Local News West Hollywood

Longtime AIDS activist leads WeHo Pride Parade

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Thousands lined Santa Monica Boulevard June 9 for the LA Pride Parade which sought to convey the theme of the three-day 2019 LA Pride Festival, #JUSTUNITE.

The parade began at 11 a.m. at Crescent Heights Boulevard and continued west along Santa Monica Boulevard to Almont Drive.

The theme is a call “to set aside our differences and celebrate what truly unites us” and “to stop working against each other and, instead, start working with each other to make our community stronger and more resilient than ever before,” festival organizers said.

Longtime AIDS activist Phill Wilson was the community grand marshal. The Los Angeles LGBT Center was the organizational grand marshal. Actor and writer Ryan O’Connell was the celebrity grand marshal.

Wilson is president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, which he founded in 1999. The institute describes itself as the nation’s only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on black people. Its mission is to stop the AIDS pandemic in black communities by engaging and mobilizing black leaders, institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“I am so proud of our community because we strive to include all of us,” Wilson said at a news conference that preceded the parade. “We’re not perfect — we’ve never been perfect, I doubt we’ve ever been perfect — but that is our aspiration. We understand that we are great when all of us are included and we are all diminished whenever we exclude any one of us.

“We are at a time today when we need to redefine what our movement is all about,” Wilson added. “Today, our movement is certainly about inclusion and equality for LGBT folks, but it is also about equality and justice across the planet. It is about equality for immigrants and migrants. It is about equality for women and reproductive rights. It is about the right to health care for everyone because if we don’t have a free and just world none of us can be free.”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center bills itself as providing services for more LGBT people than any other organization in the world.

O’Connell is the creator and star of the Netflix comedy “Special,” about a gay man with mild cerebral palsy who decides to rewrite his identity and finally go after the life he wants. The series is based on his memoir,
“I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.”

The grand marshals are chosen by the board of directors of Christopher Street West, the nonprofit organization which produces the parade and festival, based on a number of factors, including their lifetime accomplishments and service to the LGBT community.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti walked in the parade alongside Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, also participated in the parade.

The Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy and AEG, the parent company of the Kings and Galaxy, had a co-branded float, featuring a variety of Kings personalities, including team mascot Bailey.

An attendance figure was not available.

The parade was first held in 1970 in Hollywood, where it was held until 1979 when it moved to West Hollywood.