March 11, 2018 at 10:39 pm PST | by John Paul King
This year, L.A. Pride invites you to “#JUSTBE”

It might seem a little early in the year to be thinking about Pride, but that doesn’t mean the folks at Christopher Street West aren’t hard at work laying out plans for this summer’s festival.

They’ve just launched their campaign for L.A. Pride 2018, which will take place June 9 – 10 in West Hollywood Park – and with it they’ve announced that the theme for this year’s event is #JUSTBE.

According to says Shayne Thomas, CSW Board Member and Marketing and Communications Lead, “Everyone experiences Pride a little bit differently – and we wouldn’t want it any other way because that’s precisely what makes our community tick. #JUSTBE is a deeply personal invitation for self-expression that, we hope, will empower members of the LGBTQ+ community – as well as our very important straight allies – to embrace, embody, and express what Pride truly means to them in the rawest, most authentic ways possible.”

Thomas goes on to say that the inspiration for this year’s theme came from looking at real-life moments from past Pride events. “One day we were just looking through a bunch of photos from past years, and it quickly became clear that there was an incredible story right there in front of our eyes, one that captured the truest spirit of Pride in all its beautiful, vibrant, and ever-so-colorful simplicity.”

It also grew out of CSW’s new mission statement, drawn up a little over a year ago: “Our mission is to create safe and inclusive spaces for self-expression, inspire an authentic sense of activism in the continued fight for equality, and celebrate the unique heritage and diverse cultures of Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ community and its allies.”

Throngs assembled at the end of 2017 LA Pride March and #ResistMarch. (Photo by #ResistMarch)

Chris Classen, CSW Board President , says, “For us this year, It was important to tap into our values and remind the LGBTQ+ community that our sole objective, as a Board, is to ensure they have the most amazing L.A. Pride experience possible. L.A. Pride isn’t L.A. Pride without the marvelous people who make up our uniquely diverse community. #JUSTBE is a testament to that.”

#JUSTBE is meant to be a recognition of the diversity that makes up the community – and a reminder that there’s not just a single way to celebrate pride.

As stated on the official Pride website, “Pride means different things to different people. It’s about being a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community; standing up for equality and human rights; being role models for younger generations; and, for many, it’s about simply looking forward to an annual celebration where we put our differences aside and stand together as one community.”

The statement makes a special point of mentioning the importance of recognizing the history and origins of the festival in relation to the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement, calling Pride “an opportunity to commemorate the many brave souls who came before us, who fought day and night for our rights and freedoms – all in the spirit of justice and equality.”

Two years ago, Pride stirred controversy when it rebranded Pride as a “Music Festival,” seeming to target a millennial crowd that did not “inherently understand the historical context of the event.” The move drew criticism from community elders who believed that the important heritage of LGBT Pride was being erased, and that the new focus threatened to minimize the visibility of lesbians, transgender, Latinos, seniors, and members of the leather community. Though CSW responded to the outcry by altering many of their plans and re-incorporating some of the elements that had been removed or rearranged, there had been – for some – a lingering shadow cast over the festival.

A graphic from 2017. (Image courtesy #ResistMarch)

Last year, the festival made history by converting its traditional Pride Parade into the “#Resist March,” a powerful human rights march which drew tens of thousands of protestors to the streets of West Hollywood, joining hundreds of thousands of others in simultaneous events across the country and went a long way towards restoring the good will of many community members towards LA Pride.

With this year’s theme, it’s clear that the festival is making an effort to launch a new era of Pride, in which everyone feels welcome and free to celebrate whatever pride means to them. The previous emphasis on music has been pulled back, with community-building taking a more prominent position in the agenda – announcements of musical acts and other attractions will be rolled out in the coming months, and the website promises “many week-long community events that CSW is busy planning.” The parade will return to its usual route along Santa Monica Boulevard; since CSW states that the #JUSTBE theme will “permeate every element of this year’s Pride festivities,” it will most likely also return to its usual focus as a celebration of LGBTQ+ identity.

Because, of course, the festival also wants you to have a good time. As their website reminds us, Pride is also “a time to let our hair down among friends, family, colleagues, and other like-minded souls and embrace the joy that comes with celebrating the unmatched diversity of our strong, supportive, and caring community.”

The #JUSTBE campaign, designed by Michael Harari, started rolling out March 9 on the newly revamped L.A. Pride website and across L.A. Pride’s social media channels. A social campaign inviting people to be a part of the #JUSTBE movement is in the works as well.

For more information about L.A. Pride, and to learn details about the festival as they become available over the next few months, you can visit the website at

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