I confess, I’m not much of a parade person. I don’t hate parades; I just don’t like them. They simply don’t do anything for me.
I’ve been to Atlanta Gay Pride a couple of times. Whatever. Not worth going back.
But San Francisco knows how to throw a party, let me tell you. The Bay to Breakers Race is insane fun. It has a palpable, positive, party energy. It starts just blocks from where we live. I love going to shoot photos of the costumes and the thrilling, excited energy of the event. The Pride parade was the Bay to Breakers Race on steroids!
Our street is used as a staging ground for all of the Pride participants. You can’t imagine the electric energy. I went down to shoot video and 360º video. I had never been to a San Francisco Pride parade. It took about 4 hours for the procession to walk/ride by. And what a procession it was: 4 hours of the best pop music ever recorded! All of my camera batteries died early on.
I’m not a motorcycle fan. I find them dangerous, worry I’ll run over one darting in and out of traffic, and think they’re annoyingly loud. But…
The start of the parade had hundreds and hundreds of motorcycles lined up for about 3/4ths of a mile in parallel rows 4 or 5 deep. When the grand marshal gave the signal for the parade to begin, the lead motorcycle cranked and revved its engine. Then all of the motorcycles began doing the same.
You have no idea how powerful, thunderous, primitive, and guttural the sound of all of those Harley Davidsons was as their sound shook us and the skyscrapers all around us. The sound possessed the crowd like some unutterable encatation of unignorable power and presence demanding respect. Awe inspiring. I wasn’t prepared for that: sheer awe inspiring.
Most Touching Moment
When PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) marched by, somehow a woman, probably in her 40’s, in the PFLAG group saw something that drew her to a person in the crowd standing directly below me. (I was standing on a planter above the crowd shooting video over their heads.)
Above the roar of the crowd, I could only make out this part of their conversation: “Do they accept you?” The guy beneath me shook his head “no.” Without hesitation, she reached over the baracade and wrapper her arms around this young man in a full, heart-felt embrace. She just hugged him for literally minutes, said something to him, and then had to run to catch up with the PFLAG group that had kept marching. I was moved to tears for this simple kindness of a stranger,
Largest Group Marching
This is a tough call, but I think the largest group in the parade was Apple. As I looked both ways up and down the street, their group appeared to be about 3/4ths of a mile long–I kid you not–as far as you could see in both directions! There were thousands of Apple employees and their families. It was mind blowing.
I celebrate the dignity and leadership of CEO Tim Cook. He is a huge roll [<—hahaha: Apple’s iOS autocorrect. Great job!] model for us all! Sadly, however, the employees weren’t throwing free iPhones at the crowd!
The second largest group was probably Google. They were much more animated than Apple as they had dancers and a float. In fact, with their Nest vehicle, float, and another vehicle, they may have stretched further down the street, but I suspect there were fewer people in their group.
My favorite dancing was the rECOlogy sanitation group, the people who do the trash recycling in San Francisco. This group was fabulous. Dressed in their outfits, each with a green or blue recycling trash can on wheels, they did the most awesome choreographed dance routines, making all kinds of patterns and shapes with themselves and their trash cans. Fabulous! Absolutely fabulous!! The crowds loved them!
Other groups also had spectacular dance routines including the cheerleaders! (I’m not sure if they were the official cheerleaders for the Giants or not.) But, whoever they were, they were brave souls to get flung up into the air just under all of those electric cablecar wires and above the hard pavement. But they bounced around with unfettered enthusiastic abandon.
And where to start with the costumes?! Many wore t-shirts, colored t-shirts, rainbows abounded. But some of the costumes were incomparable! Stunning! Gorgeous! Detailed and intricate! Sadly, my batteries were already dead. I wish I had photos of the consumes. My god! Who dreams them up? Who makes them? How much money is spent on a single one?! No words. Just no words here.
Next year I will have hi-res DSLR photos of the costumes with my zoom lens. Mark my words!
My Favorite Group
This is an impossibly difficult call, but I think I lean to San Francisco’s Balloon Magic for my favorite group. They had great music (Celebrate, and Play that Funky Music White Boy), and their costumes (all made from jillion’s of balloons) and dance routines were awesome. And then when they shot off a canon full of confetti, the crowd went wild!
Netflix and Disney Brands
These two companies also had a large presence in the parade, and each had several of their stars and/or writers going down the parade route in cars. I recognized Dustin Lance Black and David Cohen.
I knew Disney was a very progressive company, but I had no idea that they offered benefits to same sex couples all the way back in 1995! They were giving out gay flag colored Mickey Mouse stickers and ears.
The parade contained the Who’s Who of politicians, though Jerry Brown wasn’t present. But, the gorgeous (and straight) Gavin Newsome certainly was. Congress members, Senators, Assembly people, the District Attorney, the Mayor, the Sheriff (and numerous officers), the Police Chief (and numerous officers), the Fire Chief (and numerous firemen and women and trucks), the Attorney General, the Treasurer, the Tax Assesor, the public defenders office and numerous other city government offices… I can’t begin to recall them all.
And, not to be left out, numerous organizations and groups from Berkeley and Oakland also marched!
And here was a real shocker for me: the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) had a huge presence in the parade, and not just the central office, school administrations, and teachers. Numerous individual schools were specifically represented. Then there were numerous private schools marching. And then universities…
Can any of my colleagues imagine a day when the Superintendent of Cobb County Schools marches in the Atlanta Gay Pride parade?!
Pride is a celebration of diversity, and I can’t imagine any way this entire event could have been more diverse, from those participating in it to those cheering the parade on along the sides. Every ethnicity you can imagine was there, including the Native American Two Spirits peoples. Religious faith groups marched with pride, including the Jewish community. Infants, children, teenagers, adults, senior citizens. And, of course, sexual diversity was represented: asexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, heterosexuals, …
Everywhere you looked you saw T-shirts that read: “Love Is Love” as though it were the unofficial uniform sold by Old Navy and the Gap.
The Gift of Trump
The parade captured a huge amount of energy, the energy of resistance. Sign after sign. Yes, that’s the gift of 45: he ignited a passionate and emboldened resistance movement that will not be going away.
This was an intelligent parade that staked a claim to diversity, to defending the marginalized, to protecting the dignity of all people. These people, the thousands upon thousands, upon thousands of them will not go into Trump’s vision of America. Clearly, their steadfast resistance will not be stopped.
Near the End of the Parade
As I mentioned, I was standing atop a large circular planter (about 2 – 3 feet high) shooting video until my batteries all died. As the last of the almost 150 groups came by, a young man, 30-something, who had stood silently behind me and to my right said to me in his unrushed midwestern accent, “You know, I have never seen anything like this before. Not in all my life. No sir, not in all my life. I’ve never been to a Pride parade before. We just don’t have anything like this is Nebraska. It’s just so overwhelming to me. I don’t know what to say. I really don’t.”
For all that I’ve written about it here, I’ve done the event a great disservice. Because, I too found it overwhelming, positive, a celebration that can not be captured in words. It’s a powerful feeling that finds no words to express itself beyond “Love is Love.”
And I didn’t know what to say to this young man. His comment to me was so unexpected. I don’t think he much thought about it himself, it just came out of him as a spontaneous utterance as he was trying to process the incredible experience he had just witnessed.
All I could think of in the moment was, “Just soak it in. Let all of this positive energy and love feed your soul for years to come.”
I don’t care who you are, you haven’t lived until you have experienced San Francisco’s Gay Pride parade. Yes, San Francisco knows how to throw a Pride Parade. It was respectful. It was dignified. It was celebratory. It was bold. It was beautiful.