San Diego’s Imperial Court celebrated its 48th annual coronation on February 8 at Mission Valley’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. Neutral Corner’s executive board was present to show support for both the Court and newly elected Empress Venice Price (aka Lady Pepper Diamond) and Emperor Randy Saunders Too.

The Imperial Court System is one of the oldest LGBTQ nonprofit organizations, and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for many charities and causes. It was originally founded in San Francisco in 1965 by Jose Julio Sarria. The San Diego chapter of the Imperial Court was established half a decade later in 1971.

The Court operates in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This year’s coronation was inaugurated by a color guard presentation of flags from all three countries, as well as the Rainbow Flag, Pink and Blue trans flag, and Leather Community black/ blue/red heart flag. In addition, the US, Mexican, and Canadian national anthems were sung.

Attendees from Imperial Court Chapters around the continent were in attendance. One attendee said they arrived, “To join you in homage and service to the community”. Emperors, Empresses, and assorted Royalty came from both Mexico and Canada, as well as across the United States: Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Ohio, Florida, New York and Washington DC. Chapters in California came from Long Beach, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

Imperial Court events are marked by great pageantry. Empresses from various courts appeared in full ballgowns with long trains, jeweled tiaras, choker necklaces, mantle capes, even Elizabethan neck ruffs. Emperors wore crowns, brocaded jackets or tunics with gold braid or silver piping, epaulettes, medals, and livery chains. Music included skirling bagpipes, as well as many trumpet and flute regal-sounding songs. One memorable tune was the Fanfare-Rondeau by French composer Jean-Joseph Mouret (It’s better known as the introduction to the British television series Masterpiece Theatre). And of course, royal standard banners and scepters.

The focus of the event was on LGBTQ community support. Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Queen Mother I of the Americas, said “We aren’t [just] about crowns and gowns, we are the heart and soul of the [LGBTQ] community…We at the court system know there are no borders when it comes to our community”.

Nicole The Great (her official title) noted that one of the first caravans of refugees from Latin America to reach the United States had 100 LGBT members. The court raised $10,000 to provide them with food and medicine. In addition, the Imperial Court has contributed $2000 to the National Latino History project in Washington DC, as well as continued work over the decades with the Tijuana AIDS project. Other local charities receiving Imperial Court assistance include The Toni Atkins Lesbian Health Fund, The Harvey Milk Student Scholarship Program, the Queen Eddie Youth Fund, and the Winter Blanket Drive for the homeless. And the Imperial Court has shown a great deal of support for the San Diego transcommunity. The court partnered with Neutral Corner to fund and support TransPride events in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Outgoing Emperor Darnelle Williams summed it up best, saying: “Nonprofit work isn’t easy, but it is so necessary, and I thank you all for working hard to keep Mother Jose [Sarria’s] dream alive”.

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