San Francisco's LGBT Pride Celebration and Parade is a huge event, with an estimated million folks at the last one in 2015. The event is so massive, in fact, that they typically have not one, not two, but around 13 Grand Marshals for the whole shebang. Last night, Pride's organizers announced the first three of the Grand Marshals for this year's event — and one is bound to stir at least a little controversy.
Pride's Grand Marshals are, they explain, "local heroes from the nine-counties of the San Francisco Bay Area who have made significant contributions to the SF Bay Area LGBTQ community, or as openly gay members of the LGBTQ community, have made significant contributions to society at large." Some are determined by Pride's Board of Directors, others by community vote, and have included organizations like the Transgender Law Center, celebs like Project Runway's Mondo Guerra, and "lifetime achievement" honorees like former SF Mayor Willie Brown.
According to an email sent last night by SF Pride, they've already picked their first three Grand Marshals for 2016: Meditation and mindfullness teacher Larry Yang will be their Community Grand Marshal, while "Afro-American trans woman, healer and facilitator" Janetta Johnson has been named the "Member’s Choice for Community Grand Marshal." And this year's Organizational Grand Marshal? Black Lives Matter.
Yes, that's the same Black Lives Matter that police officers at the San Francisco Police Department's Taraval Station recently posted an article decrying, with phrases like “the Black Lives Matter movement has convinced Democrats and progressives that there is an epidemic of racist white police officers killing young black men," highlighted, the Ex reported last month.
According to SF Pride's press release on the Grand Marshal choices:
Black Lives Matter is working to (re)build the Black liberation movement and affirm the lives of all Black people, specifically Black women, queer and trans people, people who are differently abled, and those who are undocumented and formerly incarcerated."
Centering on those who are marginalized within Black liberation movements, Black Lives Matter imposes a call to action and response to state-sanctioned violence against Black people, as well as the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.
This echoes the sentiments of Alicia Garza, a San Francisco Pride Community Grand Marshal from 2015, who last year told the Bay Area Reporter that "the Black Lives Matter uprising across the country in recent years has been the best Pride she could ask for."
According to the BAR, it was Garza who brought the phrase "Black Lives Matter" into the public consciousness:
In 2012, Garza authored a Facebook post ending in the three words that mobilized a nation around police violence against the black community. Garza's initial post that proclaimed "Black Lives Matter" was a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. She's now a co-founder of a worldwide Black Lives Matter movement, along with two other women, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors.
And it's clear that Garza saw herself as one-and-the-same as the movement, saying in 2015 regarding her Grand Marshalship that "It is ironic that Black Lives Matter would be chosen as community grand marshal for the Pride parade, in a city that is hemorrhaging black people and black families faster than any major U.S. city outside of post-Katrina New Orleans."
One can only imagine the irony from which Garza is reeling today, with the full Black Lives Matter organization joining her in the event's Grand Marshal annals!
SF Pride's 2016 celebration begins on Saturday, June 25. Additional Grand Marshals, Pride says, will be announced in the coming months.