Thomas Bilbo’s t-shirt said just about it all at Sunday’s Vallejo Pride Live event at Alden Park on Mare Island.
The garment carried a message and quote from Dr Seuss: “Be who you are and say how you feel, for those who care don’t matter and those who matter don’t.”
Vallejo Pride Live, a COVID-19 cancellation last year, was back with a celebration of LGBTQ rights, which Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell says will never go away.
âReally, it’s about the quality of humanity, because we’re all in the same boat. Either way, âMcConnell said. âThis is what is so important to keep in mind. Because no matter what surface differences we have between different groups, different philosophies or different religions or whatever you want, we’re all in the same boat. No matter what. And we always will be. And that’s not going to change. It’s a constant.
Good company, music, performances and speeches were the order of the day. Among those credited by Bilbo in his speech were Solano Pride Center Executive Director Jonathan Cook and Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown. Bilbo, chairman of the board of Solano and chairman of the Stonewall Democratic Club, declared himself the winner of the ‘colorful hat’ and took the time to tell the crowd that it was time to have fun and ‘do noise”.
âI want to thank Solano Pride and all of the people who helped us get through this,â Bilbo said. âMonica Brown with her help on the board giving us contracts with the county. What about Jonathan for raising, what is it, $ 63,000 in the last year and a half for us? It’s monumental to go out and get these grants and there is more to come.
Bilbo appeared to be in a good mood on Sunday as he met and greeted a number of people hanging out in lawn chairs at the park.
âI can’t wait to see people having fun and smiling,â Bilbo said. âI’m also really looking forward to hugging people. It had been a long time since we had been able to do this.
Cook said he has been looking forward to the in-person Pride event for some time.
âI’m a very outgoing person so I missed everyone during the pandemic,â Cook said. âNow people are getting vaccinated and we are making a lot of progress here in California. We are there to support a lot of people but we still have to make progress. It has been 52 years since Stonewall but we are still trying to get the equality law passed. It is an uphill battle with the Senate. Things are going well in the Bay Area for the most part, but there are still places at the federal level where you can get kicked out of your home or lose a job depending on who you are or what you believe. .
Bilbo agreed, citing recent news from Las Vegas Raider defensive end Carl Nassib that he was gay.
âI’m happy that progress has been made nationwide with the exit of a major NFL football player and then to see a lot of people supporting him,â Bilbo said. âBut we need that support to get down to the local level. We need that support in high schools where kids are often bullied and don’t have the kind of national support that (Nassib) has. We need to look at the voting rights, which are taken away from so many people. There are laws in other states that take away the right to vote altogether and that must stop. “
Bilbo said he decided to get active on election day in November 2008. On that day, the same day Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, voters in California banned same-sex marriage with the Proposition 8. The amendment to the California constitution was passed by a range of 52 percent to 47 percent.
During this time, many people came to the event just to appreciate who they are.
“Why am I here?” Roberto Padilla asked. “To meet homosexuals!” I like that these events actually exist because when I was young they didn’t exist.
âI am delighted to see a lot of friends and to meet new ones,â said Kevin Zimmer. “And to have this beer as soon as I can open it!”
One person took the time in front of a crowd to announce for the first time that he was bisexual. Seconds after his announcement, the crowd cheered.
Assembly 14 district delegate Ruscal Cayangyang also urged the crowd to feel safe in the community.
âIt was a joy for you to fight in the state democratic party and support local and state legislation and issues,â Cayangyang said. “Please do not hesitate to contact us and let us know about your problems and we will fight for you.”
Earlier today, McConnell visited the Philippine community center in Pista Sa Nayon and was happy to attend another event that showed the diversity of Vallejo.
âThe pride of today is that we have so many different communities here in Vallejo with their own individual values,â said McConnell. âBut they all get mixed up. It’s just one. We were at the Philippine Pista Sa Nayon festival earlier. And you can see the harmony of all the groups. Each group brings cycles of wealth. Like cooking, you add a layer of flavor and build it up until you have a perfect dish. Well that’s another part of our dish. We are so successful in attracting new people and we always will. This is what California has been and always will be, I hope. If you look at Thomas Bilbo’s T-shirt, that says it all.