Thursday, May 30, 2024

Inaugural Long Beach Proud! festival aims to offer a community alternative for the local queer crowd

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Let’s just have a frank conversation: Long Beach Pride has not been without its drama and concerns over the years—some of which we’ll explore in this article—so it should not be surprising that an local organization, LB Living, along with Vice Mayor Cindy Allen, are hosting what they hope to be an annual event that is another addition to the city’s more corporate, larger pride event.

The three-day event—entirely free, family-friendly, and open to anyone with kindness in their spirit—will span May 19 through May 21: Friday, May 19, celebrating the city’s Gayborhood through an encouraged bar crawl along Broadway from 5PM to 10PM; a massive party at Bixby Park, in conjunction with the city’s Beach Streets event on May 20, that will include three different stages as well as food and bars from 11AM to 7PM; and a “Big Gay Beach Takeover” come Sunday from noon to 6PM at the rainbow lifeguard tower near the shoreline’s 11th Place entrance on Ocean Boulevard.

“By showcasing and uplifting LGBTQ storytelling, this festival acts as a leader in empowering the LGBTQ community, building empathy, and driving positive social change,” said Allen.

“This is really about highlighting and acknowledging our local queer community—that is what is vital for this event,” said Sal Flores of LB Living. “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.”

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So, wait, isn’t Long Beach Pride—the very big one—that very weekend?

Well, historically speaking, yes, it would have been; Long Beach Pride has, for the many part of its 40-year existence, taken place in May, formally kicking off pride season nationwide. However, starting last year with a July launch and shifting even more this year with an August celebration, Long Beach Pride’s May-centric kickoff is now a thing of the past.

There remains some speculation around that.

For one, Los Angeles’s own Pride scene has been split into two: Following the Black Lives Matters protests in 2020, the LA Pride organization, Christopher Street West, removed itself from the City of West Hollywood for the first time in its history, feeling that West Hollywood’s largely white, cis, gay male crowd was not fitting for a city as diverse as Los Angeles. Therefore, L.A. now has LA Pride taking place in Los Angeles proper and Outloud, West Hollywood’s Pride festival; these two are taking place on back-to-back weekends…

…and that means that, if Long Beach were to stick to its historically aligned May launch, that would be three major Pride festivals in the span on nearly three back-to-back weeks.

Hence August—which left some with a bad taste in their mouths.

“I don’t care their reasoning—they shouldn’t have moved the event to August,” said longtime community supporter and Long Beach resident Mark Waters, echoing that Long Beach kicking off Pride nationwide was, well, pride-inducing.

On top of this, the Long Beach Pride organization has had its own controversies: from facing serious fiscal problems and accusations of inner-circle shady behavior to a lack of diversity on their board and an archaic name that lasted for over 30 years

Much of that has changed—and, indeed, Long Beach Pride as a formal festival was more popular, organized, and efficient than ever after its rebranded relaunch took place last year, bringing in more contemporary headliners and a crowd that catered to everyone on the queer spectrum.

But for LB Living, there needs to be a way to honor Long Beach’s place in kicking off Pride while also hosting events that aren’t just lower than festival-style Pride events—which tend to always go above $100 per person—but an event that is entirely free.

Even more? The more Pride events, the better.

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“We should be able to have multiple pride celebrations throughout the city, not just one,” Flores said. “There is room for more celebrations of our queer community and both celebrations are valid and have a purpose, but most importantly both celebrations can live in harmony… I hope LB Proud! Fest brings people that sense of community, pride and belonging—but most importantly a sense of home. We want our brothers and sisters to be proud of their neighborhood, be proud of our local vendors, local talent, and our local queer community.”

If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?

For more information on Long Beach Proud! Fest, click here.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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