Pride is a time for the LGBTQ community to come together, but it is also a time for it to come apart. In the past year, killings of Black individuals, including trans people, have led to social unrest across the country.
Black queer people find themselves at an intersection of racism and homophobia. Day to day, they encounter abuse in the workplace, in the media, and in the streets. With the annual Pride festivities taking place this year, the LGBTQ community is reflecting on what it can do to better protect and serve queer persons of color.
Despite the LGBTQ community’s best efforts to bring about change and equality, there hasn’t been enough to bring about inclusivity and equality for Black members of the community. The best step forward may be to become more educated on Black lives and Black stories.
For the past 20 years, separate spaces and platforms have been created to allow Black queer voices to be heard, in a historically white mainstream movement. By the 1990s, Black Gay Pride had become an alternative movement and space to discuss issues solely within the Black community.
These separate celebrations and spaces are not meant to divide the LGBTQ community. They’re meant to close the gaps and uplift silenced voices. The first Pride events and festivals were not designed to amplify Black voices and Black thought. Some more recent events haven’t even tried to include Black members of the community.
Meanwhile, Black cisgender and transgender people have been leaders of activism in their individual, Black and gay communities. People like Marsha P. Johnson and Bayard Rustin are remembered for their leadership within their communities, yet people just like them today are ostracized from the spaces they created.
Atlanta, unlike most places in the world, holds three annual Pride celebrations. There are opportunities to celebrate the progress of the LGBTQ community as a whole and the progress of the intersecting communities within it. The city is also recognized as one of the two official festivals for the Black LGBTQ community in the United States. Events begin in late August and include workshops, sip & paint events, comedy shows, art exhibitions and the annual Pure Heat Community Festival.
These events serve as an opportunity to party together and openly discuss issues such as housing and food insecurity, mental health, and health care for individuals in the Atlanta area. Black Gay Pride has made these discussions possible and fostered action when it comes to issues like the fight against HIV/AIDS in the city.
The issues facing the community now include COVID-19 and continued police brutality. Police brutality is nothing new to Black and queer people, but the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others have sparked a revolution. Police brutality has been protested by the gay community since the Stonewall Riots and even prior to that. Several cities have even banned police from Pride marches this year. Yet, the police abuse Black people face, versus the rest of the community, doesn’t compare. Every day is a Pride march for Black queer people.
The pandemic has also impacted Black and Brown communities at disproportionate rates. According to the CDC, the pandemic has revealed the inequity in health care (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/race-ethnicity.html), and as a result they have had a greater chance of getting and dying from COVID-19.
With vaccine rollouts and fewer restrictions this year, Pride festivities have returned to the city, but now the community must navigate through new protocols and safety. Most events have been outdoors and socially distanced. Masks have been required or recommended and streaming some of these events has become a viable option as well. It is likely that these same steps will be taken at Atlanta Pride and Black Gay Pride events this fall.
The past year has opened the eyes of many to the harsh realities facing people of color in this country. The gay community has come together in the streets and at the polls, and now it’s time to revamp and rejuvenate in unified and even separate spaces.
Without these spaces for the LGBTQ community to come apart, it will never fully come together. Therefore, Black Gay Pride must always be in place to serve the needs of Black queer people. The community, as a whole, must continually work to align its goals based on issues facing the whole group and the intersecting ones.
It isn’t enough to celebrate at parades and events with Black queer individuals. This past year has shown that allyship is needed not only to achieve equity and justice, but also to save Black lives.