When the Palm Springs Pride Parade kicks off Sunday morning, an unsung hero will be leading the way. Third generation spoken word artist and Pentecostal-style storyteller and preacher Rev. Benita Ramsey will be one of this year’s grand marshals.
A composer of words, rhythms, and beats, Rev. Ramsey is an ordained minister and pastor at Unity Fellowship Church-IE and serves as both a program support manager for the Inland Empire HIV Planning Council and executive director of Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance.
“As the 2022 grand marshal, Benita Ramsey is recognized for their commitment and deep connection to the community,” said Ron deHarte, president & CEO of Palm Springs Pride. “We are especially proud of their leadership lifting area youth through the Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance.
“Benita is an unsung hero for our community—truly a champion working to improve the quality of life for others through health, spirituality, and empowerment.”
Rev Ramsey’s inspiration to help the LGBTQ community stems from a teenage memory of their father cradling their godbrother who was dying of AIDS. That moment started them on a journey of becoming an HIV activist, committed to the cause of reducing stigma within the African American community.
“I was struck by how loving he was looking at him,” Rev. Ramsey shared. “He was being so gentle.”
“All that we had heard about HIV was don’t touch ‘them.’ And here was my father, this big, burly, Pentecostal preacher, holding my godbrother in his arms, defying all of that stigma. And I asked my father in my childlike voice, ‘Why are you doing that?’ And my father’s reply to me was, is he not deserving of love?'”
Upon learning that they received the honor of being grand marshal at this year’s Pride Parade, Rev. Ramsey was both shocked and humbled. They took the honor as meaning there were others who were watching their efforts and wanting to celebrate the work that has been done on behalf of the community. Rev. Ramsey welcomes the honor in the celebration that there are spiritual leaders who are not just preaching on Sunday, but are very actively engaged in the community, Monday through Sunday.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we were actively involved in connecting people to resources, providing peer counseling services, providing virtual support to all members of our community” they said. “We helped, along with some other organizations, distribute over 400 tons of food throughout the region. So, this honor means our work has been effective, it has made a difference. It is a validation of the work. We are achieving the mission that we intended, which was to be of service to the community.”
Participating in the Pride Parade as grand marshal is a full circle moment for Rev. Ramsey, as the Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance hosted the very first two youth zones at Palm Springs Pride. That was a pivotal beginning that expanded beyond Rev. Ramsey’s imagination – only reaffirming the hope they have to continue their work for a promising tomorrow.