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|Black Gay Pride to include Piedmont Park festival|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|July 06, 2012 00:00|
Piedmont Park has long been a popular Sunday destination for Black Gay Pride revelers seeking a break from the hectic party schedule of the annual Labor Day Weekend celebration.
Now what began as an organic, informal gathering will become an organized event on the Black Gay Pride schedule.
This year, for the first time, there will be a “Pure Heat Community Festival” in Piedmont Park to include live entertainment, HIV testing, vendors and more.
The event will be sponsored by Traxx Girls and the Vision Community Foundation, a program of the Vision Church. Led by Bishop O.C. Allen — whose partner, Rashad Burgess, is the CDC’s Chief Capacity Branch Director of HIV/AIDS, STD & Tuberculosis — the Vision Church is an affirming congregation that welcomes LGBT worshippers.
While it is sure to draw comparisons to October’s Atlanta Pride, organizers say the Labor Day event will be unique.
“Atlanta Pride has been doing this for over 15 years and we’re not trying to piggyback on what they are doing,” says Avian Watson, director of communications and sponsorship for Traxx Girls Inc. and Pure Heat Atlanta Labor Day Pride Weekend.
Watson is also deputy director of the Vision Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works on such issues as helping the homeless, providing HIV testing, mentoring youth and offering a GED program. The foundation also works with Traxx Girls to raise funds for breast cancer research.
“And this is broader than just Black Gay Pride weekend. This is about community,” Watson adds.
Last year, an estimated 8,000 people gathered in Piedmont Park on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Watson said. Traxx Girls hosted a hospitality tent, giving out free water with a DJ spinning. This year they want to offer more to those in the park.
Money raised from the festival will go to the Vision Community Fund to use on its projects, such as helping the homeless, Watson says.
‘Vision’ of helping others
Last month, the Vision Community Foundation honored Grammy-winning artist Chrisette Michele for her work with the foundation, especially for helping neighborhoods plant gardens. Jennifer Holliday, the original Effie from “Dream Girls,” was also on hand to celebrate the Vision Community Foundation by singing and sharing her story of struggling with multiple sclerosis.
“We have fed over 4,000 people, equipped over 1,000 people with their HIV/AIDS status, graduated 10 adults from our GED Program all of which are in their second year of college, mentored and motivated youth, and work with Traxx Girls, Inc. to offset our Breast Cancer Initiative,” Watson says of VCF.
In addition to food, alcohol and merchandise vendors, there will be live entertainment from a Grammy-winning artist, a gospel showcase, hair competition, J-Sett competition and a DJ battle. House music will be played at the pavilion in the park where there will also be a dance floor.
Watson promises the festival would not take away from what has been happening in the park already for years. She hopes it will enhance the experience for people who enjoy Sunday in the park, whether they are from Atlanta or from across the U.S. coming to one of the largest Black Gay Pride events in the nation.
“We haven’t strayed away from what’s happened at the park. This is for the community and we need the community to step up. We need those who specialize in HIV testing, breast cancer, GED, education, literacy to step up because this is for them,” she says.
“Pride has 20-plus parties and [Sunday in the park] brings together 8,000 people in an unorganized fashion, so why not have the festival and all of us step up together?”
Top photo: Chrisette Michele (left), with Jennifer Holliday, was honored by the Vision Community Foundation last month for her work in helping the nonprofit. (by FreddyO.com)
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