By Jesse Brooks
Over 20,000 people participated in Oakland Pride on Labor Day weekend, celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at Northern California’s second largest Pride festival.
The event blocked off 12-square-blocks Sept. 2 in the downtown area, where free HIV testing was offered at different locations by many organizations.
“I was looking for community, and I found it in Oakland,” Said Monica Anderson, who has been the event’s entertainment coordinator since 2010. “The great thing about Oakland Pride,” she said, “is that it just seems like a natural fit for a city like Oakland.
“With its roots of revolution, pride’s resurrection was not to create something new but to celebrate what was already here, and that’s what we’ve done in a way where there’s no discomfort to anyone.”
Now its third consecutive year, the 2012 festival featured musical and dance acts on four stages, local artists as well as headliners.
Acts included musical dance diva CeCe Peniston, hip-hop artist Rah Digga, San Francisco native and former member of “The Roots” Martin Luther and local rapper Clyde Carson.
A section was cordoned off for children, offering face painting, balloon art, and real life storybook characters.
Also on hand were testing organizations like AIDS Project of the East Bay (APEB), which have been serving a diverse population of HIV positive gay men in Northern California outside of San Francisco since 1983. This was the group’s third year at Oakland Pride but the first time offering free rapid HIV testing, along with counseling and referral services.
Other testing organizations were the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Volunteers of America, the HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County (HEPPAC) and Get Screened Oakland, which hosted a “Sex in the City Lounge,” a place to hang out while waiting for 20-minute HIV test results.
Sex in the City Lounge visitors were invited to drink mocktails, talk with counselors, receive condoms, play cards or dominoes or obtain blood pressure screening from Walgreens.
According Braunz, HEPPAC’s Program Coordinator, “We want to normalize HIV awareness and screening and encourage our community to make safer choices within our diverse spectrum.”
Although there were some acts of vandalism from a group claiming to be a part of Occupy Oakland, the festival went on without incident.
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