Pride Houston introduced the 2019 Pride marshal nominees, as well as this year’s theme, at a packed event held Thursday, January 24, at Guava Lamp.
The theme, “Summer of ’69” pays tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the pivotal New York City incident that unleashed the modern gay-rights movement. The theme places Stonewall alongside two other unforgettable events during the summer of 1969: the moon landing and the Woodstock festival. Rather than casting Stonewall as an isolated event important only to the LGBTQ community, PR material will emphasize Stonewall as an integral component in the history of 1960s America.
Marshal Nominations Include New Category
In the past, marshals have been classified as male, female, and ally. This year, a new “non-binary” category was introduced for those who identify as neither male nor female. Roberts said that the number of nominations submitted this year was a record.
Male-identifying marshal nominees are: Eric Edward Schell, known for his groundbreaking Pride Portraits project; Jason Black, an HIV/AIDS advocate and head of Legacy Health Service’s mSociety intervention program for gay African-American men; and Harrison Guy, chair of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board.
Female-identifying marshal nominees are: Shannon Baldwin, newly elected judge for Harris County Criminal Court 4; Janie Lopez, a volunteer for the Victory Fund and the Texas Pride Impact Fund; and Iris Rodriguez, a Houston Fire Department captain and U.S. Army sergeant major.
Non-binary marshal nominees are: Becca Keo-Meier, a research assistant at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work; Julien Gomez, co-host of the podcast Veer-Queer; and Mike Webb, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.
The ally marshal nominees are: Erika Richie, PFLAG mom and mother of trans son Landon and a non-binary child; Marian Luntz, a co-founder of QFest; and Alan Rosen, Harris County’s constable for Precinct 1.
Voting for the marshals began on January 27 on the Pride Houston website. Roberts says that community feedback about the current categories of marshals will be welcomed at a Town Hall to be held Saturday, February 23. The event will be held at the Montrose Center, Rooms 106/107, starting at 2:30 pm.
Eric Edward Schell: “The gravity of this honor is heavy. The men before me who hold this title have achieved so much to further LGBTQIA+ equality in Houston, Texas. For many years when I was younger, I suffered lots of opposition for simply being myself. I was physically and verbally harassed and assaulted for being gay. I suffered years of depression and substance abuse as a direct result of being told by peers, school administrators, and figures of authority that being gay was wrong. At 30, I got sober and found my self-worth. I have made it my life’s work to uplift and affirm our entire LGBTQIA+ community.”
Al Rosen: “What an honor it is to be considered by the Pride Parade to be an ally! I have fought for civil rights and human rights my whole life. And it’s just wonderful to be nominated by such an incredible group of people. I love this community, and I certainly love the LGBT community.”
Shannon Baldwin: “This has got to be the most amazing time of my life. I am doing things that make me able to help so many people. I love it when my own community recognizes me, and when they put their stamp of approval on what I’m doing. It makes it really worth it.”
Harrison Guy: “It is absolutely amazing. I am so honored and surprised and excited. This is going to be a year for celebrating diversity. As a black gay man, I stand on the shoulders of Charles Law, a black gay activist in Houston long ago. He is one of my icons. I would love to be the marshal in his honor.”
Iris Rodriguez: “I was completely surprised and honored to be among this wonderful group of nominees who work together to make our community wonderful. During a time that is so stressful, it is important that we take care of each other.”
A Whole New Pride Houston
Roberts took over the leadership of Pride Houston in late 2017. Since that time, she has worked hard to affect change and make the organization more community-based and diverse. Roberts says that when she first started as president, there were four board positions filled. Now all 13 positions are filled. There were three chair positions in existence when she took up the reins, and now there are 16.
When the board, the chairs, and the nominees were presented to the crowd, it was obvious that Pride Houston has evolved to fully embrace diversity. Pride Houston now looks like Houston, the nation’s most diverse city.
New board member Bruce Reeves, who was the Pride co-chair in 1988, says “I decided it would be interesting to apply for the board. After the first interview, I was pleasantly surprised by the openness [of] the new board. Going forward, I realize how much Pride Houston has changed, grown, and become a tight and very cohesive unit. As co-chair of Special Events, our budget for any single event today is greater than the entire budget was in 1988. I am enjoying the challenge of this position, and look forward to [once again] seeing Pride from the inside.
To vote for Pride grand marshals, go here.