A very warm and grateful thank-you to all of Santa Barbara County for supporting the Pacific Pride Festival at Leadbetter Beach on July 9! We estimated the crowd at 4000-plus coming and going throughout the day, and the weather was quintessentially Santa Barbara—absolutely beautiful. We had so many folks from all parts of the community—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight. We had families with children playing in the kids area on the sand; we had elders volunteering and feeling connected. The feedback we’re getting at Pacific Pride Foundation offices has been all positive! Folks enjoyed the stage entertainment, 45 merchandise booths, good food and drink, faith communities present, nonprofit groups tabling. Eighties pop star Debbie Gibson was a huge hit! I heard more young people saying “So she sang that song,” as if it were an oldie. The amazing volunteer committee who organized the event raised enough funds to cover the costs and contribute a profit to Pacific Pride’s LGBT programs.
A couple points of clarification regarding the article [News, “Festival of Rights,” 7/13/11, independent.com/festivalofrights]: With Pacific Pride and Just Communities partnering with local law enforcement trainings, the Santa Barbara Police Department with Chief Sanchez and his training team have been nothing but 100 percent supportive and actually reached out for more in-depth training for all sworn police officers on issues affecting the LGBT communities. As we just completed the first part of the training, all police officers were engaged, asking questions and wanting more information about serving and protecting the LGBT communities. National trends among LGBT communities show much fear within our communities to report hate crimes due to many issues, including fears of “coming out” to police. A very historic milestone of the LGBT movement began in a gay bar in New York City called Stonewall, where our community stood up to the NYPD, which regularly brutalized and arrested gays, lesbians, and transgendered people.
Another point of clarification: With the state budget cuts first hitting HIV/AIDS two years ago, mid-size counties like Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo lost 100 percent of HIV testing and education dollars. Pacific Pride has been able to shore up some testing services with the support of the County Public Health Department, County Board of Supervisors, foundations, and donors. But it doesn’t take a genius to know that when you cut basic HIV education and testing, more people will become infected. It has been truly heartbreaking to see that cuts made by politicians in Sacramento result in Pacific Pride HIV test counselors sitting with pregnant moms, college students, and young gay and Latino community members and telling them they now have HIV or AIDS. It should not matter who gets infected with HIV in our county—it’s all tragic!