Thursday, May 22, 2014

INTERVIEW: Jeff Robinson & Fresno Pride!



Information links and contact details are available at the end of this article…


This year marks the 24th year for the Fresno Pride Parade & Festival . The theme this year is “Live & Love Proudly”. Fresno Rainbow Pride, the largest LGBT event of the year, takes place on Saturday, June 7th starting at 10am on Olive Avenue in the Tower District. This is the largest Pride event in the Central Valley and the only one that includes a parade. The event draws approximate 3-5,000 people each year. 



The parade starts at 10am and runs east bound on Olive Avenue from Palm Avenue to Maroa. There are expected to be about 50 parade entries this year. It’s not too late to participate in the parade, simply visit www.fresnorainbowpride.com or call 559-486-3464. There is a fee for a parade entry, and it goes up as the date gets closer, so get your request in today.

There are awards for parade entries that include Largest Contingent, Most Festive, Best Float and CEO Award. 

Immediately following the Pride Parade is the Pride Festival, a street festival at Fulton and Alhambra. You enter the festival off of Olive Avenue and the entry fee remains at a low $5. Entry to the festival includes a wide variety of vendors and organizations, everything from nonprofits to retail vendors. As always, this is a very family friendly event. The Fresno County Department of Public Health will also be on hand with free HIV testing. 

 
Your entry to the festival also includes a wide variety of entertainment including the Unison Dance Tent with various local DJ’s and GoGo dancers. On the main entertainment stage you can see acts from Fresno and around the state. This year the main entertainment stage will have four local hosts…Leilani Price, Patricia DeLeon, Justin Cider and Victoria De La Manana. Live singers, band and drag performers make up the performances this year and include the Raging Grannies, Damon Pardo of Rocky Horror, the Tiny Kites Band and live band Santa Mira. Local drag performers include Charm Alina, Cookie Cutter, Hazzard Strange, Cara Coronado, Emma Berry, Leilani Price, Patricia DeLeon, Giselle O’Ell, A Town, Justin Cider, Andy Rogenous and Alec Alright. 

Community Link operates the Pride Parade and Festival, and is an official 501c3 nonprofit organization. Given that, they are always in need of financial donations before, during and after the event. All fees charged for the parade and festival, as well as program advertising, go toward the cost of the event. You can also donate independently by mailing a donation to Community Link, PO Box 4959, Fresno, CA 93744. 

On the day of the event funds are raised through the Beer & Wine Garden as well as the drink station run by Community Link inside the festival and a dessert booth run by the youth group. During the parade, the youth group will march the big rainbow flag down the street and you can toss in coins and dollars to donate to the cause. Remember that you can also drop a donation off directly at any of the Community Link booths during the festival. This event needs community support to stay strong!



I sat down to talk to Jeff Robinson, who runs Community Link, to talk about this year’s Pride Parade, as well as Pride in general…(above photo of Jeff Robinson and Juan Bustamante courtesy Rene Salas)

Chris Jarvis: Who are the Grand Marshalls this year?

Jeff Robinson: We’re still waiting on some responses so I can’t really talk about that yet.

CJ: I know the Festival is a family friendly event, what can families expect this year?

JR: Wesley Methodist Church is running a carnival for kids, with games and activities. We’ll have the bounce houses as usual. We’ll be giving out goodie bags this year to the first 75 kids, with juice boxes, water, snack and a toy. The entertainment tent is probably not a great place for little kids to hang out, cause you never know what’s going to come out of someone’s mouth.

CJ: What about any involvement from the City Hall or the Mayor regarding Pride this year?

JR: We’re working to get a response from the Mayor’s office. We’ll see what happens. We’ll probably get a letter, but it’ll be watered down, like in the past.

CJ: Does it mention the LGBT community or Pride?

JR: No, it will probably say what it’s said before, which is “we welcome you here on your special day”. No words like lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. No Stonewall, none of that. We’ve put out that our community needs to hear these words, not just that it’s our “special day”.

CJ: You would think, given what’s happened in Porterville, that they’d be a little more sensitive to it.

JR: You would think, but we’ll see. We’ll probably get a proclamation from the City Council. Last year 3-4 of them signed it, but we don’t get one from the entire council. 

CJ: How do people sign up to volunteer?

JR: Go to our website at www.fresnorainbowpride.com and click on Rainbow Pride. Our last meeting before Pride will be on the 6th to show people where everything is at, the flagpole, the entertainment, the tables, the trash, etc. We’ll walk them to those areas so they have a better idea of where everything is at. 

CJ: What’s your biggest need as far as volunteers?

JR: Our main need is for people to be at the Parade and be safety monitors. It’s very simple. They’re going to get a t-shirt, free entrance to the festival and a front row seat at the parade. We work with the police department in that we guarantee them a certain amount of volunteers that are going to come and close off the minor residential streets. So there will be caution tape up and then the volunteers get to stand there and watch the parade while telling people to remember to stay on the sidewalk, stay out of the streets and so on. We need a minimum of 23 of those volunteers. We like to double up so we have two people per corner, so if people want to go out and do this with a friend, that’s perfect. The second need is help during the festival, like directing people where they need to go, helping people, working in one of our booths, helping us get the recycling and trash taken care of, etc. 

