The Black Pride Movement and the Center for Black Equity

In 1991, a group of Black gay men and women in Washington, DC decided to take advantage of an annual Memorial Day weekend gathering called the “Children’s Hour”. Most of the Children’s Hour festivities were held in a Black gay frequented bar called the Club House that was very popular from the 70’s to its closing in the early 90’s. The Club House closed its doors in 1991 in part due to the heavy toll that HIV/AIDS was having on the staff.

Welmore Cook, Theodore Kirkland and Ernest Hopkins, founders of DC Black and Lesbian Gay Pride Day as it was called in 1991, wanted to continue what had become a tradition in the Black LGBT community buy adding an important consideration – they were going to raise funds for organizations who provided services to Blacks/African Americans affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS, and disseminate important HIV/AIDS prevention information to attendees of the “Black Pride” event. Just over 800 people attended the first event to call themselves a “Black Pride”.

Black Prides became popular because they provided a safe space for members of the Black LGBT communities to come together to celebrate the duality of being both Black/African American and members of LGBT communities. Historically, there is often very little room at the “traditional” community LGBT pride events to do so. Black LGBT communities celebrate at Black Prides in the same spirit in which other ethnic Americans are encouraged to celebrate their heritage with Columbus Day, Von Steuben Day, Israel Independence Day, St. Patrick, and the Pulaski Day parades as well as other ethnic festivals.

Black Prides have an added inherent cultural experience that is LGBT Afro-centered through poetry slams, film festivals, music, theater, fashion, literature, visual arts, etc. Furthermore, Black Prides have traditionally provided an opportunity for HIV/AIDS education, outreach and testing which has disproportionately impacted Black Gay Men and Black communities more than any other group in the US. In addition, information on LGBT issues (e.g. same sex marriage, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ENDA), other health concerns (breast cancer, hypertension, heart disease, etc.) and critical issues (faith/spirituality, combating homophobia, domestic violence, adoption, health care reform, etc.) are disseminated to tens of thousands of people each year at Black Prides across the United States and abroad.

Black Pride has often been described as the gateway to the greater LGBT community experience for many Black LGBT people. Rather than encouraging separation, Black Prides encourage awareness of self and community, respect, dignity and many attendees of Black Pride events have returned to their homes to come out to friends, family and their communities. Attending events and seeing people who look like oneself with many of the same shared experiences, contributes to building stronger, healthier LGBT communities and is an effective way to combat homophobia and stigma in the Black community and racism in the greater LGBT community along with overcoming the cultural, communal and institutional barriers created by isms and phobias.

The International Federation of Black Prides (IFBP), a 501 (c)(3) and with headquarters in Washington, DC, was founded by Earl D. Fowlkes, Jr. organized during DC Black Pride in May 1999 by a coalition of Black Pride organizations representing Chicago, North Carolina (Charlotte), New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis (Twin Cities), and Washington, DC. Led by its founder the coalition saw a need to organize the twenty plus Black Prides in the United States and abroad to network, develop sponsorship strategies, foster community development, provide technical assistance, mentor and support one another.

Over 350,000 members of Black/African American LGBT communities attended Black Prides in 2011. Black Pride attendance is enhanced by the year-round activities of our member and affiliate Black Prides. Through our partnerships with various organizations and entities, including: the National Policy Roundtable; the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI); National African-American Tobacco Education Network; the Network for LGBT Health Equity; the National LGBT Health Coalition; the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC); and numerous city and state municipalities our reach is further enhanced . Moreover, the IFBP received over 800,000 unique website inquiries in 2011. Through our media and social media outlets including op-eds, campaigns, interviews, and feature stories about the IFBP and its partner organizations, we reached over 1.5 million people in 2011.

A major focus of IFBP activity is advocacy around critical LGBT-related public policy issues. Directed by this organizational focus, 76% of the IFBP member organizations engaged in advocacy issues on the local level in 2011and an even higher percentage will do so in 2012. The advocacy projects cover a broad range of issues, such as: HIV/AIDS; hate crimes; foster care and adoption; violence reduction; anti-smoking efforts; voter registration; community organizing; and collaborations with both LGBT identified and non-LGBT identified organizations.

The IFBP has since grown to thirty-four members representing the following Black Pride organizations: Albany, NY; Buffalo, NY; Rochester, NY; Boston; New York City; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Washington, DC; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Charlotte; Columbia, SC; Atlanta; Jacksonville; Central Florida (Tampa); Jackson, MS; Memphis; Nashville; New Orleans; St. Louis; Indianapolis; Chicago; Detroit; Twin Cities (Minneapolis); Little Rock; Dallas; Austin; Portland; Los Angeles; San Diego; Toronto, Canada; London, UK and Johannesburg, South Africa. The following Black Prides are in the IFBP membership pipeline: Columbus, OH; Oakland, CA; Gainesville, FL; Orlando; Virginia Beach and Greensboro, NC. Also, Latino Prides in New York; Boston; Portland, OR; Chicago and Washington, DC are affiliate members of the IFBP.

A New Chapter

On July 28, 2012, the International Federation of Black Prides Board of Directors voted to re-brand and restructure the organization. The new name, Center for Black Equity (CBE), refocuses and elevates the deep commitment to our mission of achieving equality and justice for Black LGBT communities through expansive platforms focused on Health Equity, Economic Equity and Social Equity. This branding shift also fosters a much needed sense of urgency to increase the public’s understanding of the myriad challenges LGBT communities face on a daily basis. We believe that our new identity and expanded platform will facilitate the erosion of misconceptions and prejudices against our members and revitalize the public’s commitment to advocate collaboratively for immediate institutional changes in laws, policies, programs and resource availabilities that allow everyone, including Black LGBT people, to compete effectively in the marketplace.

Another important part of the restructuring will be to transform the organization to a membership supported organization where individuals and businesses can invest in the expanded mission and work for as little as $15 for students ($25 for anyone else). The IFBP continues to expand financial support mainly through government and foundation grants. However, we have not provided the 350,000 people who attend Black Prides annually with an opportunity to contribute financially to the oldest and only Black LGBT organization in the world.

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