SAN DIEGO — Honoring a beloved San Diegan on what would have been his 77th birthday, Larry Baza died last weekend of COVID-19. He was a longtime champion of the arts and he was also a vocal advocate for Latino and LGBTQ rights on the local, state, and national level.
In a 1994 interview with News 8 about a court hearing excluding the so-called homophobic group “Normal People” from the San Diego Pride parade Larry said, "I believe in this country and the rights its holds for people to express themselves.”
The judge ruled in favor of Pride. At that time, Baza blazed a trail for Latinos and LGBTQ and became the first of two people of color to co-chair San Diego Pride.
Bob Leyh knew Baza during his time serving in Pride but it was when they served together on the board of the then Democratic Club now called Democrats for Equality that Leyh says Baza was always welcoming no matter your opinion.
“Larry once said to me, it's OK to disagree. It's not OK to be disagreeable. And that's what Larry was about,” said Leyh, San Diego Pride Programs Manager.
Baza and his husband Tom Noel owned Noel-Baza Fine Art Gallery in Little Italy. Since his passing there’s been an outpouring of tributes on social media for Baza and his service to the community.
On Wednesday, Congresswoman Sara Jacobs spoke of Baza on the House floor supporting the Equality Act.
“Larry demanded justice and equality and dignity for all, I urge my colleagues to support the equality act,” said Rep. Jacobs (D-San Diego).
He was a part of countless culture and arts programs and boars, the Chicano Federation, Centro Cultural de la Raza. He was the chair of the California Arts Council and San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.
Tuesday night, during a virtual San Diego Unified School board meeting, Superintendent Cindy Marten gave an emotional tribute to his dedication to the district’s Visual and Performing Arts Program (VAPA).
“Larry's legacy of advocating for arts education in San Diego unified will absolutely love on and continue to impact the lives of our precious students,” said Marten.
Larry Baza will be remembered as a champion of art, culture and activism.
“He led the cause. He helped move the cause forward. And for me, Larry will always be a champion of Pride,” said Leyh.
Larry Baza will be laid to rest in a private service. There will be a celebration of life once COVID-health restrictions are lifted.