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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
August 10, 2007

Black Gay and Proud celebrates a week of varied events


Cleveland--A week of events marked the tenth anniversary of the Black, Gay and Proud Celebration, ranging from a cruise on Lake Erie to a jazz concert by Pamela Williams.

The celebration started with a jazz and poetry night sponsored by People of All Colors Together-Cleveland and Punané on July 31. A Better Place Restaurant hosted 150 people for the event, which brought out dozens of poets and singers.

The following night, 50 people attended the annual BGP Awards Ceremony at the AIDS Taskforce, although two of the awards, Best Female Impersonator and LGBT Community Ally, were given out the next night during the Family Cruise aboard the Nautica Queen.

The cruise was a joint venture between the Black, Gay and Proud Celebration and the National Association of Black and White Men Together annual convention, which was held in Cleveland this year from August 1 to 4. Around 220 people attended the cruise, which featured a large buffet and dancing, as well as a three-hour jaunt along the coast of Lake Erie.

A heavy rain squall earlier in the day caused trepidation about the voyage, but by the time the ship got underway, the skies were clear and the weather was hot.

While the Nautica Queen docks on the west bank of the Flats, Friday night’s party at the Tiki Bar was on the east bank of the Flats. The Bermuda Bash, which encouraged beach wear, drew 60 attendees.

Friday also saw the Youth Exchange, a health and wellness conference for queer youth aged 13-22. The Exchange was presented by the Beyond Identities Community Center, a program of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

Those who attended the whole day of the Exchange received free admission to the Lights, Camera, Action 3 Mini-Ball Extravaganza later that evening, while attending one session of the Exchange netted a half-price ticket to the ball.

On Saturday, the State of Black Gay America Symposium brought 50 people to Cleveland State University for two workshops, a video screening and a panel discussion. The first was a look at domestic violence in same-sex relationships presented by Detective Deirdre Jones, a 19-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department who has been in the domestic violence unit for the last six years.

Jake Nash then gave a presentation on transgender issues, speaking eloquently about the myths surrounding transgender people.

The film that followed, Boy I Am, continued his theme, showcasing a number of female-to-male transsexuals and centering around the decision to undergo breast removal surgery.

A panel discussion followed, with Jones, Nash and health and human services entrepreneur Wendy Stewart fielding questions from the audience.

Later that afternoon, Beyond Identities’ youth programming for the BGP celebration continued with a film festival at the Cleveland Signstage Theater.

However, the highlight of Saturday night was White Fantasia at A Better Place, a white-attire affair featuring a two-hour concert by “The Saxtress” Pamela Williams and her band. Eighty-five people, many of whom paid extra for VIP seating for the show, packed into the restaurant to see the sultry saxophonist perform.

The following morning started off bright and early with the gospel breakfast and “Raise the Roof” service at Archwood United Church of Christ.

It was a rainy, gloomy day, but that didn’t stop about 100 people from attending the family picnic at Kirtland Park. The party gained speed, however, when it returned to A Better Place for the closing ceremony in a venue where water didn’t pour from the sky; 125 people came to the restaurant.

“I think we had a wonderful week,” said committee member Rochelle McKenzie. “I just thought it was an incredibly diverse week in the type of events we had, from the jazz and poetry to the dinner dance with PACT, which I thought was awesome, to the Tiki Bar, which had a relaxed atmosphere, to the concert with Pamela.”

According to Williams, the downpour throughout most of Sunday did dampen the committee’s spirits.

“The only disappointment was the picnic, which we were all looking forward to, but the weather did not support that,” she said.

“All in all, it was a wonderful tenth anniversary,” she concluded.

The celebration was a trial by fire for the committee, which lost the leadership of last year’s organizer, Deb Sharp. However, members like Shanel Gibson, Rochelle McKenzie, and co-chairs Dena White and Karmel Gravely stepped up and steered the week of events to its fruition.

“I think the fact that we were able to do some events with PACT was really a fantastic opportunity,” McKenzie noted. “We got to network with those guys. We’re looking forward to working with Mike Kelley and those guys next year.”

“Although it was our tenth anniversary, because we had so many new people involved this year, I think it will be a pivotal year to making BGP more efficient and effective in the future,” she opined. “I’ve received a number of calls from people that want to be involved in the future, and I think they saw that we have a different vision for the future and it seems that they want on board with that, so I’m excited.”

Meetings for next year’s event should start within the next month. Those interested in helping can see the website,, for updates.



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