Rainbow Raft Pride Center a good prelude to Pride Month

Rainbow Raft Pride Center, Tyler St. Pierre-Young, Betsaida Solis and David Reichard

From left, Tyler St. Pierre-Young, Betsaida Solis and David Reichard celebrate the opening of the Rainbow Raft Pride Center. | Photo by Brent Dundore-Arias

May 29, 2024

By Mark Muckenfuss

This is such a nice way to cap off my career,” David Reichard said as he walked across the Cal State Monterey Bay campus.

Reichard, a professor of history and legal studies who is retiring in the coming days, was on his way back to the old Student Center building, May 8, where moments earlier he had cut the ceremonial red ribbon on the Rainbow Raft Pride Center. That celebration was followed by the raising of the Pride flag on the pole outside the administration building. 

The event was a fitting prelude to Pride Month in June and represented the culmination of 25 years of campus advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.

Reichard said he’s been witness to a good deal of change during that quarter century.

“Just seeing how the campus has become much more open,” he said of the biggest change. “It wasn’t so easy in the early days. We had an organization on campus, but some of that first generation didn’t even come out (publicly). A lot has changed. That’s not to say that queer and trans students don’t still face a lot of issues.”

Opening the Rainbow Raft Pride Center is important in that respect. 

“We’ve had resources here, but it’s nice to have a dedicated space,” Reichard said. “Centers like this are needed more than ever. They send a message that says, ‘We value you.’”

In her remarks at the center’s opening, President Vanya Quiñones welcomed students to the newly dedicated room just off of the west lounge. 

“Today is a milestone for our campus,” Quiñones said. “Today, more than ever, we need a place that promotes awareness and respect. We’re celebrating how to make sure the Otter community welcomes everybody.”

Such a space, she said, was needed.

“Sometimes you need to be in a place with someone like you,” she said. “I hope everyone will find it to be a safe, welcoming and inclusive space where you can express all parts of your identity and find acceptance.”

Later, addressing the importance of Pride Month, Reichard said that acceptance has ebbed and flowed in the Monterey region. He remembers there were Pride parades in Monterey in the early 1990s that were well attended. But there were years that followed when there weren’t any.

“A group of organizers, including several CSUMB faculty, students and alum, brought back a Pride celebration in 2017,” he said, “and now it’s a big event.”

This year’s parade and festival are scheduled for June 29. CSUMB’s Steven Goings, a counselor at the Personal Growth and Counseling Center and an LGBTQ+ advocate, will be the parade’s grand marshall. 

“I view it as a great honor and the organization's affirmation of my contributions to the LGBTQ+ community,” Goings said of leading the parade. “As a people who are so routinely ostracized from faith, family and the public square, I think almost all LGBTQ+ people are looking for belonging and connection. After decades of trying to create more belonging and connection for LGBTQ+ folk myself, this honor makes me feel accepted and that I belong in this community that I love.”

A week prior to the parade, Goings and several other high-profile members of the local Pride community will hold "A Celebration of Queer Activists" at The Village Project in Seaside. Presented as a panel discussion, the participants are Monterey Mayor Tyller Williamson, the Rev. Jon Perez, activist JT Mason and CSUMB professors Deb Busman and Reichard.

Goings expects the topics to include an assessment of the current state of LGBTQ+ rights as well as the personal stories and projects of the panelists. There will be a Q&A session as well. 

The event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22.

Goings recommends some local resources for those seeking more information and support: