The Georgia Straight

Four grand marshals chosen for Vancouver Pride parade

- By Charlie Smith

In March, a Surrey educator was honoured by Spice Radio for her efforts to counter racism in the community. Annie Ohana is the founder of Mustang Justice, which was named after the mustang mascot at L. A. Matheson secondary, where she teaches.

In an interview with Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt after receiving one of the station’s antiracism awards, Ohana talked about her passion for countering prejudice. She said that from the first year she arrived at the school, she felt there was a need for students to focus more attention on social-justice issues.

And she believes that dialogue is essential in bringing the community forward.

“I’m not a trans person; I don’t know that experience,” Ohana said. “I can talk to someone about it rather than say, ‘Trans kids shouldn’t use washrooms.’ ”

Ohana has always ensured that LGBT+ kids were at the centre of these efforts— and that was demonstrat­ed when some of them were interviewe­d on the station when she won her award.

“It’s a club within a school,” Ohana said of Mustang Justice. “We definitely go into the community.”

Spice Radio isn’t the only organizati­on honouring Ohana this year. She’s also one of four grand marshals of the Vancouver Pride Parade, which returns to the West End on July 31.

Historical­ly, grand marshals have been people with the LGBT+ community or associated with groups that act on its behalf. Ohana, a cis-pansexual community activist, is being recognized for putting LGBT+ students at the forefront of her work. In fact, sexual orientatio­n and gender identity are two of the intersecti­onal lenses that she applies in helping make space for all students and elevating their voices.

Another of the grand marshals is a queer Indigenous woman of Squamish and Kwakwaka’wakw ancestry, Tiyáltelut Kristen Rivers. She’s an elected member of the Squamish Nation Council, playing a key role in creating the first Indigenous rental-assistance program for off-reserve members to help offset the impact of sky-high apartment costs.

In addition, Rivers has promoted a “Living Wages for Families” certificat­ion as chair of her nation’s human resources committee. This year, she was elected to the board of Vancity credit union.

Another grand marshal is the Dogwood Monarchist Society, which became a nonprofit under provincial legislatio­n in the 1970s. This enabled it to not only promote social interactio­n in the LGBT+ community but also to advocate for a democratic monarchy.

Since then, the Dogwood Monarchist Society has raised a great deal of money to address issues of concern, including the HIV crisis of the 1980s. Nowadays, it’s supporting the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Friends for Life Society, Options for Sexual Health, and Qmunity.

Pride parades around the world are known for their razzle-dazzle, which is what another grand marshal brings in abundance. Empress Fancy Pants, the 50th elected empress of the city, operates a “Ministry of JOYous community service and sacred activism”, according to the Vancouver Pride Society website.

Empress Fancy Pants was one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence six years ago and later went on to become Ms. Gay Vancouver 40. One of her greatest accomplish­ments has been to go on cycling treks for hundreds of kilometres to raise funds for worthy causes, bedecked in full drag and makeup.

“Known for her unique aesthetic, she brings a refreshing take on drag and fundraisin­g,” the website states. “Her manga-style makeup has helped her bring awareness to many causes, locally and internatio­nally. She has fundraised for and participat­ed in HIV/AIDS related events in Thailand, Australia and all over USA.”

 ?? ?? Teacher Annie Ohana (left) won an antiracism award earlier this year from broadcaste­r Shushma Datt’s Spice Radio; later this month, Ohana can add Pride “grand marshal” to her list of honours.
Teacher Annie Ohana (left) won an antiracism award earlier this year from broadcaste­r Shushma Datt’s Spice Radio; later this month, Ohana can add Pride “grand marshal” to her list of honours.

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