Thousands of people roamed through the Tacoma Pride Festival downtown last weekend to celebrate love and life in all of their forms at a time in the nation’s history that has seen setbacks on the march for equality and acceptance.
“We must remain diligent, but there is still so much we should celebrate,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, while wearing a rainbow pride sash at a ceremony last Friday to mark the official opening of Pride Week with the annual raising of a rainbow flag over City Hall.
The mayor of Boston had given Woodards the sash during a mayoral conference in the city earlier this year that occurred during that city’s Pride Week celebrations. Woodards then walked alongside mayors from around the nation in Boston’s pride parade, something Tacoma lacks. But that will likely change by next summer, following a mayoral directive for funding to help the effort to be added to the upcoming budget discussions.
“I think we need a parade,” she said. “I think we need that type of celebration.”
A round of applause by the 100 or so who attended the ceremony then “volunteered” Woodards to help organize the pride parade effort. Not only would a parade allow people to celebrate love and diversity, but it would also serve as a symbol of solidarity Tacomans can make in the face of hate and intolerance, she said, noting the recent posting of racist and anti-immigrant flyers on utility poles around the city.
“In Tacoma, we will not tolerate that kind of behavior,” Woodards said.
The ceremony ended with the honoring of people and groups who positively affected the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied community around Pierce County. The 12th annual award winners were:
Karen Fierro Ruiz, who received the Sapphire Award given to a youth organizer for service to the gay and bisexual youth community of Pierce County;
Miriam Barnett, who received the Ruby Award given to an individual who is not part of the LGBTQ population but whose actions directly benefited the community;
The Oasis Youth Center, which received the Emerald Award given to an organization for service to the LGBTQ community of Pierce County;
Jo Bauer, who received the Pearl Award given to an individual who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer for his or her service to the LGBTQ community;
Craig Sailor, who received the Diamond Hall of Fame Award for his exemplary service to the LGBTQ community of Pierce County over years of reporting on gay and lesbian issues in Tacoma.
Rainbow Center Executive Director Manny Santiago said the awards and the Pride Festival come at a time when marginalized communities – from gay, lesbian and transgender people to immigrants and ethnic minorities – are finding themselves threatened by non-inclusive federal regulations and policies, a looming conservative swing in the works on the Supreme Court and a rash of hate crimes in the city such as the anti-immigration posters popping up overnight. The festival shows that people are ready to rise in the face of intolerance.
“There is no space for hate in Tacoma,” he said.