Monday, August 17, 2009

Black Pride Times Two

Sharp contrasts in attendance, organization of Black Prides in NYC

Written by Nathan James

The summer of 2008 was a difficult time for the LGBT community of color in New York City. Following the executive-management collapse at People Of Color in Crisis (POCC), the annual Black Gay Pride Weekend, Pride In The City, was abruptly canceled the day before it was scheduled to begin. Thousands of people arrived at the venues for PITC, only to find no events, and no explanations. It was therefore a topic of great interest as to whether 2009 would see any Black Pride events at all. Much to our surprise, there were two Black
Gay Prides in NYC during the past two weekends.

The first of these was
Jubilation, organized by Lee Soulja and sponsored by Gay Men Of African Descent (GMAD). Held during the traditional Pride In The City [first] weekend in August, Jubilation was put together on very short notice, but it was quite successful. Beginning with a reception on Friday, July 31, a picnic Saturday in Commodore Barry Park, and ending on Sunday, August 2, with the Black Gay Expo, it was a tour-de-force. On Sunday, there were screen presentations of Christopher Street TV, and a stage show with a lineup of rappers, poets and literary figures, hosted by actor and comedian Reginald L. Barnes. Among the performers were songstress Chelly, rappers King Jabbar, Baron, and Eric Joppy, male impersonators Dred Gerestant and Stefon Royce, eye-candy dancer Marck Angel, authors Nathan James and Renair Amin, and Out Music producer and singer Deepa Soul.

A Mr. Jubilation model search contest was also held, with $200, and a spot on black gay author Blair Poole's next book cover going to the audience-chosen winner. The overriding theme of Jubilation was a celebration of LGBT people of color, and this was carried off to good effect by the organizers, with centrally-located venues, positive themes, and, as Lee Soulja stated, "a strong message of self-love and HIV prevention". Jubilation closed out the following weekend with
Fire Island Black Out as its official beach party. Attendees generally agreed that all of the Jubilation events lived up to their billing. It is clear that Lee and the Jubilation staff are off to a good start.

A week after Jubilation held its Manhattan events, a new HIV/AIDS outreach organization held several events under the familiar Pride In The City (PITC) banner used by POCC in years past. The new group, Atlanta-based
National AIDS Services and Education for Minorities (NAESM), opened its Brooklyn branch offices and began their PITC events with a reception and Grand Opening on Thursday, August 6. They hosted a catered reception in their Atlantic Avenue building, where attendees met CEO Rudolph Carn, Acting Executive Director Craig Cobb, and several other executive managers. They outlined NAESM's mission statement and goals, and engaged the community members in dialogue about ways to achieve their aims. The official PITC reception, Expressions, was held on Friday in Brooklyn, at Langston's, followed by a kickoff party at Secrets in Manhattan. The next day was NAESM's Family Day in The Park at Prospect Park. Attendance at all of the PITC events was sparse, possibly a result of poor publicity, no booked performers, and the overshadowing of Jubilation the week before. A planned Beach Party on Sunday, August 9, was a washout due to stormy weather. Still, NAESM organizers pronounced PITC a success, and Director Craig Cobb insisted "our events will be bigger and better next year."

2009 will be remembered as the year Black Pride returned to New York City in full force, with Manhattan venues (a first for Black Gay Prides in NYC), dedicated community and artistic people engaging to celebrate our diversity and beauty, and twice as many opportunities for LGBT people of color to be out and PROUD. Long may this continue to be so.

Nathan James
Photos Courtesy of

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