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Meet the Pride Houston 365 Grand Marshals

Pride Houston 365 celebrates LGBTQ community leaders at their 2024 festival and parade.

Pride Houston 365 will hold its premiere Pride Month event—their downtown Pride parade—on Saturday, June 29. The sensational K. Michelle will be the headliner for the afternoon Pride Festival, and the full lineup of festival performers is at  tinyurl.com/PrideH365. The evening parade is free for everyone to enjoy, and begins at 7:30 p.m. 

Grand Marshals for the parade were selected this past spring. The male-identifying, female-identifying, gender non-binary / gender non-conforming, and ally Marshals were chosen by community vote. The honorary and trendsetter marshals were chosen by a committee of previous Houston Pride Marshals. 

A reception honoring this year’s Pride Houston 365 Marshals will be held at Kiki Houston, 2409 Grant Street in the Montrose area, on Sunday, June 16, at 4:00 p.m. This is a free, family-friendly event featuring lite bites and a cash bar. 

Congratulations to Pride Houston 365’s 2024 Grand Marshals as they are honored for their ongoing dedication and service to Houston’s LGBTQ community.  

What: The 46th Annual Official Houston LGBT+ Pride Celebration: Festival & Parade
When: Saturday, June 29 (Parade is 7:30–10:00 p.m.)
Where: Houston City Hall, 901 Bagby Street
Info: pridehouston365.org


Pride Houston 365
Male-Identifying Grand Marshal: Kevin Dapree Anderson

49, He/Him

Pride Houston 365 Male-Identifying Grand Marshal Kevin Anderson

“Being named as a 2024 Pride Houston 365 Grand Marshal is significant because the community collectively voted to [recognize] my value and the importance of my contribution. It is an absolute honor, and it will provide an opportunity for me to continue my advocacy for mental, emotional, and sexual health awareness and resources to a city-wide audience.” — Kevin Anderson

Known For:
Anderson is known in the community for creating brave spaces that center art and healing, with heART&SOUL and The T.R.U.T.H. Project, Inc. being his best-known platforms.

In 2009, he created heART&SOUL, one of the longest-running queer-centered open mics in the country. This multidisciplinary artistic space has been a launching pad for many local and national artists of all disciplines, and continues to provide a platform for emerging storytellers.

Established in 2013, The T.R.U.T.H. Project (TTP) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate and mobilize queer communities of color and allies through cultural arts and resources that promote mental, emotional, and sexual health. Created through a trauma-informed lens, The T.R.U.T.H. Project fills the void of limited programming and support for queer communities of color and their allies. TTP has made possible a brave space where individuals can express themselves and seek support that often proves to be life-transforming or even life-saving. The T.R.U.T.H. Project is honored to be the first Black queer-founded and -led organization in Houston that is a certified trauma-informed care organization.

Advocacy:
Since the inception of heART&SOUL, Anderson has created intersectional space for local judges, and district representatives to engage with the community and raise awareness regarding LGBTQ rights and the importance of the queer vote and voice.

Within The T.R.U.T.H. Project, he has curated programs and community discussions that raise visibility and knowledge, and increase access for queer people of color, people of color living with HIV, and allies. He intends to continue to lead efforts to eradicate stigma and center braver spaces for queer communities to thrive through his community efforts and intentional mentorship.

Favorite Cause:
Advocating for greater wellness, mental and sexual health awareness and resources.

Dream to Change the World:
Waking to a day where all queer folk are living a life that is stigma-free, and where reaching their best potential comes as easily as water being poured from a spout.

Ultimate Life Mission:
To curate queer joy where all feel welcomed and are provided tools to ensure that the joy continues to flourish.

