SF Bay Times: Oakland Pride All Year Long
By Rebecca Kaplan
San Francisco Bay Times
Oakland is home to one of our nation’s highest concentrations of artists, and religious congregations – and lesbian couples – in America. We are a city working to unite around common needs for public safety, expanded economic opportunity and an inclusive, thriving future. Oakland has a strong history of innovation fueled by diverse and active communities.
As Oakland’s first openly lesbian elected official, I am proud that we have been recognized by The Advocate as a leading city that is welcoming to our LBGT community members – honoring Oakland as #11. To me, this recognition for Oakland is not just about statistics, but it’s also the spirit of mutual respect that defines a place almost half a million people call home.
Naming 15 cities across the country to be recognized in this way, including our nation’s capital, we’re in great company.
It’s a fascinating list that includes big cities like Seattle and St. Louis and intriguing finalists like Salt Lake City and Spokane.
The Advocate must enjoy Oakland’s friendly rivalry with San Francisco, giving them ‘honorable mention’ and bestowing upon us the well-deserved kudos that “Oakland is no less vibrant, yet more diverse and affordable.” We’re certainly proud to be LBGT-friendly, artist-friendly, welcoming to people of all races, backgrounds and religions, and we are expanding smart growth and business opportunity. Our burgeoning arts and entertainment district includes vibrant dining and nightlife, and is home to LGBT-owned venues like Bench & Bar and Club 21. And our LGBT-owned small businesses go beyond nightlife, offering retail options like the sex-positive Feelmore 510 and neighborhood bookstore Laurel Books.
The Advocate notes that a big part of why 15 cities uniquely caught their eye has to do with welcoming all aspects of our lives. “Being a great LGBT city doesn’t just mean having a raucous nightlife,” they write. It’s an important distinction, because Oakland supports an LGBT community made up of people of all races and classes, including many who are raising children, and supporting interests from meditation to community gardening, business networking to different kinds of dance.
So when we worked with community leaders to re-start Oakland PRIDE in 2010, we intentionally sought to create a space that has character and truly welcomes Oakland. And we successfully created a festival that was fun, all-ages-friendly and now in its third year. It will take place again in 2013 (stay informed at OaklandPride.org).
But it’s not the social or consumer opportunities for the LGBT community alone that make Oakland friendly.
This new honor follows great press we’ve received recently that notes not only the potential of our city, but also its promise and what we’ve achieved together already.
Last year, The New York Times named Oakland the 5th most desirable city to visit in the world. London was #4 and Tokyo was #6. From boating on the lake to rooting for our sports teams, our city is harnessing our natural surroundings with great community energy to build a stronger future. Oakland’s leaders and residents alike are more committed than ever to expanding economic opportunity for all. And, just last week, our City Council unanimously approved three important measures to improve public safety in our community.
We are also a community that knows our work is not complete, including the need to support struggling LGBT youth, including the homeless, and continuing to expand economic and educational opportunity throughout Oakland. These goals require that we work together for our common future.
Moving forward with major development projects like Coliseum City, for example, will improve the fan experience at our sporting and entertainment events, create thousands of jobs and generate funds to improve important services like public safety. And transformative revitalization of areas like the Army Base will create the kinds of jobs that will strengthen our community’s middle class.
When I ran for re-election last year, our theme was “Oakland on the Rise.” It was meant to represent the type of commitment to a stronger future and depth of purpose that we must share in order to shepherd our success. When we’re noticed for being a city that is friendly to members of the LGBT community, it’s fundamentally a positive reflection on the incredible quality of the people who live here and work to move us forward.