By Elliot Owen
Bay Area Reporter
Castro Valley Pride turned five last weekend and with each passing year continues to grow in both size and impact. Approximately 2,000 people attended the July 11 event according to organizer Billy Bradford, who has been integral to the establishment of the celebration as a family-oriented tradition.
“We’re not professional Pride event planners,” Bradford told the Bay Area Reporter, “we’re just moms, dads, and kids. Castro Valley is a bedroom community; there’s no draw here other than schools and housing. So what we have is gay families, and that’s what Castro Valley Pride is about.”
Throughout the day from the main stage, acknowledgements were made of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to guarantee same-sex couples the right to marry. Speakers and performers also underlined that the fight for full LGBTQ acceptance and federal equality doesn’t stop at the legalization of same-sex marriage.
“We want to celebrate the great strides we’ve made as LGBT people, couples, and families,” Bradford said, “but understand that in 29 states people can still be fired for being gay, and the incidence of LGBT suicide is still higher than non-gay kids. We still have churches in our community that have anti-gay rhetoric on their websites. There’s still work to be done.”
The afternoon festival boasted 63 booth spaces filled by vendors, food trucks, and various organizations including seven faith-based ones. Held at Castro Valley High School, there was an emphasis on the next generation, and providing a safe space for LGBTQ youth to celebrate their identities and access resources.
Our Space, a Hayward-based LGBTQ youth community center and program of Bay Area Youth Center/Sunny Hills Services, tabled at the event for the second year in a row.
“We’re very youth-centric,” Our Space Community Center coordinator Barbara Da Silva told the B.A.R. “With the legacy of Castro Valley Pride being founded by young people, held at a high school, and having lots of young people present, we thought attending would be a great way to support. We also want to reach out to the youth that are here and let them know that not so far away there’s a community center where they can come, feel safe, get leadership opportunities, and gain skills.”
Two stages provided the performance space for an array of dynamic performers including Charm Alina, Ethel Meman, Kippy Marks, Raquela, Young Shorty DooWop, Xavier Toscano, SJS Theatrical Productions, and Deuces and Diamonds.
“We really like the neighborhood aspect of Castro Valley Pride,” Josh Pollack, 26, of Deuces and Diamonds told the B.A.R. “We perform for really good causes and it was important for us to get in with gay pride and support equality.”
Castro Valley Pride is funded completely by individual donors, Bradford said. “No corporate sponsors. Every year we make the calls and generous people come through. This year, $9,000 were raised to cover the event’s cost.”