What started as simple house parties and picnics more than two decades ago is now one of the largest Black Gay Pride events in the world.

More than 60,000 people are expected to descend on Atlanta over Labor Day weekend for Black Pride. Party promoters pack the clubs with celebrity guests and the popular Sunday in Piedmont Park, which began as an organic gathering of people each year, is now the place to go for the official Pure Heat Community Festival.

Last year was the first time that party promoters Traxx Girls and the Vision Community Foundation teamed up to host the festival in the park that included food and merchandise vendors, live entertainment and a crowd of thousands to enjoy it all.

Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride community events aim to inspire, educate

This year’s festival is set for Sunday, Sept. 1. Singer and actress Brandy will be presented with the Vision Community Foundation’s Humanitarian Award for speaking out in support of LGBT people.

“We want to thank her for all she’s done for our community,” said Avian Watson, an organizer of the Pure Heat Fest that attracted some 25,000 people in 2012.

Money raised at the fest goes to support the Vision Community Foundation, a separate entity of Atlanta’s The Vision Church, a predominantly African-American church that is gay-led and welcoming of all people.

The foundation provides free HIV testing, GED education, breast cancer awareness and food programs among other initiatives to assist those in need, said Watson, who is also a member of the church.

New this year to the Pure Heat Community Festival is a carnival sponsored by Project Turn Around, a new organization also serving the black LGBT community. The carnival will be set up where the pavilions are in Piedmont Park.

From face-painting to a dunking booth to carnival games and stilt walkers, Project Turnaround plans to transform part of Piedmont Park into a truly carnival atmosphere.

Numerous indie acts will perform on stage during the Pure Heat Festival and there will also be appearances by D. Woods of Danity Kane, who will host a J Sette competition presented by Project Turn Around, and Latavia, formerly of Destiny’s Child, who will join The Vision Church’s Bishop O.C. Allen onstage to present Brandy with her humanitarian award.

In the Life Atlanta breathes
new life into its offerings

While an informal Black Pride has existed for more than 20 years, it was 17 years ago when In the Life Atlanta formed and became the official nonprofit sponsor of Atlanta Black Pride. A change in leadership this year means numerous new events and partnering with several party promoters as well.

“This year’s synergy in planning Atlanta Black Pride was intense, however the support that we have received is really a result of the credibility that the community organizers and affiliated promotions firms have garnered with the community,” said ITLA President Rickie Smith in a press release.

“In the Life Atlanta, Inc., The Vision Foundation and Project Turn Around are championing the holistic empowerment of the community,” Smith said. “It has been an incredible combination, the support is phenomenal and the community’s response is overwhelming this year.”

The first annual LGBT Career Fair & Technology Center Expo, in partnership with Meak Productions, will take place at the Historic Academy of Medicine at Georgia Tech all day on Friday, Aug. 30. The Health and Life Expo will also be held at the Historic Academy of Medicine at Georgia Tech on Aug. 31. The health expo will move to Piedmont Park to be part of the Pure Heat Fest on Sept. 1.

The signature erotic poetry “SpeakFire” event is set for Friday, Aug. 30, at the Hyatt Atlanta Midtown from 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.

A literary cafe and film fest take place on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. The literary and film fest together is titled “Pride in the Black LGBTQ Community” and is sponsored by ITLA in association with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African Culture, and Cycle for Freedom, an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization which has been screening films once a month at the library.

“The films selected are about HIV-related stigma, homophobia, depression and standing in our collective truth as LBTQ folks,” said Khafre Kujichagulia Abif, founder of Cycle for Freedom. The literary fest will feature local and national LGBT authors of color.

“It is my hope that people will come to engage in the dialogue and discussion with the filmmakers [and authors] as well as each other,” Abif said.

Also on Saturday, Aug. 31, ITLA sponsors “Community Conversations” from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hyatt Atlanta Midtown.

For a full list of ITLA events, click here.

Photo: Last year’s Pure Heat Community Festival attracted thousands to Piedmont Park. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)