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In 28 years of celebrating Pride in Sacramento there has never been an official Pride Gala. 2012 changed everything. This year the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center(SGLC) premiered Courage to Stand, the official kick-off gala for Sacramento’s Gay Pride Weekend.
The setting was the Citizen Hotel in Downtown Sacramento on a night that was probably one of the warmest of the year. Downtown Sacramento was abuzz with activity with Friday Concert in the Park happening, Pride set up going on along the Capital Mall and people just ready to get summer started after an unseasonably cool spring.
Recreating the Plaza Park Ballroom of the Citizen Hotel was no easy fete. Taking the hotel setting and changing it into an Officer’s Club seemed a battle in itself for the event organizers who ultimately captured the feeling of an official military event.
The idea for Courage to Stand actually stemmed from the repeal in December of 2010 of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and those military service-members who were affected by it from 1993 to 2010, some 18 years. The concept of the event would be to recognize the repeal and it would involve the stories of service members who served during that time in our nations history. Through Sacramento Valley Vets, a LGBT Veteran club here in Sacramento, The Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center recruited military members and veterans to submit their stories to be shared at Courage to Stand. Out of the many stories submitted, 6 were shared at the event by the service members who authored them.
“There is nothing more powerful than actually hearing what these men and women experienced under DADT,” explained Arvin Magusara, Board Member at SGLC and who happens to be retired Navy, “and to have them willing to stand up in front of their community just says a lot about who they are and how far we have come.”
Stories that were shared came from a variety of experiences that included 2 lesbian women, 3 gay men and one transgendered man who entered the service as a woman. These individuals live in the the Northern California region, with almost all being transplants to California from all corners of the country.
Sacramento Valley Vets (SVV) started up in 2004 and reactivated in 2010 after a brief hiatus. Since its reactivation, they’ve strived to become an informational resource for local LGBT Veteran and Military matters. According to Michael D. Williams, “SVV gives a face and a voice for the LGBT Veteran population by engaging the community through advocacy, outreach, and camaraderie.” SVV is headed by a board of Veterans and they continue to find ways to grow their successful chapter. Williams is a Veteran himself and an active member on the Courage To Stand Committee, SVV and was part of the Honor Guard that opened the Courage to Stand event.
“Courage to Stand became this vessel to solidify the partnership that is desperately needed between SVV and SGLC,” Magusara pointed out, “because of the repeal of DADT, LGBT Veterans, felt a huge weight lifted off of them.” For many LGBT active members of the United States Armed Forces, 2012 marked the first year many could openly attend Gay Pride celebrations without fear of punishment.
The Courage to Stand event itself added to the roster of events happening all over Sacramento in honor of Pride, yet this event had special meaning for the evening's premier guest, Jeff Wilfahrt, who flew in from Minneapolis, Minnesota to be in attendance. Jeff Wilfahrt, father of SPC Andrew Wilfahrt, who is believed to be the first out soldier to be killed in the line of duty after the repeal of DADT, came to share his son’s story with the sold out crowd. Wilfahrt and his wife, Lori, have found themselves on the national stage, advocating for the rights of LGBT Americans in their home state and other states in the Union.
The night included a performance by International Opera Singer Zachary Gordin, who debuted a commissioned piece written and composed specifically for Courage to Stand titled, A Nation Announcing Itself, written by Clint Borzoni with musical accompaniment provided by Jim Jordan. Also spotted at the event was a Pride Flag installation by local artist Danny Scheible for Tapigami and a photo presentation titled, A Silent Force, by local photographer Anthony Loverde who coincidentally was discharged under DADT but missed the Courage to Stand event because he was reinstated and shipped off to boot camp two days prior to the event. The evening also included a Resolution from the California State Assembly and presented to SVV by Assembly Member Richard Pan (Sacramento).
For more information about Sacramento’s Gay & Lesbian Center or to become a monthly contributor please visit their website at www.saccenter.org. You may also want to visit the Courage To Stand Facebook page at www.facebook.com/couragetostand to stay updated on future events.