|SFLGFB Artistic Director Dr. Roberto-Juan González and Freedom Band editor extraordinaire Heidi Beeler wrote this 2008 SF Pride Concert Welcome Statement for the concert program. Visit our 2008 SF Pride Concert site
Pearls of Great Pride…
On behalf of the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, and the collaborating directors, Stephanie Lynne Smith, Dr. Kathleen McGuire, and myself, I welcome you, honored guests, to our concert and celebration of the joy and LGBTQ pride of San Francisco, 2008! This year, our concert focuses on the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the 1978 founding of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the first of the Gay music groups to spring from Harvey Milk’s Castro. All three of our groups are nearly the same age and carry the same mission, gleaned from the seed thought planted by our founder, Jon Reed Sims.
In a television interview during the San Francisco 1979 Gay Freedom Day Parade (now available, much like everything else, on YouTube), Jon was asked by an Oakland KTVU reporter about the parade and the marching band’s message that year. It was only a month after the White Night Riots erupted in response to Dan White receiving a ludicrously light sentence for the assassinations of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, and the reporter was looking for a fight. Jon replied, “Message? Our message is music, that’s all.” A man of few words but much musical insight, Jon believed in music’s power to speak to people beyond their prejudices and political beliefs, and he never missed an opportunity to bring people together, whether it was to draw new performers into new performing ensembles or to reach out to audiences beyond the LGBTQ community. It’s an idea that has spawned a movement, 30 years strong, and ever expanding, with LGBTQ instrumental and vocal music groups still being founded to this day.
In tonight’s presentation, with the collaboration of the above vocal ensembles and present and former artistic directors of these groups, we celebrate the gift given San Francisco and the world community by a very simple idea: a compelling witness for LGBTQ Pride and equal rights through musical performances by groups of vibrant, passionate performers. At 30 years, celebrating our pearl anniversary, we remain committed to that struggle while seeing a world that is waking up to our call for unconditional acceptance, freedom and pride. When observing the struggle for racial equality, history tells us that almost 100 years had to elapse between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Voting Rights Act of the 1960s. With the founding of the Mattachine Society in 1950 and the Stonewall Riots of 1969, we mark the beginnings of a struggle that continues, even today.
Here we are, 30 years after a group of musicians in blue jeans and t-shirts first marched up Market Street for their hometown parade, still a vibrant part of a great struggle that is changing the landscape and outcomes for LGBTQ women and men, all around the world. Have we arrived at our goal? No, we are still far from it, but we can see it from here! Yes, we are gaining equal rights under the law, as the recent ruling by the California Supreme Court upholding same-sex marriage demonstrates. And we continue to slowly move that thing which is so slow to change: the hearts and minds of those who, out of fear, ignorance and prejudice, seek to deny all of us our full measure of humanity.
The idea of Gay Pride and Freedom in our groups’ musical mission is like the grain of sand that found its way into an oyster and begins to accumulate layers of shining, brilliant sheen and patina: a shining witness to the vibrancy and dedication of every member’s commitment and participation in the ongoing fight for freedom and equal rights. We practice and rehearse endlessly, not just because we like to polish music, but because our work gives full public view to our investment, commitment and faith in the future of complete equal rights and freedom for all people, everywhere!
On a more personal note, as a recently-out gay man of color, I am deeply grateful to these three groups for the open, loving community that was there waiting for me – as I am to the San Francisco LGBTQ community that was here – showing me the complete and varied dimensions of San Francisco Family Values. These groups are members of a greater family that today stretches around the world and shares a mission engendered in 1978 by a man who thought the Gay Freedom Day Parade needed MUSIC!
So, here we are in this sacred space; made sacred not just by your presence, but by the spirit which animates all you will hear tonight, which we humbly bring to you, our listeners, as our tribute to our community, all those who have come before us, and all those who will come after us. Let us celebrate the fact that we stand on the shoulders of giants!
Jon Reed Sims, I think you will agree, is smiling, somewhere…