By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
RB: Then I did a lot of stuff! Obviously HRC, Victory Fund has been my latest passion; I just started my second term. And I actually got a nice award from them; I got the Most Valuable New Member Award in 2011.
HP: How has your fundraising helped the LGBT community?
RB: In the LGBT community, back in the early '90s, the only fundraising we did was around AIDS. And then it kind of moved into supporting the youth; we raised funds to give at-risk youth scholarships. And then the issues became more social, which is why I got involved with HRC. The discrimination that was happening nationwide was really coming to the forefront, and we were making a difference.
And then it became, for me, now we need to get the right people in the right positions to start creating bills and bringing issues to the forefront. There is still so much at stake.
HP: And now, in addition to all of these accomplishments, you are Houston Pride's Female Grand Marshal. When the nomination came up, how did it feel, and how did it feel when you won?
RB: Well, first of all, it was an honor just to be nominated. When I was elected, I was actually not in town when they announced it. I was out celebrating my 50th birthday, and I got a text message at dinner. It was a great feeling, the best birthday present ever! It is so humbling to be recognized for the stuff that I do. I am honored.
HP: You will now be going to the parade as something of a star, not just an onlooker. How does that feel?
RB: We have lots of responsibilities leading up to it. I don't just get to go and wave. We have ten days of Pride, and the marshals attend all of the events. And Pride is not just about a party and a parade. It's about getting the word out, too. One example is a screening we are doing of a movie called Breaking Through, which is about elected LGBT officials, and it even features the mayor. So that will be a very cool event. And on the day of the event, I am looking forward to riding in the parade and seeing the 300,000 people who are proud of what we do. And then I get to have some fun! And there is a lot to celebrate and, hopefully, with what's going on in the Supreme Court, we will have even more to celebrate.
HP: This year's Pride theme is "Pride Unleashed." What does that mean to you?
RB: I think it's about how we have been able to take down a lot of barriers. I think people are more who they want to be now, and they are proud to be the free spirits that they are. It's not just about the crazy folks who want to party, but it's about families and kids who are now our allies. Who will be proud to sit on the floats with us.
Pride is more than just a big party.
Most of us know Pride as the annual massive blowout, an all-day block party that fills the streets of Montrose with multicolored flags waving high above booths of goodies, with some of the most amazing people-watching you'll find in Houston all year, culminating in one of the biggest parades to march down Westheimer. But there's so much more to Pride than just a big party.
Pride, a certified nonprofit organization consisting of dedicated volunteers, doesn't just sit around all year waiting for the last weekend of June to rock out. They're hard at work year-round to convey their mission and the purpose of Pride, which is often forgotten among the fanfare. The Pride team wants to make sure that the real meaning behind the movement never becomes a distant memory. Pride is celebrated to honor the Stonewall Riots of New York, which took place on June 28, 1969, and spurred a movement that would forever change the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
One way Houston Pride ensures that future generations will be aware of the back story is to get out there and tell them. For the past three years, the Pride organization has been taking history into the classroom by visiting college campuses across Houston.
Javier Ramirez, the executive vice president of Pride, worries that up-and-coming LGBT young people will never know of the struggles their ancestors had to endure. Unless we keep that history alive, he fears it will be lost.
"The panorama has changed so much over the years." Ramirez says. "We want to make sure the youth know that, hey, it wasn't always as easy as it is today."
Since the inception of the university and college seminar series, Ramirez and other volunteers have visited the campuses of University of Houston, UH-Downtown and Lone Star College, and this year they'll visit Houston Community College. The team screens a video that provides some context to the history of Pride and then opens the floor for students to have an uninhibited and honest discussion. The response has been incredibly positive.