CJ: I still hear from time to time, “Why do we need a Pride Parade?”. Can you talk about why Pride is important, and why, as we get more and more legal rights around the nation, that it’s still important?

JR: Although we’re getting equality across the nation it doesn’t mean that we aren’t still going to face people that don’t want us to have those rights. So we need to make sure that although it’s on the books, we need to make people see that there are a large amount of people that this effects. It affects us as LGBT folks, as well as our family and friends.  The second important part of Pride is to recharge our collaborative batteries. Every day we go out and we face a wide variety of things. Questions about who we are and our relationships. So although we’re moving ahead, there’s till those things that affect us greatly that sometimes we can’t put our finger on, where we’re still made to feel that we’re not “as good as”. So it’s great to be able to come together with a group of people for a common cause to celebrate all of our momentum and where we’re headed. Recharging ourselves is important to continue that effort and that struggle to get where we need to be. That’s why we need Pride.

CJ: Agreed. I often tell people who say that the goal of LGBT people is to integrate so much into society that we don’t need special places or celebrations, that they obviously aren’t paying attention to other cultures in America. So many of them that not only continue to enshrine those special places and celebrations, but are expanding on them. When I hear gay people say they hope for the day when we don’t need to gather together or have special celebrations, I find that hard to put my head around. Why are we trying to disappear into the mix?

JR: Exactly. If you’re German American or Polish American and you’re back east, there are huge celebrations and parades for them. Every Sunday is Christian day. Every Easter and every Christmas is Christian day. So I think it’s still important to have those events. It’s important to have Cinco de Mayo events, Juneteenth, Harvey Milk Day, Martin Luther King day…it’s important to have those days to call back to why we’re here. We have things that we need to celebrate and remember. We need to remember people that didn’t have such happy endings. 

CJ: And you and I have talked before about our culture vanishing in so many ways. Talk about that.

JR: I really worry about losing our culture, and that young kids don’t grasp or understand those people that came before them and did the tremendous, hard work. To see an out, gay person in years past was a tremendous act of bravery. Look at history, there was a vibrant gay movement here and in Europe before World War II. These people lost their property and their lives.


CJ: What I hear all the time from young people is “oh, that was before I was born.” Really? I don’t remember hearing that from young people when I was in school. You were expected to know about history. 

JR: That’s why at the end of my youth groups we talk about news and I tell them what’s happened in the community.

CJ: It seems as we gather more legal equality, we’re losing ourselves inside of it. I don’t understand when gay people say that when we get to a certain point, equality wise, we don’t need to such a presence. 

JR: Here’s the deal, we’ve always been much stronger when we face resistance. When Wilson vetoed AB 101  and everybody said, oh just be quiet and act like you’re just like everyone else, we have 2.5 kids and a dog and a white picket fence…BS…we had to take to the streets. The teachers came out of the classrooms and the queers came out of the bars and took over Los Angeles and San Francisco. We said what the hell, you promised us a gay rights bill, even as watered down as it was going to be. In the AIDS epidemic, we got nothing by working within the channels. We had to agitate, making people look, making people address the issues. So that whole “We’re going to get our rights” doesn’t work. So we’ve gotten rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Great. What about all the National Guards? What about all the Guards that aren’t allowing their troops to marry? So we got our rights and we didn’t get our rights. So it’s easy to tear the stuff up over the big things, but we all face a whole bunch of little things day by day, and that gets to you.

CJ: I was talking to my brother once about how much we have to fight for every bit of equality and he said to me, do you really think that once you’ve got equality, that people are automatically going to like you? I said no, of course not. But that’s what he thought, that we’re fighting to be liked. We’re not fighting to be liked, we’re fighting to be equal. That’s why all this can’t go away. We can’t just stop being out and present because someone signs a bill saying we can get married. 

JR: We can get married in a whole bunch of states now, but we can still be fired across the country just because someone thinks we’re gay.

CJ: And what about employment protection ? How was that not passed long before marriage equality?

JR: Exactly. Particularly once they said you can fight and die for your country. It should have been automatic after that. And this whole bit they tried with leaving out our transgender brothers and sisters was garbage. We should all be included. 

Fundraisers have happened around Fresno for the Pride Parade and Festival. Thank you to all the businesses that have helped raise funds, including Tacos Marquitos, The North Tower Circle, Aldos and Club Legends. Community Link also held “Bowling For Pride” in April to raise funds. At press time, the next fundraisers are: HOUSE OF HIT on Saturday, May 24th at 9pm at the North Tower Circle, then a joint Super Sized Mega Mixer between The Fresno Men’s Mixer and POW (Professional OUT Women) which will take place at Vini Vidi Vici on Friday June 6th at 5:30pm. 

Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade & Festival

 

There are no more food vendor licenses available for the festival. Other Festival Applications and payments should be received before 11:59pm on June 1st, 2014. Some applications may be accepted after the deadline, but fees will need to be paid in cash and will depend on available space. Parade entries will be accepted up to the start of the parade (cash only on the day of the event).

Volunteer Information Click HERE

Make a Donation HERE  

Sponsorship Information HERE
 
Check the website Fresno Rainbow Pride for all other information.
Phone: 559-486-3464 or 559-266-LINK

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