Favorite Hashtags:
#representationmatters; #blackqueerjoy


Pride Houston 365
Female-Identifying Grand Marshal: Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Espeut

 38, She/Her/Hers

Pride Houston 365 Female-Identifying Grand Marshal Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Espeut

“Being named Grand Marshal holds so much meaning to me. Current Pride celebrations are only possible because of the unapologetic activism of Marsha P. Johnson and countless other Black trans women who oftentimes go unnamed and forgotten. I want to continue to provide visibility and representation of Black trans women and the legacy of Black trans liberation.” — Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Espeut

Known For:
Espeut works with The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc. as a program director. The Normal Anomaly eliminates barriers and creates new norms for Black LGBTQ+ people. She is also a board member of the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus, where she helps to increase Black trans representation and visibility within political spaces.

Advocacy:
Espeut’s work centers on uplifting Black LGBTQ+ people; helping to co-create, curate, and build spaces of Black queer and trans joy. The narrative and stories of Black queer and trans people are typically ones of trauma, pain, and injustice.

Her work centers on hope, joy, and the expansive belief that community is the answer.

Favorite Causes:
Those that impact Black trans women, economic justice, and gender and racial justice.

Dream to Change the World:
That we can co-create spaces that center joy and liberation—spaces that have a place for vulnerability, transparency, grace, and growth.

Ultimate Life Mission:
To normalize the identity and existence of Black trans women.

Favorite Hashtags:
#HotGirlCityGirlIcyGirlMaterialGirl; #YourMansFirstChoice


Pride Houston 365
Gender Non-Binary/Gender Non-Conforming Grand Marshal: Odyssey Oakengrove

36, They/Them/Theirs

Pride Houston 365 Gender Non-Binary/Gender Non-Conforming Grand Marshal Odyssey Oakengrove

“I believe in giving us our flowers while we’re still alive. Being recognized by my community in such a public way is humbling and rewarding. I am going to continue to be loud and active in calling for equal rights for all people, but now I know that I am being heard.” — Odyssey Oakengrove

Known For:
Oakengrove’s gift is being loud. Their role in the community came about through protests for equity in Houston, especially when it comes to protecting and equipping our children with the best chances for success in the world. They support organizations that call for humanity and liberation, and amplify Black and brown organizers such as Brandon Mack and Sarahy Garcia. Oakengrove wouldn’t be the activist they are today without the mentorship of these organizers. This outspokenness led to Oakengrove being invited to join the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus advisory committee and subsequently being elected to the board of trustees.

Advocacy:
One of their most frequent tactics to call for awareness is to remind people at abortion-rights rallies that “it’s not just women.”

As a trans-masculine person who can be pregnant, Oakengrove needs the right to choose what is best for their reproductive healthcare. Having people refer to “women’s rights” makes them and others like them invisible. They think it is important to educate other queer people and allies on how language is impactful, and what consistently seeking justice for all looks like.

Dream to Change the World:
Riding a moose as a war steed into battle.

Ultimate Life Mission:
Contentment, joy, and safety for everyone.

Favorite Hashtag:
#FreePalestine


Pride Houston 365
Ally Grand Marshal: Lesley Briones

43, She/Her/Ella

Pride Houston 365 Ally Grand Marshal Lesley Briones

“As an ally, I am deeply honored to be recognized for my work with the LGBTQIA+ community. It is incredibly important to me that my three young daughters grow up in a world free of discrimination where they can be their authentic selves. LGBTQIA+ equality was a central issue for me long before I thought about running for office. I find it unacceptable that some state leaders want to take us backwards, and I will use my platform to amplify the voices of LGBTQIA+ Texans.” — Harris County Commissioner Lesley Briones

Known For:
When Briones took office as Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner in 2023, her responsibility as an ally and advocate became more important than ever. She says that now she has the privilege of taking concerted action to create change. In June 2023, she presented and passed a resolution that created the county’s LGBTQIA+ Commission, the first of its kind for Harris County. The group will partner with Commissioners Court to make actionable recommendations to improve public health, safety, and economic opportunities for the LGBTQ community. With appointees like Meghan Fairbanks and Diamond Stylz, this commission comprises community leaders who are already advocating for change.

