Arnulfo Cervantes was selling used tools from his driveway on Saturday, Nov. 14, 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 and teenagers, were waving rainbow flags, carrying signs in support of immigrant and queer rights, and chanting for unity.
It was a historic moment — 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 about having 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 traveled from Laurel Canyon Boulevard to the 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 afterward. Local youth program Heroes of Life provided the sound system, and a community member from Reseda provided 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 organized by Somos Familia Valleheld in the San Fernando Valley; last year’s event was in Panorama City. Pacoima was chosen this year because 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 transgender people have been murdered this year in the United States. In February, a transgender woman was murdered, and her body lit on fire in her Van Nuys apartment.
Assemblymember Patty Lopez, whose district includes Pacoima, also attended. “This is what Pacoima needed,” she said. “We need more youth movements so that they can 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 she was there to learn.
Despite support from the community and local organizations, and even a police presence, at least one participant was weary of her environment.
Jocelyn Silva lives in Lake View Terrace but she said she grew up in Pacoima, having attended Guardian Angel School, and has many friends in Pacoima. For a moment, she said, 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 [display] 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 and raise awareness about her community needs, noting the distance of resources and treatment centers in the West Valley that are nonexistent 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.”