Black Pride Festival

Black Pride Festival

Date Observed: Last weekend in May
Location: Washington, D.C.

The Black Pride Festival in Washington, D.C., is held in May over Memorial Day weekend each year. The District festival starts off a summer of Black Pride events that take place annually in cities across the United States.

Historical Background

Men and women in same-sex relationships and bisexual and transgendered people, whatever their ethnicity, have long suffered discrimination, harassment, and brutal assaults that sometimes have ended in death. But blacks who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (BLGBT) historically have been ostracized from African-American communities as well. Thus, BLGBT celebrations, which originated in Washington, D.C., have become a way to demonstrate pride as well as to educate and raise funds for programs that address health concerns such as HIV/AIDS.

Creation of the Festival

Black Pride began in 1975 as a party on Memorial Day weekend at a popular disco, the Clubhouse in Washington, D.C. Although everyone was welcome at the Clubhouse, patrons were primarily black gay men and lesbians. The annual party was originally called the Childrens Hour and was attended by hundreds of African-American gay men and lesbians.

In 1990 the Clubhouse closed because of financial problems and also because many of the staff had died of AIDS. Another group formed to concentrate on raising funds for the growing number of HIV-positive black men. In 1991 the group sponsored a Sunday Black Pride festival that brought in about $3,000 for organizations helping AIDS patients. After that event, the festival grew and became an annual Memorial Day Weekend celebration organized by the DC Black Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, Inc.

Observance

During the 1990s, the Black Pride celebration was held outdoors at Banneker Field. Each year rain disrupted the festivities, so in 2000, the festival moved indoors to the Washington Convention Center. About 15,000 people attended, and, according to organizers, it was the largest such event in the world.

Subsequent festivals have featured African-American recording artists, authors, and other notables. During the four-day event, there are workshops on health issues, Black Pride films, arts and crafts, and food vendors.

The Washington, D.C., festival has encouraged the development of Black Pride events in numerous other U.S. cities. The Philadelphia Black Gay Pride happens on the last weekend in April; the Windy City Pride is held in Chicago, Illinois, around July 4; the Central Florida Black Pride in Tampa takes place during the first weekend in August; and in Atlanta, Georgia, In the Life Atlanta organizes an annual Labor Day Gay Pride celebration. Other Prides take place from Baltimore, Maryland, to Miami, Florida, and from Detroit, Michigan, to Dallas, Texas.

Contacts and Web Sites

Central Florida Black Pride 3350 W. Hillsborough Ave. Tampa, FL 33614-5876

DC Black Pride Black Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, Inc. P.O. Box 77071 Washington, DC 20013 202-737-5767 or 866-94BLGPD

In The Life Atlanta, Inc. P.O. Box 7206 Atlanta, GA 30357 404-872-6410; fax: 404-506-9730

Philadelphia Black Gay Pride, Inc. c/o COLOURS, Inc. 1201 Chestnut St., 15th Fl. Philadelphia, PA 19107 215-496-0330; fax: 215-496-0354

Windy City Pride c/o TaskForce Prevention and Community Services 1130 S. Wabash, Ste. 404 Chicago, IL 60605 312-986-0661

Further Reading

Norton, Eleanor Holmes. "Honoring the 13th Annual DC Black Pride Celebration and Earl D. Fowlkes." Congressional Record, May 14, 2003. Smith, Rhonda. "Back in the Day: Former Clubhouse Patrons Reminisce about Popular Black Club." Washington Blade, May 27, 2005. .
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007