Briones is extremely proud of leading the historic appointment of Dr. Cody Pyke to the Harris Health System Board of Trustees, the first openly transgender and nonbinary individual to serve on the nine-member board of one of the largest safety-net health systems in the nation.

Advocacy:
While all LGBTQ people face systemic barriers, Briones knows there are specific obstacles for LGBTQ people of color, Black LGBTQ people, and for the transgender and nonbinary communities. Intersectionality is an integral part of how she advocates for the community. In her policy- and decision-making, she is always considering compounding factors to ensure that equitable progress for all is delivered.

Favorite Causes: 
Briones is deeply committed to a range of justice-based movements and bringing all of those issues to the Commissioners Court. She is most proud to have carved out a unique role in advocating for the LGBTQ community, which was previously very subdued at the county level.

Dream to Change the World:
Briones deeply believes everyone’s equality is inextricably linked. Her dream is to continue building an inclusive Harris County where everyone has the freedom to be their full, authentic selves.

Ultimate Life Mission:
To advance opportunity and justice for all people.

Favorite Hashtag:
#UWONTBREAKMYSOUL


Pride Houston 365
Honorary Grand Marshal: Sara Fernandez

72,  She/ Her/They

Pride Houston 365 Honorary Grand Marshal Sara Fernandez

“This grand marshal honor signifies that what I have worked on is meaningful. It gives me an opportunity to extend my work and remind everyone that they are an exceptional and valuable part of the community. Your story is important and needs to be preserved. Please save your old photos, brochures, flyers, diaries,  newsletters, etc., and give them to an ARCH member—houstonarch.pbworks.com.” Sara Fernandez

Known For:
Her work with PFLAG (pflaghouston.org) by helping with their programs, newsletter, and Pride parade float, and by staffing events and doing outreach. She has also recorded and broadcast the monthly programs and some parents’ stories on Public Access TV.

As a result of her work, Fernandez was invited to join two organizations. The first was Association for Family and Community Integrity (AFCI), a Houston-based organization with a mission to reduce rejection of LGBTQ youth by educating families and communities. This evolved into creating a website (understandinggay.org) with information to help people understand and accept their LGBTQ family members and friends.

The second invitation was to join Houston Area Rainbow Collective History (Houston ARCH). She worked with ARCH members to develop a series of banners depicting Houston LGBTQ history for the 2014 Creating Change Conference, held in Houston. The project started with 27 banners and now has 50 that travel to events as a pop-up museum.

Advocacy:
Fernandez has attended state conferences for teachers, counselors and social workers to hand out resources and speak about supporting LGBTQ youth. She has encountered people who need to talk, staff that are supportive of their students, staff who are afraid of being accused of turning a child gay, and some who avoid her in order to not be ”tainted.” Unfortunately, “Don’t Say Gay” has had an influence and people are less willing to speak.

Favorite Cause:
What moves her most are human rights, following the Golden Rule.

Dream to Change the World:
Fernandez’s dream was to change the world by providing stories and information. She now says that she was naïve but has nevertheless seen her work—in unity with others—make a positive difference.

Because the world is always evolving—there are births and deaths, people moving through the stages of life, social changes and challenges—we are never finished working to make a better world.

Ultimate Life Mission:
Fernandez says that while some people seem to know what they want to be and what their goals are, she has wandered through life. Her constant is to work to understand herself, to be a better human being and pay attention to what needs to be done.

Favorite hashtag:
#PFLAGNational


Pride Houston 365
Honorary Grand Marshal: C. Patrick McIlvain

 74, He/Him/His

Pride Houston 365 Honorary Grand Marshal C. Patrick McIlvain

“Being selected as an Honorary Parade Grand Marshal is an acknowledgment by my peers of my life as a community advocate, volunteer, and organizer. For me, it means that I have been heard and felt by many people. it grants me a more visible public platform this year to talk about mental illness—a conversation that is long overdue.” — C. Patrick McIlvain

Known For:
Being a longtime community volunteer and advocate, a founding member of Montrose Sports Association, a longtime volunteer for Pride Houston 365, a member of the original “Team [Annise] Parker,” and the founding director of The Walk for Mental Health Awareness (also known as The Walk Houston).

