“We have people from all over the country, and from as far away as all over Europe, from Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Saint Lucia,” says Raymond Duke, ITLA president.
“The world knows people come to Atlanta for Labor Day Weekend for Pride.”
This year, ITLA offers five days of events, kicking off on a reflective note with a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, Sept. 1, to honor community members who have passed away.
Paris Eley will address In the Life Atlanta’s candlelight vigil, which kicks off Black Gay Pride on Sept. 1. (Photo via Myspace)
Official ITLA events continue throughout the weekend at the sold-out Loews Hotel. The offerings — some free, some with ticket prices ranging to $35 — are designed to embrace mind, body and spirit.
“One of the things that is erroneous about Black Gay Pride weekend is that it is all about a party,” Duke says. “Parties are going to happen — there are plenty of people who are coming to town, thinking ‘I’m going to party and let my hair down because I can’t do it where I live’ — but there is also such a wonderful array of things that people can take advantage of, so that when they get home, it’s more than just ‘I went to the mall, I went to party, I got laid.’
“There is much more to this weekend than meets the eye,” he says.
Friday’s ITLA schedule ranges from informative, like the all-day Black Pride Marketplace, to racy, with the annual SpeakFire night of erotic poetry, headed up by poet Yolo Akili.
Saturday’s events include a free health expo in which participants can take advantage of health tests, including rapid HIV testing, that are valued at over $1,500.
Highlights for Saturday also include a community luncheon, workshops, a literary café, and the “See Us in the Life” film festival.
Sunday features the jazz brunch, interfaith service with Pastor Troy Sanders, a pool party hosted by NAESM and Traxx, and the “Make Me Over” Pride fashion show. An all-access ITLA pass for $100 includes all ITLA events at the host hotel.
State of Black Gay America
For the fourth year in a row, Xtreme Entertainment also joins in the community spirit, hosting the in-depth State of Black Gay America Summit on Saturday, Sept. 4.
This year’s theme is “Our People, Our Struggle, Our Community” and the keynote speaker is Sharon Lettman, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a national group focused on African-Americans and LGBT issues.
Tickets to the luncheon are $35, while attendance at just the summit discussions is free.
“It is our hope that this year’s SBGA Summit will serve as a platform to continue the much needed dialogue around the subject of building coalition and collaboration within the African-American LGBT community,” Xtreme CEO Gregory Allen says in a press release about the event, noting that topics to be discussed include “advances in an HIV vaccine, current economic and political realities, and homophobia in the entertainment industry.”
“The Summit is designed [for attendees] to be motivated to become, or stay, actively involved in the political process,” Allen says. “Important also to the Summit is that the cultural and spiritual aspect of African-American LGBT people be addressed.”
The discussion will be moderated by Paris Hatcher of SPARK and Rev. Troy Sanders of Preach to Me Ministries.
In addition to Lettman, panelists include Chase Andrew, graduate of Georgia State; Adolph St. Arrromand of AID Atlanta; Paula Frew of the Emory Hope Clinic; sociologist Sandra Lawson of Community College of Baltimore County – Essex; Tracee McDaniels of Juxtaposed Center for Transformation; Atlanta Police Department LGBT Liaison Patricia Powell; Jeshawna Wholley of Afrekete at Spelman College; actor and model DeMarco Majors; author Dwight Allen O’Neal; actor and filmmaker Maurice Jamal and Nikki Young, a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University.
Prevention pool party
After wowing the crowd at Augusta Pride in June, “American Idol” veteran Frenchie Davis returns to Georgia to headline the Prevention Pool Party on Sunday, Sept. 5.
The event at Piedmont Park Aquatic Center is sponsored by National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities, along with Traxx. The pool party celebrates Black Gay Pride, as well as this year’s 20th anniversary for NAESM and 25th anniversary for Traxx.
“I’m excited that the event will bring thousands of black gay men together to celebrate Black Gay Pride to mark our 20 years of serving the metro Atlanta area,” says Rudolph Carn, NAESM founder and CEO.
Carn notes that the most recent round of HIV prevention funding from the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention did not include any “people of color local agencies.”
“So it is most important that we seek and secure support from the thousands of gay men attending Black Pride to help us sustain our much needed programs services,” he said.
FlavaMen Models Miami hosts a cover model shoot and a $1,000 hot body contest.
But while the event invites attendees to “Bring Your Swagga,” organizers also want participants to know their status: The party will feature free, on-site HIV testing.
“I want all participants to have a good time; most importantly, we want everyone to be tested as HIV/AIDS is still affecting our community at alarming rates,” Carn says.
Top photo: Top: ‘American Idol’ alum Frenchie Davis headlines the Prevention Pool Party on Sept. 5. (Photo by Laura Douglas-Brown)