Carolyn Wysinger discusses the 50th Anniversary of Pride

SF/Arts Editors

Michael Johnstone and his partner David Faulk as Mrs.Vera of Verasphere, Community Grand Marshal, 2017 ©Jane Cleland

SF Pride 2020

SF/Arts Monthly is proud to honor 50 years of Pride, traditionally one of the largest gatherings in the nation of the LGBTQ Community and its allies. This year will be different, but the spirit of inclusiveness and acceptance remains as part of the fabric of this extraordinary city.

See here for Pride Calendar of events.

Carolyn Wysinger, San Francisco Pride Board President, has worked tirelessly in the Bay Area LGBTQ community for several years. She has served on the steering committee for Black Lesbians United and the board for the NIA Gathering for Same Gender Loving Women of African Descent. The former commissioner of Human Rights & Relations for the City of Richmond, Carolyn is also a faculty member at Richmond High School, where she teaches English and African-American Literature.

SFAM: It's clearly a huge disappointment that Pride 50 live events have been canceled following extensive planning. How are you coping with the transition of such an interpersonal festival to a virtual space?

CW: It was a very jarring decision we had to make mid-April to cancel all live events, but of course it was the right thing to do so we had no option. But it’s important to remember Pride isn’t just a physical celebration but a community and that’s the spirit in which we are continuing with a virtual celebration.

SFAM: Are you expecting heavy engagement from the community, both local and international?

CW: Usually there are around a million people who take part in the annual Pride festival, and we were anticipating 1.5 million this year given the 50th anniversary marker. Virtual Pride will give people a reason to engage while sheltering in place. This year Pride organizations around the world will come together for a virtual global pride, and we’re excited to be part of this 24-hour celebration. So we are looking at a vast international audience.

SFAM: Pride 50’s Lavender Talks series is one of the only events that will continue somewhat as planned. Tell us a little about the series.

CW: The series deals with issues that are facing our community - immigrant rights, for example, and we also showcase leaders from several Bay Area’s LGBTQ communities. I must give a shout out to the Commonwealth Club for allowing us to host the entire Lavender Talks series with them. Initially it was just to be one event there, but they have stepped up - and even pivoted on their own scheduling - to accommodate the entire series, for which we are hugely grateful.

SFAM: What about the honorees and Grand Marshals that always feature so heavily in the parade?

CW: We will celebrate these honorees in every way possible. This year we are proud to honor Community Grand Marshalls Rev. Dr, Jane Spahr and Terry Beswick of the LGBT Asylum Project, among several others.

SFAM: You were a Pride honoree which led to your position today as board president. Tell us a little about your journey.

CW: I was an honoree in 2018 and it was suggested I run for the board, so I did. It’s such an honor especially during this landmark year. My family has been in the East Bay since the 1940s when we came here as part of the Second Migration. We have lived through some tough times including the crack and HIV epidemics of the 1980s, so it's uplifting for my family to witness that I have assumed such an important leadership role in this community. Personally, I am honored to be the second only African-American woman president of the Pride board — and I must add I am thrilled to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with San Francisco’s first African-American female mayor, London Breed.

SFAM: SF Pride supports the larger LGBTQ+ community by way of providing an annual platform via the festival for enterprise, and by supporting organizations with grants. Can you sustain this?

CW: Yes, a lot of organizations, workers, artists, volunteers and vendors depend on the Pride festival for their livelihood. It will be tough to ride this out, but we will strive to support the most affected.

SFAM: Kudos to you all for turning this massive festival into a viable virtual event that we can all take part in. Thank you.

CW: We continue to support Pride no matter what, as well as the most affected in the community. Personally, I feel for the most isolated members of the community who rely on this big celebration once a year. I do hope there’s some comfort while sheltering in place to have access to what will be a great virtual celebration. As Mayor Breed says this is the new normal. Pride will continue to be a mainstay for the community with or without a physical festival. We have work to do. We must count our blessings, keep pushing, and keep that flag flying!