By Kristen Johanson, Rahel Solomon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Sunday was the 25th OutFest in Center City — what organizers say is the largest National Coming Out Day event in the world, celebrating the city’s gay community and it also honored a gay rights champion.READ MORE: Ocean County Man Kevin Noonan Picking Up Furniture Hits, Kills Man, Then Flees, Authorities Say
“It’s a celebration of coming out,” says Elicia Gonzales — Executive Director of GALAEI ( the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative).
And of the city Mural Arts program, honoring gay civil rights leader Gloria Casarez, who died last year.
“Each of the pieces of the mural is a solid depiction of who she was,” says Gonzales.
The mural, painted on the wall of the 12th Street Gym, is close to being finished, and honors the work of Casarez.
READ MORE: COVID In Philadelphia: FEMA-Run Pennsylvania Convention Center Vaccination Site Extended For Additional 4 Weeks
Mayor Michael Nutter thought back to Casarez ‘s post as the city’s first director of LGBT affairs, even sharing personal stories of working with the Philadelphia native:
“I finally figured this out after some time that she loved to play tricks on me.”
The laughs were punctuated with more serious moments as well. Casarez – who died of breast cancer in 2014 – was widely thought of as a crusader for civil rights and LGBT issues — problems , friends say, that are still present today.
“She would want to make sure you knew about Keisha Jenkins , killed last week in Philadelphia, at least the 20th transgender woman to be murdered in the U.S. this year,” says Beth Larin, Casarez ‘s friend.
As for the celebration Sunday, streets were blocked off in the area known as the Gayborhood. Curb to curb there were games, food and booths, but Adam says it’s more than that:
“It’s not about the streets and the vendors, it’s about all the people who are here, and the feeling of comradery, acceptance, community.”
This was the first Outfest for Jamin:
“I am just here to be a part of the gays.”
To Jessica, it’s a holiday:
“It is the most wonderful time of the year, it’s October, it’s beautiful and everyone is just out and celebrating.”MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Weather: Scattered Showers Expected To Move Into Region Wednesday Night
Casarez ‘s mural will be complete in about a month.