Published 3:14 pm, Sunday, September 10, 2017
Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, The Chronicle
For a few hours Sunday morning, Oakland residents forgot about the hurricane hurtling across Florida, the wildfires scorching the state and the national politics that consume conversation.
Instead, they spent those blissful hours in a more celebratory mood, waving rainbow flags for the annual Oakland Pride. Thousands of people flooded the city’s main roadways for a parade, marching from Oakland City Hall to a festival at Broadway and 20th Street.
Women braided rainbow feathers into their long hair, and children wore rainbow flags draped over their shoulders like capes. Revelers knotted rainbow bandannas into the collars of their dogs. Even bubbles blown into the sky were rainbow and effervescent, shimmering in the warm summer air.
Along the parade path, Ryan Ku, who lives in Oakland, shepherded his 4-year-old son, Jun, and 6-year-old daughter, Charlie, across the street on their bikes. A dozen band members playing a Michael Jackson song on flutes, cymbals and trumpets paused to let them pass.
“Everyone knows what’s been happening across the country right now,” Ku said. “Oakland is a good place to be to raise a family right now in history, all things considered. We are all relieved to be somewhere lighthearted and celebrate gay rights.”
The event, originally called East Bay Pride, ran from 1997 to 2004 before temporarily disbanding. It was resuscitated in 2008.
But the parade wasn’t like its sister event held in San Francisco every summer, Ku said. In Oakland, there was little drinking and little talk of a political agenda. More people were in fancy dress than states of undress. Naked men were noticeably absent.
A tiny train from Children’s Fairyland drove past, followed by a school bus seemingly rainbow tie-dyed and a Kaiser Permanente float with employees dancing on the truck bed. The floats were smaller than those in San Francisco, though they blared the same music: songs from gay rights activist Lady Gaga and other synthetic and sugary pop music from artists such as Pitbull and Kesha.
“It’s really a lot of fun,” said Oakland resident Eden Grace, who attended with her wife, Margaret, and 3-year-old daughter, Addie.
“I am so glad it’s back,” Grace said. “It’s a great place to take our daughter. It’s much more low key than other pride festivities, and she likes getting to ride her scooter with a bunch of kids.”
Warren Anderson, 63, of Sacramento drove to the Bay Area to make a weekend of it. He said he’s been to all the major Pride festivities in the region, including San Francisco and Sacramento. But Oakland is his favorite.
“Oakland has a lot more diversity,” Anderson said. “S.F. is a little more political. There’s a lot of marches intersecting the main march, people wanting different things. And Oakland has some awesome floats and music. It’s a good atmosphere. I will skip San Francisco before I ever skip Oakland.”
For Marrs Geronimo, the event was a way to feel at home in his body. The Oakland 12-year-old has a small cohort of gay friends, he said. They eat lunch together at Edna Brewer Middle School and joke about being heterophobic. But being surrounded by so many like-minded people at Oakland Pride was special, he said.
“Double thumbs up,” he said, wearing a rainbow lei around his neck. “It feels really nice knowing that our school is supportive of something bigger. It makes me feel better that these people can help make a change.”
He turned back to the parade processional and cheered. A dozen people with rainbow face paint joined him.
Lizzie Johnson is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LizzieJohnsonn
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