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Celebrating Pride: Lemon Grove, known for its climate and giant lemon sculpture, reaches out to LGBT community

LEMON GROVE – The city of Lemon Grove, located in the middle of East County, boasts of having the “best climate on Earth” and is well-known for its iconic lemon statue in the heart of downtown -- said to be the world’s largest lemon.

Lemon Grove is not often thought of as a part of San Diego County that is particularly open to the GLBT community.

Organizers of Saturday’s Lemon Grove Pride celebration hope to change this perception by hosting an inclusive event that spotlights the GLBT community in the city. The celebration, which will be held between noon and 3 p.m. at the Lemon Grove Branch Library, will include book readings by local authors, community speakers, performances, exhibits and give-a-ways. The event is free and open to everyone.

Jennifer Teitelbaum, Librarian I, says that “libraries change lives” and she is hoping that Saturday’s event will do just that.

“The San Diego County Library System’s mission is to inform, educate, inspire and entertain,” she said.

Because of the wide array of activities being offered at the celebration, Teitelbaum, who has been the lead organizer of the event since its inception, believes that each one of the tenets of that mission will be met.

Putting this event together was easier than Teitelbaum had imagined. The inspiration for the event actually came as a result of a survey that the county administered to local teenagers. The responses overwhelmingly said that these young people wanted to see more gay and lesbian events.

From this, Teitelbaum and a few teenagers from the nearby Spring Valley community decided on hosting a pride celebration at the Lemon Grove Branch Library. Teitelbaum says that the her supervisors and the library system were completely supportive of the event since its inception.

As guests wander through the library and its parking lot, they can explore numerous community booths and the library, and hear from the diverse lineup of speakers, performers and entertainers.

Human rights activist Ron deHarte will serve as the emcee for the event and is excited about being a part of this event.

“Lemon Grove Pride is truly a grassroots Pride celebration focused on education, raising awareness and inspiring residents of Lemon Grove ... this is what Pride events are about,” he said.

Just over a year ago, deHarte was assaulted by a protestor in Lemon Grove, not far from the library, while participating in San Diego LGBT Pride’s first Equality Torch Relay.

A vigil was held weeks later during which Lemon Grove City Councilmember George Gastil spoke out against the violence. According to East County Magazine, Gastil reminded the crowd gathered at the vigil that “what happened here really could happen anywhere,” noting that Lemon Grove is among the most diverse communities in the county.

The city took its commitment to diversity a step further when Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom and City Councilmembers Jerry Selby and Gastil signed and presented an official proclamation declaring July 10, 2010 as “2010 Pride Day at Your Lemon Grove Library.”

The presentation of the proclamation, which took place at the iconic lemon statue, occurred during rush hour and hundreds of passersby saw the many rainbow flags that were held by participants at the ceremony. The proclamation recognized the Lemon Grove Library's efforts to commemorate the community's rich history of courage, spirit, achievement and civil rights activism. (The full text of the proclamation has been included at the end of this article.)

Gastil said he is excited by the positive attention his city is receiving.

“I hear people talking about the event like it is an exciting cultural event ... the political content is not the main thing people notice on the flier - [they] are interested in the artists,” he said.

Gastil noted that while a majority of Lemon Grove voters were in favor of Proposition 8, he believes that most residents will be proud that their local library was chosen for such an important event.

“I hope people will come and enjoy the event even if they do not expect to agree with everything said ... the library does not exist just to showcase points of view people will agree on,” he said.

The Celebration

The three-hour celebration will include a diverse array of activities that will appeal to people of all ages and demographics.

Things like henna tattoos and other fun activities will take place in the parking lot, and there will be Padres and Comic-Con ticket giveaways to those who check out a certain number of items from the library.

Authors like Walter G. Meyer, who wrote “Rounding Third,” and Sam Warren, who recounts his experience in “Tales from the Tijuana Jails,” will discuss and read from their works. A total of six authors will present throughout the day.

Sally M. Hall, co-founder of the online news hub, ThatsSoGayLive.com, will speak about her project and Toni Duran of Equality California will update people on the organization’s marriage equality work and offer involvement opportunities.

Performance groups ranging from local singer and songwriter Lisa Sanders to the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus Ensemble will also perform. The full lineup is listed on the flier graphic in this article.

Teitelbaum has been talking up the event all over time, and has only met excitement from people: “Most of the folks that I have spoken to have said ‘It’s about time!’”

And deHarte agrees that the time is right to host a celebration of this type in Lemon Grove.

“Raising awareness in the gay hubs has got us where we are today. However, to achieve full equality tomorrow our family members, co-workers, neighbors, church, school, civic officials and the businesses we patronize need to know who we are,” he said.

He believes it is time to take the message of equality outside of the gayborhood and “stop preaching to the choir.”

Teitelbaum is already thinking about next year’s event! Jose Aponte, Library Director, has expressed interested in expanding this program to several libraries next year, and Teitelbaum will continue to coordinate Lemon Grove’s event.

For more information about Lemon Grove Pride, call (619) 463-9819.

Full text of the Proclamation

City of Lemon Grove
July 10, 2010

WHEREAS, the Lemon Grove Library is commemorating the community's rich history of courage, spirit, achievement, and civil rights activism by organizing the first Pride Celebration at the Lemon Grove Branch Library; and

WHEREAS, this year's event, held on July 10, and featuring authors, speakers, and entertainment; promises to be an impactful and educational celebration attracting residents to the library from throughout Lemon Grove; and

WHEREAS, this community's literary achievements of Linda Patterson, Walter G. Meyer, Eric Shanower, and Robert Heylmun will be celebrated; and

WHEREAS, discussions to raise awareness and promote an understanding of civil rights protections for this community's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals will be lead by Ron deHarte and Toni Duran; and Sally M. Hall will discuss the internet as a news source for Lemon Grove; and

WHEREAS, the Lemon Grove Branch Library encourages exposure to arts and culture and celebrates the positive impact of the arts on our community by hosting the diverse dance group Kruciaal Element Hip Hop Dancers in addition to vocal performances by Mary Dolan, Lisa Sanders and the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus; and

WHEREAS, this City has a rich social history of civil rights action including the 1930's court case of Alvarez vs. The Board of Education of the Lemon Grove School District which gave children rights to equal education in the first successful school desegregation court decision in the history of the United States.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED, that we do hereby recognize the many civic contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Lemon Grove, and encourage all residents to share in this City's diverse citizenry by participating in the first "Pride Day at Your Lemon Grove Library" celebration.

Presented by Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom and Councilmembers Jerry Selby and George Gastil