Atlanta’s outdoor festivals must provide one restroom for every 250 attendees, and there were 20 port-a-potties in Central Park over Labor Day weekend in anticipation of 5,000 people celebrating Black LGBTQ Pride. A single toilet would’ve sufficed for the actual crowd, and the other 19 could’ve been used to store the bullshit behind organizers’ claims their events constitute the city’s “real” Black Pride.
An organization known as Atlanta Black Pride has been a local Jamie Spears, seizing conservatorship of one of Atlanta’s most fabled weekends and trying to reap credit for (and the corporate sponsorships generated by) the largest annual gathering of Black queer folks in our known universe. ABP Leaders Terence Stewart and Amber Moore argue their group is the rightful successor to In The Life Atlanta, the nonprofit that hosted events over Labor Day weekend from 1996–2019, before ceasing in-person activities due to COVID-19.
The website for ABP, whose motto is “Legacy and Truth,” erases ITLA’s existence and uses creative wordplay to imply ABP has guided Atlanta’s Black LGBTQ Pride for the past quarter century. The most pathetic aspect of ABP’s usurpation of ITLA as the “official” organizer of Black LGBTQ Pride is that ITLA’s claim to that title was just as illegitimate as ABP’s current power grab.
The pioneers of ITLA — many of whom I admire and consider friends — were part of a national stirring of Black queer consciousness in the early- and mid-’90s, and one of the lasting efforts of that era was bringing order and credibility to informal gatherings that had been occurring across the country since at least the 1970s, attempting to harness the energy of Black queer revelry into visibility and activism.
The national circuit of barbecues, house parties and club sets that had dictated the calendars of some Black LGBTQ folks for decades — early May in Houston, Memorial Day in D.C., Labor Day in Atlanta, etc. — was and remains the skeleton of modern Black LGBTQ Pride celebrations. While some of Atlanta’s most iconic Labor Day parties were hosted by folks who would help found ITLA, the organization always “led” Atlanta’s Black Pride on paper only.
When I began reporting on Black LGBTQ Pride in the early 2000s, the institutional logic was to focus on ITLA’s programming. However, it took only a couple of Labor Day weekends for me to realize that if folks visited Atlanta and solely attended the events hosted by the “official” Black LGBTQ Pride organization, they would leave town clueless to the flaming liberation that makes that weekend in this city iconic.
ITLA and club promoters long battled for the crown of Labor Day in Atlanta, and with the historical narrative (and sponsors) oddly coronating the entity whose attendance was measured in the dozens over those who drew/draw thousands, ABP is now emboldened to incorporate as a nonprofit and make ridiculous assertions. Stewart and Moore have threatened to sue anyone who misappropriates Atlanta’s Black LGBTQ Pride brand or misrepresents its legacy, but I’d like to see them convince anyone the spectacular explosion of Black LGBTQ expression over Labor Day weekend is ignited or stoked by an organization that has 110 Twitter followers and ends its two-day festival with pristine port-a-potties.