Grammy Award winner Thelma Houston and actor Wendell James will act as grand marshals for the 33rd Annual Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade, organizers announced last week. The parade will commence on Sunday, May 22 at 10:30AM.
Houston, a Long Beach native, and James, an actor on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Raising Whitley, will round out a slew of events scheduled for Long Beach’s annual Pride Parade and weekend. Such events include a mass LGBT wedding ceremony, called LOVE WINS, kicking off at 9:30AM at Ocean Boulevard and Lindero Avenue, and a performance by Neon Trees on the main stage that Sunday, May 22.
"I am thrilled to return to Long Beach and to be a part of one of the world's largest gay parades,” said Houston in a statement. "We have been supporting each other for so long that I consider the LGBT community my family and I love that fact that I can continue to give back," continued Houston.
The diva is known for belting out a cover of the song “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” winning a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. She’s also
landed on the today show, in addition to performances on ABC and PBS with Aretha Franklin and Mary Wilson. Houston has also earned praise from the City of West Hollywood for her work in battling HIV/AIDS.
Wendell James is known for his role as the “Hollywood Husband” to Emmy-nominated actress Kym Whitley on Raising Whitley. One episode of the show in particular delves into James’ own struggle with his sexuality and religious beliefs. The episode propelled him to become more vocal in the community regarding LGBT awareness, according to the release.
"We all have some sort of struggle in life and we all want to be heard, but some people are just too afraid to speak out for fear of what others may think,” said James in a statement. “I lived with my struggle long enough until I spoke out and not only did it help me but, it helped others, so I decided to use my platform to speak for those who can't.”
Long Beach pride wrapped up the weekend with over 80,000 attendees last year, according to the release.
Organizers and city officials expressed excitement for this year’s series of events, however, with intentions to make this the biggest Pride extravaganza yet. They were particularly eager for the LOVE WINS event.
"We are truly excited about the ruling and we wanted to share this excitement with our community by offering this free service," said Frank Rubio, Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride president in a statement. "This is a great way to celebrate our solidarity in pride."
Long Beach’s own City Clerk’s Office will participate in the festivities as well.
"I am thrilled to participate in this momentous event that celebrates union and equality for all of Long Beach, as well as, our county," said Long Beach City Clerk Maria de la Luz Garcia in a statement. "Marriage is a sacred union that makes our community strong and I am delighted to give my service to this spectacular event."