What started out in Washington, D.C., as the only
Black Gay Pride event in the country in 1990 has grown to
more than 35 gatherings, nationwide.
Starting in April and going through October
of each year, more than 300,000 LGBTQ people of African descent
rev up for a weekend of social and cultural events. Just last
year, more than 350,000 attended Black Gay Pride events throughout
the U.S., with the largest events held in Washington, D.C.,
Los Angeles and Atlanta, and smaller Black Pride events like
the one in Boston providing an equally important sense of
identity and cultural heritage.
Sunday gospel brunches, Saturday night poetry
slams, Friday fashion shows, bid whist tournaments, house
parties, soul food, Caribbean cuisine
and beautiful displays of African art and clothing are just
some of the cultural markers that make Black Pride distinct.
But cultural exclusion was just one of a few
things gay revelers of African descent experienced in Pride
events. Racism is the other. And so after decades of Pride
events where many gays of African descent tried to be included
and were rejected, Black Gay Pride was born.
“We are not seeing ourselves culturally represented
at Pride. We want to show not only ourselves, but the larger
LGBT community we are out here and taking control of our lives.
Black Gay Pride New England speaks to who we are, and it represents
the substance that pertains to our lives,” Philip Robinson,
a teacher and community activist told me in June 2001.
Seven years later that sentiment remains. And
subsequently as we all rev up each year for Pride so, too,
unfortunately, do the fault lines of race and class.
The growing gulf between whites and blacks,
rich and poor can be seen in the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was
once an entire LGBTQ community problem and is now predominately
a black one.
example of our division can be seen in the white gay ghettos
that have developed and thrived safely in neighborhoods throughout
the country. However, with homophobia in black communities,
where most of us reside, we cannot carve out a black queer
ghetto within our existing neighborhoods and expect to realistically
many LGBTQ people of African decent and Latinos argue that
the gulf between whites and them is also dominant queer community
rewrote and continues to control the history of Stonewall. The
Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York City, started on the
backs of working-class African-American and Latino queers
who patronized that bar. Those brown and black LGBTQ people
are not only absent from the photos of that night, but they
are also bleached from its written history.
Because racial prejudice was a dominant oppression
all black people faced - straight or queer - during the troubling
black civil rights era of the 1960's, Dr. Gerri Outlaw, an
openly lesbian African-American professor of social work at
Governors State University, just outside of Chicago, said,
"Had those patrons been white the cops would have harassed
them, but there would not have been a riot."
Because of the bleaching of the Stonewall Riots,
the beginnings of LGBTQ movement post-Stonewall is an appropriation
of black and brown queer liberation narrative absent of black
and brown people. And it is the visible absence of these black,
brown and yellow LGBTQ people that makes it harder for white
queers to confront their racism.
Our themes for Black Pride events are different
from the larger Pride events. Black
Pride focuses on issues not solely pertaining to gays, but
also on social, economic and health issues impacting the entire
black community. For example, where the primary focus and
themes in white Prides have been on marriage equality, gay
people of African descent have used Pride events to focus
on HIV/AIDS, other health issues, gang violence and youth
homelessness, to name only a few.
By 1999, Black Pride events had grown into
the International Federation of Black Prides, Inc. (IFBP).
The IFBP is a coalition of 29 Black Pride organizations across
the country. It formed to promote an African multicultural
and multinational network of LGBTQ/Same Gender Loving Pride
events and community-based organizations dedicated to building
solidarity, health and wellness and promoting unity throughout
In recognizing the need to network and build
coalitions beyond its immediate communities, IFBP announced
in April the formation of the Black/Brown Coalition.
purpose of the National Black and Brown Summit is to identify
areas for potential collaboration between African-American
and Latino LGBT communities, leaders, organizations and grassroots
movements, said Earl Fowlkes, president of the IFBP.
BLACK PRIDE IS an invitation for the community
to connect its political activism with its celebratory acts
of song and dance in the fight for LGBTQ justice.
The Bible is replete with examples of oppressed
groups parading in the streets while struggling for their
freedom. For example, “the Song of Mariam,” in Exodus 15:19-21
celebrates the Israelites crossing the Red
Sea while they still journeyed in the wilderness toward the
The Promised Land for all LGBTQ citizens is
full acceptance into society and Black Pride plays an important
role in fulfilling that promise.
Black Pride contributes to the multicultural
aspect of joy and celebration that symbolizes not only our
uniqueness as individuals and communities, but also affirms
our varied expressions of LGBTQ life in America.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe is
a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. A native
of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College
and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and
served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming
to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow.
Reverend Monroe is the author of the soon-to-be-released
Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible
Prayers for Not-So-Everyday Moments. Click on the above link to order now at pre-release
pricing. As an African American feminist theologian, she speaks
for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her
website is irenemonroe.com.
to contact the Rev. Monroe.