23 Jun Pinole’s Pride Day Made Possible by Mayor, Cultural Shift, Council Member Says
At 23 years old, Cameron Sasai is Pinole’s youngest-ever City Council member. “To me, they’re like family,” he says of the LGBTQ+ community. (Screenshot via cameronsasai.com)
Interview, Kimyatta Newby
Editor’s note: The city of Pinole hosted its first official Pride celebration June 11. City Council member Cameron Sasai, 23, — the youngest council member in Pinole’s history — spoke to The CC Pulse about how the event came to be as well as what the LGBTQ+ community means to him as an ally. This conversation has been lightly edited.
The CC Pulse: Pinole had its first Pride celebration June 11. How did that come about?
Cameron Sasai: The city of Pinole’s Pride Day was made possible by the leadership of our mayor, Devin Murphy. Mayor Murphy made history as Pinole’s youngest and first Black, (first) openly gay mayor elected by Pinole. He took the initiative to champion the creation of the event from the ideation early this year, securing the funds for our city to carry out the vision.
We’ve been going through a period of exceptional growth in our city, from production of more affordable housing to actions focused on climate change. We are shifting culturally. Only four years ago, which predates not only Mayor Murphy but (also) my time here, the Pride flag was approved for flying but not without pushback from other council members and the community. Now, we have a more diverse council who more than ever before is representative of our changing demographic and who participate in events such as the city of Pinole’s Pride Day.
RP: What do Pride and the LGBTQ+ community mean to you?
CS: As an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride is an opportunity to celebrate a community who show resilience, strength and unity in the face of immense discrimination and adversity. I’ve always been inspired by the stories of LGBTQIA+ folks that I’ve met in Pinole and by the leadership of community organizers that challenged anti-LGBT prejudice in such a way that dismantled the systemic barriers to their safety and acceptance. Those values of resistance are so important to continue on.
Pride is also a constant reminder that I have a responsibility to reach out to and listen to the LGBTQIA+ community and learn about how I can support their needs. Especially as a person of faith, I believe in protecting the dignity and human rights of all people, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Pride, for me, is always going to be an opportunity to love our precious LGBTQIA+ siblings and set an example for faith communities who, knowingly or unknowingly, dehumanize LGBTQIA+ people.
To me, they are family. I have family members who are openly lesbian, gay and trans, both here and in the Philippines. The LGBTQIA+ community also happens to be some of the folks who supported me the most in my election to public office, and this includes individuals who served on my campaign team in leadership positions, mentored me through the process of running for City Council, and even volunteered to knock on doors alongside me.
RP: Are there any local organizations that you want to tell people about?
CS:I want to shout-out both the Contra Costa Young Democrats and the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County. I’m more involved with the CCYD, but both organizations are supportive of LGBTQIA+ issues at the local, county, state and federal levels, and it’s also a place where LGBTQIA+ leaders can expand their impact on the community. I highly recommend getting involved and building power through these avenues.
RP: How does it make you feel to hear about the “Don’t Say Gay” and anti-trans bills around the county?
CS: Hearing about the “Don’t Say Gay” bills and other anti-queer bills is disheartening. As time goes on, we expect things to get better for marginalized communities, but we’re experiencing a time in history where we’re more politically polarized than ever before.
However, I also feel a sense of confidence seeing young, driven LGBTQIA+ leaders and allies stepping up to the plate all across the United States and running for office. This is a new generation of leadership in our country who is loud and proud to speak up against anti-LGBT legislation and support more inclusive and equitable policies.
RP: How do you engage with and support LGBTQ+ youth as an elected official?
CS: I try my best to engage with and show up for our youth here in Pinole, in big ways and small ways. When it comes to our high school students, I’m reminded that it’s only been a few years since I was in the exact same place as them, and this gives me the chance to really connect with them and affirm their potential as change-makers in our community. In my six months serving on the Pinole City Council, I’ve taken the initiative to appoint well-qualified LGBTQ people, young leaders and people of color to our city commissions, and I actively try to encourage people of diverse backgrounds to apply to our different commissions and be more involved in their local government.