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August 15, 2008

'We had a ball' at Black
Gay and Proud weekend

Cleveland--The eleventh Black, Gay and Proud Celebration set Cleveland on fire from July 31 to August 3, bringing out over 600 people during the four days of events.

The festival started off with a poetry slam at the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland on July 31. Over 60 people packed into the meeting room at the Taskforce as more and more chairs were brought in to accommodate them.

The spoken word ranged from humorous works about growing up in the nineties, filled with references to the clothes, television and music of that bygone decade, to defiant tales of difficult upbringings, to a take on different faces of the black community that called to mind Nina Simone’s song “Four Women.”

The evening included an open-mike portion as well as an established line-up, which included DJ Dr. Philgood, a rapper-turned-DJ who handled the music for the White Fantasia on August 1.

Around 85 people boarded the Majestic party yacht for the White Fantasia party.

“We had a ball on the boat!” said BGP committee member Dena White. “We had a great dinner, dancing to one of the hottest DJs and drinks were flowing.”

She pointed out that popular performer Devinity even gave an impromptu show during the cruise, which traveled to and fro along the shores of Lake Erie and went about a mile out into the lake.

About halfway through the cruise, partygoers were treated to two light shows. Fireworks on the shore preceded a massive display of lightning further out over the lake, which at times lit the sky as bright as day.

“Ticket sales were slow initially, but we gained momentum and sold out the boat during that last week,” said Lena Roberts, another board member. “Everyone had a blast!”

The following night, the Sweat Party saw the return of DJ Robbie Rob and a move to a new venue, the warehouse facility of Flex Bathhouse. The separate location allows Flex to admit women, and it was used last April for some Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend events. Over a hundred people attended the dance party.

While Saturday’s State of Black Gay America symposium was postponed to a yet-to-be-decided date in the fall, the traditional Sunday events, the gospel brunch and service and the community picnic, both proceeded as planned.

The brunch and service at Archwood United Church of Christ brought in about 50 people, similar to previous years.

Picnic attendance is a little harder to tally, since it was spread out across a park--and two others. The family picnic was held in Cleveland Lakefront State Park, which stretches for ten miles along the shore, made up of several former city parks with individual names.

The picnic was held in Gordon Park, but in the section of the park close to the ranger station, north of the Interstate 90 Shoreway. However, many people think “Gordon Park” refers only to the portion with the softball fields, south of the Shoreway. Signs off of Lake Shore Blvd. and Martin Luther King Drive refer to the north part as “Gordon Boat Ramp” and simply, “Gordon.”

So while family and friends gathered near the lake, other clutches of people were picnicking south of the highway.

A third group reportedly gathered at Edgewater Park, also in the state park but six miles to the west. Word had gotten out that this was the location of the picnic before the real location was announced in mid-July.

According to Roberts, the best estimate for the picnic puts attendance at 300--across the three locations.

Planning is set to begin for next year’s 12th anniversary Black, Gay and Proud Celebration, and a membership meeting will be held in September. Roberts noted that applications are available for planning committee membership as well.

Next year’s festival will take place August 6 to 9, 2009.

One thing that White would like to change for next year is the representation. It is always a matter of concern for her that, while black gay people feel comfortable going to Cleveland Pride, people of other races seem to think that Black, Gay and Proud is not open to them.

“I would like to see even more unity next year, including all community groups coming together to help plan, sponsor and execute all parts of the celebration next year,” she said. “I would also like to see more of a multicultural element involved because this is just not about being black.”

“The celebration is about celebrating diversity and being proud of who we all are,” she concluded.

More information about the Black, Gay and Proud Celebration is available at www.bgpcleveland.com.


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