and Pride is now widely celebrated through events, parades, and festivals across the nation. But although the community has gained substantial recognition, the fight against discrimination is not over. Anti-LGBTQ+ laws continue to be a pressing topic in legislation, with the rights of trans people and drag queens currently in the hot seat of debate. All the while, the community has begun to see a trend in businesses and corporations monetizing from Pride celebrations that have been made increasingly more expensive and commercialized.
It is important that pride celebrations are kept affordable and accessible so that the queer community may continue to celebrate their identities despite the ongoing prejudices they face. These celebrations should be a platform for queer people to advocate for their rights, honor their history, and have a space to feel empowered and proud of who they are.
Sal Flores, founder of LB Living and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, wanted to introduce a new Pride event in Long Beach—one that would be completely free for all to attend and also give back to the community. The event, called LB Proud! Fest, will be a three-day celebration in May that features local LGBTQ+ vendors, businesses, and entertainment that are authentically connected to the culture.
Flores remembers attending his first Pride event in 2003 after moving to Long Beach a year prior and had appreciated the safe space it created for him. “My first pride changed my life,” Flores said. “It showed me that there were more people like me, thousands of them, who are similar to me in the sense of being queer. Back then, I was so worried about holding my boyfriend’s hand anywhere in public and LB Pride was a safe place to do it… a place to not have fear of being myself.”
Flores hopes that this new “Proud” festival will give members of the community the same welcoming feeling he experienced when he attended his first Pride. For his event, he reached out to Long Beach’s LGBTQ-owned businesses and local talent to make sure they were the first to be involved.
“Acknowledging and highlighting our local queer community is vital for this event. Without the courage of our local queer activists, bars, and talent over the years, there would be no fight for equality, gay marriage, or pride celebrations…we owe it to our unsung heroes that have supported us here locally.”
In order to give back to the queer community, LB Living has created “The Proud Project,” which will choose a project every year to help improve the gayborhood. In addition to the help that Vice Mayor Cindy Allen has already contributed to making LB Proud! Fest possible, she has teamed up with LB Living this year to plant new trees along the Broadway corridor. Projects in the upcoming years aim to make other small neighborhood improvements, from minor park repairs to street cleanups and queer activations. Since the event is free, the money for next year’s project will be raised entirely from LB PROUD! supporter wristbands, which are an optional choice and can be found here.
Flores believes that giving back to the neighborhood contributes to creating vibrant and safe streets, which makes people take pride in their city and the community within it. “I hope LB Proud! Fest brings people that sense of community, pride and belonging. But most importantly a sense of “home.” We want our community to be proud of their neighborhood, be proud of our local vendors, local talent, and our local queer community.”
LB Proud! Fest is more than just a queer celebration; it is an event that acknowledges the history of the fight for equality, gives back to the community, and supports the queer businesses and talent that have been in the city all along. By activating the neighborhoods for this event, LB Living brings the beauty of the community to our front doors and creates a safe space of peace, acceptance, and solidarity.
*Disclaimer: The writer of this article is a cisgender Latina woman, but has partnered with LB Living owner and queer member Sal Flores to write about topics relating to the gay experience in Long Beach*