In its 23-year lifespan, Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride has grown into a Labor Day weekend celebration that leaves a lasting impression on locals and visitors. But over the years, black pride seems to have lost an important component of any pride celebration.
“We lost our luster. We have been overrun by party promoters and what they feel like Atlanta Black Pride is,” said Terence Stewart, chair-person for Atlanta Black Pride. He was a volunteer with the non-profit organization and has seen the backward evolution of the weekend festivities. “It’s taken away from what our focus has been and always will be which is community and education.”
Last year’s festivities for Atlanta Black Pride in Candler Park brought in around 20,000 people, and that’s with a handful of other Labor Day weekend festivities happening. With this year’s “Remember, Rise, Respect” theme, and an abundance of educational elements, organizers are hopeful those numbers rise, but it comes after a re-branding of Atlanta Black Pride. And while there’s still nightlife involved in this pride celebration, Amber Moore, the co-chair for Atlanta Black Pride, wants to take it back to the basics of energizing the minds of locals and visitors.
“What we’ve done this year at our host hotel is we have the marketplace,” said Moore. “We have our health and wellness expo, and we’ve made sure that we have our workshops that cover every aspect that we possibly can.”
They’ve partnered with the community to bring these workshops to life. Some of those workshops include healthy dating in the LGBTQ community, the effects of drugs and alcohol, economic empowerment and holistic health, empowering my sister, recovery from addiction, safe, sane and consensual, and so much more. “Six or seven different workshops on Friday, more than a dozen on Saturday,” he said. “There’s a gambit of things outside of nightlife and parties,” said Stewart.
For Moore, the bigger problem surrounding the weekend’s festivities involves the crossover between her non-profit and a competing festival’s events which she says caused a lot of confusion amongst advertisers and members of the community leading up to this year’s events.
“We’ve lost sponsors because many times people can’t distinguish what’s an official Atlanta Black Pride event and what’s a Pure Heat event,” said Moore. “I’ve tried to sit down with the organizers of the Pure Heat Community Festival but they haven’t shown up.”
Still, Moore and Rickie Smith, President of In The Life Atlanta, want the focus of this year’s event to be community which they say starts at Candler Park. “Our location for our community festival gives you more of a neighborhood feel,” Smith said. “We want that closeness and tightness of that community. Being together gives you that type of feel, and nothing is spread out. All of your friends are right there.”
Her vision of the Sunday Candler Park festival is infiltrating local nightlife spots with those educational components. “At every one of our events with nightlife, we’ll have someone there providing HIV tests,” she said.
Smith went back to the very first gay black club in Atlanta, the Marquette Club, in hopes of doubling the impact. “We partner with them with a lot of their events, and the biggest one is the block party on Friday,” he said. “The performers and staff will then come to Candler Park and entertain as well. Their nightlife will go hand in hand with Atlanta Black Pride in the Park.”
On stage, there’s entertainment for everyone and the talent is a good representation of the community at hand. “From poets to speakers and artists, I think people are going to be very excited,” said Moore. “I think you’ll be able to see yourself on stage because of the diversity that we’re bringing to the table.”