Cleveland--A new name, new events, new partners, new locations, and an expansion to a full week proved a potent combination for what was formerly known as the Black Unity Pride Celebration.
Rechristened the Black, Gay and Proud Celebration, the August 1 to 7 celebration was turned from a four-day weekend of events into a complete week of Pride festivities for the African American same-gender loving community.
The opening night reception, held in Hovorka Atrium on the Case Western Reserve University campus, brought in over 100 people, while a similar number turned out the following night for a screening of the preliminary edit of Black, Gay and Proud in Cleveland, a documentary made specifically for the event, as well as That’s My Face (E Minha Cara), exploring differing conceptions of blackness in Africa and America. Both events were presented by BlackOut Unlimited, the first with the cooperation of the CWRU Center for Women.
“We also used some straight facilities,” said BlackOut Unlimited interim executive director Jon Everett, “like A Sharp’s Night Out, which is a straight jazz club. They opened their doors to us for Harlem Nights, and the owner, Tim Sharp, said that he can’t wait until next year.”
“It just shows the diversity we have in Cleveland,” Everett said.
Harlem Nights on August 3 brought out around 120 people.
The traditional evening of the arts, this year presented by People of All Colors Together-Cleveland, drew about 70 people to Hamilton’s martini bar on August 4.
The following night, Da Brothas and Da Sistas’ Red Hott Affair, a new red-attire party featuring music by DJ Bud McFarland, drew 150 people to Casa di Borally in Richmond Heights on the east side of Cleveland.
On Saturday evening, the return of the Cleveland Friendship Committee’s White Fantasia party brought 240 people to the Health Museum in Cleveland, where they danced, ate and listened to the song stylings of Reggie Kelly, and later, headliner singer Terisa Griffin.
Earlier in the day, 50 people came out to Ford Auditorium on the CWRU campus for the State of Black Gay America Symposium: It’s a She Thang, featuring an all-female panel that included Gail McWilliams of the National Organization of Women, motivational speaker Andrea Harvey, comedian Karen Williams and Donna Payne, diversity director of the Human Rights Campaign.
Sunday, August 7, however, was the busiest day of the week, beginning with a gospel service presented by Cleveland Black Pride at Archwood United Church of Christ that drew 200 worshippers, almost 20 percent more than attended in 2004.
Following the service, over 400 people gathered at Kirtland Park, just off the Shoreway, for the annual Community Picnic. It was the event’s second year at Kirtland after having moved from Edgewater Park on the west side.
The week ended with a free closing party at Club 2527 presented by Tony Smith. An estimated 200 people attended the party.
“To say that we were pleased with the turnout for the events is an understatement,” Everett enthused. “When the committee decided to go for seven days as opposed to the traditional four days, we were concerned about the events earlier in the week, but when we saw that the opening reception on Monday was packed, we knew had done the right thing.”
“It proves that if you build it, they will come,” he said, wryly quoting the film Field of Dreams.
“Another thing that we were really proud of was the diversity. The event is called Black, Gay and Proud, but the diversity of the people attending events and the groups involved really helped build a sense of community,” he noted, pointing to the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, the Center for Women, CWRU’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center and PACT.
“All these groups are not specifically African American, and that shows that while we were supporting the African American LGBT community, we were supporting the LGBT community as a whole,” Everett noted.
“We also wanted to make sure that we had equal representation of gay men, lesbians and transgendered people,” he continued. “Too often these Prides turn into male-dominated events and the transgendered community is totally left out, and we had everyone represented.”
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