Long Beach Pride, which organizes the city’s annual Pride Parade & Festival, bid farewell to local LGBTQ legend Bob Crow — who was the nonprofit’s last surviving founder — with a procession and tribute ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Crow died in late September. He was 78.
The tribute kicked off on Saturday morning at Bixby Park, where Crow’s friends, family and community members gathered to take part in a procession featuring the Long Beach Pride float.
“We are indeed united by the common thread of humanity, of love, and the pursuit of a more inclusive and passionate world,” said Rev. Sunshine Daye, a local consultant, speaker, facilitator and author.
“And Bob’s life, of course, was a testament to the power of purpose, a purpose driven by love by acceptance, and by the belief that diversity is the cornerstone of a stronger, healthier society,” added Daye, a past Long Beach Pride grand marshal.
The procession traveled from the park down Broadway — a commercial corridor with a rich history as an LGBTQ cultural hub — toward Harvey Milk Promenade Park and Equity Plaza, where Crow’s farewell tribute took place.
Community members, LGBTQ activists, families and friends convened together to celebrate Crow’s life at Harvey Milk Promenade Park. Daye, Sunshine Daye, Vice Mayor Cindy Allen and Long Beach Pride President Tanya Martin spoke in tribute.
Rows of chairs were lined up in front of a stage filled with three large white and red flower bouquets and a Pride flag poised above Crow’s photo.
“He would always advocate behind the scenes eventually getting his way when it came to Pride,” Martin said. “Bobby (was) a man who never gave up on Long Beach Pride — (he) never gave up on his family.”
Crow died of Stage 4 lung cancer on Friday, Sept. 29, at his Long Beach home, which he shared with his husband, Tony Almeida-Crow. He had been diagnosed with the disease in 2018.
The news was a blow to the Long Beach community at-large, but even more so to the city’s LGBTQ community — to which Crow had dedicated the bulk of his life and advocacy.
Crow, along with Judith Doyle and Marylin Barlow, founded the nonprofit Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Inc. — now Long Beach Pride — in 1983. It celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.
Just one year later, the city held its inaugural Pride Parade — which over the next four decades became one of the biggest and most popular LGBTQ celebrations in the nation.
Crow himself was actively involved in organizing the festival until last year, when he decided to finally take a break to tend to his health issues.
Bob Crow was born on Aug. 29, 1945, in Alabama. He lived there for much of his early life. But he didn’t come out until he moved to Mobile, which had more of a gay scene than any other city he’d lived in up until then.
Crow later moved to Long Beach and began working at a bar called The Executive Suite. That’s Long Beach Pride’s co-founding trio met and eventually secured funding from the bar’s owner to launch the inaugural Pride Parade.
That inaugural parade took place in 1984. About 600 people marched in the short parade, a mere preview of what the event would evolve into over the coming 40 years.
Pride has changed in more ways than just its name since then, though its significance to Long Beach’s LGBTQ community remains — especially in recent years, as the community has dealt with a dramatic spike in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation nationwide.
Crow’s activism for his community, though, wasn’t limited to organizing the Pride parade.
The Long Beach Pride nonprofit and parade formed during the height of the AIDS epidemic, and its creation helped unify the community toward a shared goal: Advocating for basic human rights for all LGBTQ people.
The nonprofit, for example, helped organize opposition to Proposition 64— a state ballot initiative that would have put AIDS back on the list of communicable diseases in the late ’80s.
Opponents feared that the proposition, if it became law, would cause HIV-positive folks to lose their jobs and force them into quarantine. The measure eventually failed.
Some Long Beach Pride members also participated in the 1987 March on Washington, which was among the largest LGBTQ rallies in history and was aimed at bringing awareness to the AIDS epidemic.
And later, the nonprofit advocated against California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure that sought to ban same-sex marriage statewide. Though the prop narrowly passed, a federal court invalidated it two years later.
Crow himself, meanwhile, received the Person of the Year award from the Consolidated Association of Pride in 2018 for his decades of advocacy for the LGBTQ community and his continued commitment to Long Beach Pride.
He, Doyle and Barlow also received keys to the city from former Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster in 2013.