Arnulfo Cervantes was selling used tools from his driveway Saturday afternoon when a crowd of more than 50 people including parents and teenagers passed in front of his house. In the 41 years he has lived in Pacoima, he had never seen a march like this before in the community. More than 50 people including parents, teenagers, and children were waving rainbow flags, carrying signs in support of immigrant and queer rights, and chanting for unity.
It was a historic moment for it was the first LGBT pride march in Pacoima.
“Everyone has the right,” Cervantes said, although he did seem surprised when he discovered the purpose of the march. When asked if it was odd to see a gay pride march in Pacoima, he preached acceptance.
“People look at those type of people as if they are weird, as if it was something out of this world,” he said. “But we are all the same: we come from the same place, we are in the same place. But people don’t understand that.”
The march, which started from Laurel Canyon Boulevard to Alicia Broadous-Duncan Senior Center on Glenoaks Boulevard, was a collaborative effort of the community. Somos Familia Valle, a San Fernando Valley LGBT support and activist group and AnswerLA, an anti-war and peace coalition, organized the march. Helados Pops donated ice cream to the crowd as they reached the senior center, where a conference was held after the march. Local youth program Heroes of Life provided the sound system and a community member from Reseda the food.
The Los Angeles Police Department also showed support by providing four police cruisers to escort the marchers up to their final destination.
This is the second pride march and conference held in the San Fernando Valley organized by Somos Familia Valle; last year’s was held in Panorama City. Pacoima was chosen this year because of the issues the march was raising are relevant to this community.
“We won’t stand for the assaults on the Latino community, the LGB community,” said William Seegmiller, an AnswerLA organizer. “We have been [especially] doing a lot of work this summer with the trans liberation movement because that is a crisis. It’s an epidemic of violence murders, police brutality, and indifference to violence that trans people face, especially here in the valley.”
According to the Human Right Campaign, at least 21 trans people have been murdered this year in the United States. In February, a trans woman was murdered and her body lit on fire in her Van Nuys apartment.
Assemblymember Patty López, whose district includes Pacoima, was also in attendance.
“This is what Pacoima needed,” she said, applauding the youth. “I grew up in Pacoima, and I would have liked that was a movement then, like that of these youth, who are no longer afraid to take to the streets to express their needs.”
López said that as a legislator and member of the Public Safety Committee in Sacramento, she was there to hear her constituents. But as a mother and Pacoima local, she was there to learn.
Despite support from the community and local organizations and even police presence, at least one participant was weary of her environment. Jocelyn Silva is from Lake View Terrace but she says she grew up in Pacoima, having attended Guardian Angel School and has many friends in Pacoima. For a moment while on the march, she remembered Pacoima’s bad reputation.
“I literally felt someone was going to start shooting at us just, this feeling” she said. “’Cause there is so much machismo and gang violence in Pacoima it’s scary to put a rainbow flag and yell, at least for me.”
But she said it was her obligation as a member of the LGBT and Pacoima community to be there to bring raise awareness about her community needs, noting the distance of resources and treatment centers in the other parts of the valley that are non existent in the northeast valley.
“It’s amazing,” she said with optimism. “Pacoima doesn’t need to get gentrified for it to improve. People in the community are already doing the work and it’s really beautiful.”