San Jose was the only Bay Area city to take part in Sunday’s national human rights protest known as the Equality March for Unity & Pride, which drew about 350 people locally and thousands more in places like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
For the majority of participants, including Julie Jones, a transgender woman from East San Jose, the march was personal.
“A big part of this is that I have spent so much of my life being scared and I’m tired of it,” Jones said. “I refuse to be afraid anymore.”
Pride Month is typically a time for celebration, but the Trump administration’s recent changes to legal protections for the LGBTQ community and immigrants provoked the nationwide political procession. Sunday’s march sought to unite communities of diverse backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities while calling attention to issues faced by minority groups in the U.S.
“This is where intersectionality really counts,” said Estefania Bautista, a member of Student Advocates for Higher Education, an organization that promotes higher education among undocumented immigrants. According to Bautista, the plights of undocumented LGBTQ people are often forgotten in mainstream activist movements.
In contrast, intersectionality and inclusion were at the core of the Equality March.
People carried signs that read: “We Will Not Back Down” and “No Ban, No Wall” while chanting, “No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here.” Participants were of all ages and belonged to a vast array of cultural and religious backgrounds.
A pre-rally at San Jose City Hall included performances by Aztec dance group Kalpulli Izakalli and an open-mic session during which longtime activists and neophytes shared their experiences of coming out.
Reverend Nancy Palmer Jones, 65, of the First Unitarian Church of San Jose recently came out and sang her own rendition of the hymn “We are are a gentle angry people” by Holly Near. The lyrics, “We are trans and cis together and we are singing, singing for our lives,” echoed down San Fernando Street following her performance.
Isaac Oster, a 16-year-old pansexual male, wore a “pussy hat,” a symbol from the Women’s March, and lauded Del Mar High School for cultivating a diverse and tolerant student body. “That diversity is where new ideas come from,” he said. “Cutting off those perspectives is cutting off possibilities.”
State Assembly aide Shay Franco-Clausen announced her plan to be the first queer woman of color to run for San Jose’s City Council, which was met with applause.
At noon, the crowd made its way from City Hall to Plaza de César Chávez, where a rally was held. A score of organizations awaited, along with live music, food trucks and impassioned speeches from community leaders, activists and numerous politicians.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, the first openly gay elected official in Santa Clara County, was one of the first to speak. U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) also spoke at the event, as well as state senators Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco.
Topics ranged from immigration rights to transphobia, HIV/AIDS education, homelessness, LGBTQ youth and racial justice. Speakers noted the progress achieved and pointed to the sobering realization that much more still needs to be done.
“2017 has been a tough year,” said Maribel Martinez, director of Santa Clara County’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs. “Today I’m here to remind us of our great strength. That still we continue. We persist. We dance and sing because we are resilient.”
Candelario Franco and three other members of the march’s Steering Committee gave the closing remarks.
“It is our time to fight back,” Franco said. “We will not be invisible, we will not be erased, we will not be discriminated against. We will stand up, we will speak up, we will be heard.”
See more photos of the San Jose Equality March for Unity & Pride.