Advocacy:
McIlvain adds to our community conversation by living with the challenges of having a mental illness diagnosis. He shares his personal experiences, including the discrimination that he has endured from many in the heterosexual community for being a gay male. The discrimination for being honest and open about his mental illness includes discrimination even from within his LGBTQ community. But he keeps walking forward, one step at a time. It is positive, forward progress.

Favorite Cause:
McIlvain’s most important cause is talking—out in the bright sunlight of the day—about living with a mental illness. He feels that we all must do what we can to let people know that it is a very good thing to talk about mental illness, and how it does not define them. The Walk Houston, now known as ”Our Journey to Mental Health,” will be hosting a public social event every October 10, which is celebrated as World Mental Health Day.

Dream to Change the World:
To dramatically reduce the personal and social stigma that is still so yoked to those who talk about mental illness. McIlvain believes that just saying “mental health” is sugarcoating the real truth. But every time someone says the words “mental illness” in public, we take a chip out of the stigma that has been with us for over 5,000 years.

Ultimate Life Mission:
To totally eradicate all of the stigma that is still attached to having and living with a mental illness.

Favorite Hashtags:
#PositivePublicDialogue; #EndTheIndifference; #TakingMyDignityBack


Pride Houston 365
Trendsetter Grand Marshal: Olivia Julianna

21, She/Her/Hers 

Pride Houston 365 Trendsetter Grand Marshal Olivia Julianna

“To see the LGBTQ+ community in Houston come together so lovingly inspires hope. It is a reminder that we are not in this fight alone, and that multiple generations are working to make things more equitable and just. I hope to continue to use my platform to highlight the intersection of abortion access and the LGBTQ+ community, as well as how the attacks against our community
and other marginalized communities are linked together. Our elected officials
are attacking the community, and they must be held accountable.” — Olivia Julianna

Known For:
Abortion activism, electoral politics activism, and her social-media presence focusing on politics and activism. She has over 1 million followers across the platforms X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and TikTok, writing as @0liviajulianna.

Advocacy:
Fighting for LGBTQ rights within the electoral system by working to elect politicians who are representative of the community and who are fighters for our rights.

Favorite Cause:
Texas! Everything about Texas! Whether it be fighting to restore abortion access, protect public education, enshrine LGBTQ rights, or uplift the working class, Julianna’s main purpose in life is to make Texas the beacon of hope and change that her great-grandparents believed in when they immigrated here from Mexico. She believes that it’s possible, and it will happen in her lifetime.

Dream to Change the World:
That reproductive autonomy will be definite for every individual across the globe, that healthcare will be guaranteed, that autonomy is enshrined in every facet of government, and that freedom over our own bodies prevails.

Ultimate Life Mission: 
To uphold her family and her culture. When her great-grandparents moved to Texas in the 1920s, they were farmers in the Houston area. Barabra Jordan once said, “I get from the soil and the spirit of Texas the feeling that I, as an individual, can accomplish whatever I want, and that there are no limits.”

Julianna feels the seeds of her own American dream were planted in the Texas soil by her great-grandparents and watered by generations of activists, fighters, and icons. Every time she has accomplished something important or personally significant—whether it be meeting the president of the United States, doing a roundtable about reproductive healthcare access at the White House, or traveling the country to meet governors and elected officials to fight for our rights—she knows that this is the hope her ancestors had. Her mission is to make them proud and to never lose sight of who she is or where she came from, and to bring them with her everywhere she goes in spirit and in love.

Favorite Hashtag:
# MyBodyMyChoice

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Brandon Wolf

Brandon Wolf is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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