First published in the Oct. 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Burbank’s first-ever Family Pride in the Park event brought hundreds out to Magnolia Park last Friday night, Sept. 30. Event organizers assembled local performers and artists, food trucks, games, vendors and LGBTQ+ resources to the UME Credit Union parking lot where festivities were held.
“Burbank is such a diverse community with a vibrant LGBTQIA+ population, and this is really the first time we are able to fully celebrate as a city,” said Tracy Tabb, President of Burbank Pride. “We hope this event will be the first of many more to come.”
At the same time — just across Magnolia Street and past four busy lanes of traffic — a group of about 20 people formed in protest of the event. They chanted “leave the kids alone,” “monkeypox” and “trans is a mental disorder,” and cast other homophobic comments and slurs.
On the event side, a much larger group of LGBTQ+ allies formed a shield between eventgoers and protesters. “We are trying to have a good time, but we have to set up a wall of people to protect these guys who are just trying to sing songs and have fun. These people come here full of hatred and they’re yelling slurs at us. It’s not right,” said Connor Whittaker.
The Burbank Police Department monitored the action from both sides, intervening on a few occasions to prevent fights when arguments escalated.
Protesters said they showed up in opposition to the event’s “Ms. Knightley’s Kid Zone,” a play area for kids hosted by drag star Jackette Knightley, who also performed at the event.
“I was asked and I accepted to do the family friendly kid’s fun zone for the first LGBTQ+ pride here in Burbank, I said yes for many reasons. I think our LGBTQ+ youth need visibility, they need to see role models,” Knightley said.
“This is a groundbreaking event. It’s one of a kind. We got some pushback, but that’s OK. I always say whenever you’re doing something important, you’re going to get pushback. Today is all about love — we’ve got family, we’ve got pride, and we’ve got love and love wins.
That sentiment seemed to be reflected by eventgoers. As the entertainment ramped up, music and festivities drowned out the chants.
Councilmember Nick Schultz took to the stage to address the crowd: “There is a lot of love out here tonight. This is who Burbank is. We are not that small insignificant group across the street. … We are a community of love and tolerance and acceptance,” he said.
“To all the kids out here tonight, you can be whatever you want to be. Be who you are. Know that you are loved, know that you are valued and you have a community here that loves you and supports you.”
The pride event kicked off with a special appearance by Mayim Bialik from “Jeopardy,” “Call Me Kat,” and “The Big Bang Theory.” “There are so many kinds of families and identities. We have the families that we are born into … we find families that we choose, we find identities that fit us, and we get to be part of a larger family. I’m really grateful to be a part of this,” Bialik said.
Performers also included HBO Star Betti from “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” Drag sensation Knightley and her dancers who hosted “Ms. Knightley’s Kid Zone,” a special performance by The Troubies, LGBTQIA+ musical artist Homer Marrs, the all-trans professional music group Key Change Ensemble, in addition to the John Burroughs High School Drama Club, and many others.
60+ booths lined the UME parking lot operated by local vendors, state and local representatives, kids’ activities, and social resources. Magnolia Park Night Out food trucks catered the festivities.
“This is an awesome night for Burbank, for the LGBTQ community, for pride, and I’m so pleased and honored to be here,” said state Sen. and Burbank Pride sponsor Anthony Portantino at his booth. “Growing up with an older brother in the 1970s who was gay — we didn’t have this. To have this support and love in the community is just very special,” he said.
Burbank Pride is a committee of local residents whose mission is to create “uplifting, entertaining, educational, and safe events for Burbank’s LGBTQ+ community,” according to their website.
“Burbank Pride will provide resources to our LGBTQIA+ neighbors, their friends, allies, and families — born, found, and chosen,” the committee said in a press statement.