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|Black Gay Pride celebrates community, culture|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|August 29, 2012 11:51|
Every year, Atlanta Black Gay Pride makes headlines for its headliners. But there is another side of Pride that invites attendees to come together to think about how to empower the community, plus celebrate identity through cultural events like author readings and film screenings.
This year, Pride goers can also visit Piedmont Park to participate in organized activities and free, live entertainment.
Far from criticizing nightlife, two of Black Gay Pride’s major community events are put on by leaders who also organize club events. This year perhaps sparks a movement to bring both sides of the coin together.
Summit focuses on 'collective change'
The State of Black Gay America Summit, set for Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Melia Hotel, aims to come up with answers rather than focus on questions, according to co-founder Darlene
Hudson. The event is put on in conjunction with Xtreme Entertainment, which also promotes nightlife events.
“We try to bring solutions and not just highlight problems in our community,” Hudson says. “We will also talk about the power of the people and talk about resilience and how we deal with oppression and how it helps us find our voice.”
This year, past panelist Je-Shawna C. Wholley, a Spelman alumna who has been recognized for her work on behalf of LGBT people by the Human Rights Campaign and the National Black Justice Coalition, will be the keynote speaker at the summit. Wholley is a senior fellow with the NBJC and while at Spelman she was the president of Afrekete, the LGBT student group.
A special guest appearance will be made by Keith Boykin, a New York Times best selling author, BET columnist, contributor to CNBC, MSNBC and CNN, and former White House aide to President Bill Clinton. He is also editor of the anthology, "For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough."
The theme for this year's summit is “Embracing Our Collective Power to Influence Change. It will include five “power panel” discussions on the Affordable Care Act, how to fund progressive organizations and support political allies, faith, prevention and research and also resilience in the black gay communities.
The summit will include a special tribute to Rudolph P. Byrd of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference at Emory University, a gay scholar who studied modern day civil rights and died in 2011.
Panel discussions are free. A lunch special is available for purchase to include keynote speakers. The summit takes place from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
In the Life Atlanta celebrates 'Sweet 16'
In the Life Atlanta, a nonprofit dedicated to organizing Black Gay Pride events, celebrates its “Sweet 16” of community involvement in 2012.
“We are the cultural side of Pride,” says Rickie Smith, board member of ITLA.
Each year, ITLA produces a film festival, a literary cafe, a candlelight vigil to remember those who have died, a fashion show as well a marketplace for vendors to sell their crafts. All events take place at the Melia Hotel unless otherwise stated.
ITLA events and parties kick off on Friday, Aug. 31, at the Melia with an opening ceremony at 8 p.m. featuring filmmaker Maurice Jamal followed by the sexy and erotic SpeakFire erotic poetry readings beginning at midnight.
“This is truly an adult show,” Smith says.
There will also be a Health Expo on Saturday, Sept. 1, at the hotel with 26 vendors providing free health screenings and HIV testing, Smith says.
Craig Washington of AID Atlanta says AID Atlanta programs Deeper Love and the Evolution Project, which target black gay men, will join the ITLA Health Expo to provide HIV testing as well as pass out safer sex kits.
“We'll also be hosting a lounge discussion at the ITLA marketplace (Friday, Aug. 31, from 6-10 p.m.) — to allow for free flowing discussion with attendees. This gives people a chance to discuss issues relevant to them in a way that's not so starchy, formal,” Washington says.
There will be plenty of time for introspection with the Literary Cafe on Sept. 1 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. featuring Tim'M and Chris Beckwith, author of “Raw.” Also on hand will be author Daniel Black of Clark University with his book “A Perfect Peace.”
Another major event is the See Us in the Life Film Festival on Sept. 1 from 2-10 p.m. The major red carpet film showing at 6:30 p.m. is “Finding Me: Truth,” a romantic drama and sequel to “Finding Me” that focuses on a group of tight-knit friends in Jersey City.
ITLA closes out its festivities with a fashion show on Sunday, Sept. 2, from 8 p.m. to midnight. That same night, ITLA hosts the second annual White Party by “Tha Bigdogs” that “caters to the big men of color and all of their admirers.”
Pure Heat in Piedmont Park
Sundays in Piedmont Park have always been a place for black gay people to gather, have picnics and barbecues.
Over Labor Day weekend, the park gets even more crowded and celebratory. This year, however, Traxx Girls and the Vision Community Foundation wanted to harness the community energy into something positive. They are organizing the first Pure Heat Community Festival that will include gospel singing, a hair competition, a J-Sette competition, live musical entertainment and more.
Headlining the event is KeKe Wyatt, who has a gold album, “Soul Sista,” from 2001 and in 2010 became a spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence after surviving an abusive relationship.
“People already congregate there so we wanted to bring some unity,” says Melissa Scott of Traxx Girls.
The fest is meant to unite the community, Scott stressed, and she hopes local politicians will attend and non-profit groups will have time on the stages to share information about their organizations.
The pavilion in the park across from the pool will have House music playing all day and will be a memorial to those who have passed, including Durand Robinson, the owner of Traxx Atlanta who was shot and killed in Atlanta in 2010. His killing has not been solved. There will be HIV testing available at the pavilion as well.
Darlene Hudson, organizer of the State of Black Gay America Summit, praised Traxx and Traxx Girls and other nightlife participants for organizing the festival in the park because it shows “solidarity” between the club scene and community organizers.
“You all are setting precedent,” Hudson says.
Washington of AID Atlanta, who will be at the fest with others providing HIV testing, added also this festival was a long time coming.
“Too long there has been the perception of divided camps — the party kids and workshop/ activists kids,” he added. “But this is a social event to bring us all together.
“Plus, back LGBT people — we need to see each other in the light and outdoors,” he adds with a laugh.
Top photo: Left to right: Je-Shawna Wholley is this year’s keynote speaker at the State of Black Gay America Summit on Sept. 1. KeKe Wyatt headlines the Pure Heat Community Festival in Piedmont Park on Sept. 2 while Derek J of ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ fame will judge a hair competition at the park festival. (Wholley and Wyatt photos via Facebook; Derek J publicity photo).
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