On August 25, the Pacific Pride Festival, Santa Barbara’s annual celebration of our LGBTQ community, will once again bring together thousands of LGBTQ people and our allies for a day of love, unity, and pride. This past year presented our LGBTQ community with several challenges, in addition to the collective trauma that local residents experienced in the wake of the Thomas Fire, and the tragic debris flow that followed. Many months later, our community remains resilient and committed to moving forward together. This sentiment inspired this year’s theme: “With Pride, We Rise.”
Local queer people have been affected by national developments, as well as situations here at home. From the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, condoning discrimination against LGBTQ people under the guise of religious freedom, to the federal government’s disavowal of protections and opportunities for our transgender sisters and brothers, many decisions that have come out of Washington, D.C., have emboldened anti-LGBTQ hate across our country. On the local level, one of us experienced a hate incident on State Street this past November. Since this incident, there have also been other anti-LGBTQ hate incidents, as well as acts of violence against local LGBTQ people. To continue to advance full LGBTQ equality and improve the quality of life for all LGBTQ people, it is on us and our allies to join together and advocate for our collective future.
One inspiring highlight of the partnerships that have been formed to put on this year’s Pacific Pride Festival is demonstrated in the festival’s list of sponsors. The new owners of Del Playa Rentals, a firm that owns and provides rental housing in Isla Vista, donated to the Pacific Pride Festival. Prior to this past spring, Del Playa Rentals was owned by James Gelb, the real estate investor who hurled anti-gay slurs, offensive sexual remarks, and cruel comments about people living with HIV/AIDS, on State Street on the night of November 7, 2017. The video that captured this incident put a spotlight on the type of treatment that members of our LGBTQ community still face and led to the filing of a criminal charge. The new owners of Del Playa Rentals have made a strong statement through their sponsorship about their support for LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups, a significant diversion from the views and conduct of the former owner. Real estate developer and investor Ed St. George, of St. George & Associates, spoke out at the time of the incident, and also joined as a sponsor of this year’s Pacific Pride Festival. This type of support for our LGBTQ community is a beautiful act of reconciliation and solidarity, and is a strong example of what true allyship looks like.
Please join us on Saturday August 25 at 12p.m. to kick off the Pacific Pride Festival with our Pride Rally at Chase Palm Park. Help us to proudly rise up, celebrate our community, and once again declare our commitment to making Santa Barbara a place where one can love who they love, confidently express their gender, and be their true selves, without fear of discrimination or hate. Following the rally, there will be dozens of fun activities throughout the day and evening, as well as a variety of Pride Week activities through August 28. For more information, please visit pacificpridefoundation.org/events/2018-pacific-pride-festival , and download the Pacific Pride Festival mobile app. We look forward to celebrating pride with you.
Colette Schabram is executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation. Ethan Bertrand is the board president of the Isla Vista Community Services District and a member of the Pacific Pride Festival Committee.