“People always come to the park on Sunday [during Black Gay Pride] and we saw it as an opportunity to not only provide entertainment and also HIV testing, but also expose the community to the community on many levels,” said Bishop O.C. Allen, founder and senior pastor of the Vision Church.
“I can’t believe it’s happened in such a profound way,” he said scanning the crowd of thousands packed in front of the main stage near the Charles Allen entrance. “We’re definitely going to do this next year.”
Allen’s husband, Rashad Burgess, works for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Division. He said the community spirit captured in the inaugural Pure Heat fest was due to a lot of hard work by people who want to make their community better for all.
“This is the reflection of the hard work of so many hundreds of volunteers and staff because they really believe in empowering communities and this is just an expression of it,” Burgess said.
Gabrielle Lloyd, 36, and her partner of nearly 12 years, Shawn Bruton, 40, of Raleigh, N.C., have been coming to Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride for many years. They were hitting the women’s parties at night and were excited to be at the first festival in the park.
“It’s wonderful. We’re with our people, loving seeing everyone together and having a good time and enjoying ourselves and being able to be ourselves in one space,” Lloyd said.
Taj Scott, 20, of San Diego was attending his first Atlanta Black Gay Pride.
“I’ve been to Houston Pride, but not Atlanta. What I’ve seen in the park so far has been very, very entertaining,” he said.
Thousands of people packed in front of the main stage to watch a fierce J-Sette battle, several singers and headliner KeKe Wyatt, who sang her hits including those from her hit 2001 album “Soul Sista.” This year, Wyatt also began starring in TV One’s reality show “R&B Divas” that includes other 1990s chart toppers Faith Evans, Nicci Gilber, Monifah and Syleena Johnson. The show follows the women and their lives in Atlanta and how they are working to revive their careers.
Other celebrity appearances included Derek J of the “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and a rumor that the 10th season of the Oxygen network’s “Bad Girls Club” was being filmed. Emceeing the entertainment was Atlanta’s own YouTube weather reporter sensation Megan McGlover, a member of Vision Church.
The festival was just one of numerous parties and events for LGBT African Americans who travel across the country and even around the globe to what’s considered the largest Black Gay Pride in the world. In the Life Atlanta, nonprofit organizers of Pride, estimated 75,000 people come to the Atlanta for the Pride fest over the busy Labor Day weekend. Besides nightlife, ITLA offers such events as a literary cafe, film festival and workshops and panel discussions. Each year there is also a State of Black Gay America Summit.
Photos: R&B singer KeKe Wyatt (top photo) headlined the Pure Heat festival at Piedmont Park on Sunday, singing to thousands of people. HIV testing was offered all day at the park (second photo) and thousands of people cheered during an intense J-Sette battle. (Photos by Dyana Bagby)