#BOOM | Colin Murphy
ST. LOUIS – The Official St. Louis Black Pride held its 2015 Kickoff Reception on Sept. 12 at Just John nightclub in the Grove. Dozens of supporters were on hand to enjoy the musical talents of Summer Osborne and spoken word artistry of A.P. Pearson before hearing about the organization’s new direction titled “Phoenix Rising.”
“For far too long Black Pride has almost been like a moment; once a year we come together and we celebrate,” said Black Pride president Randy L. Rafter. “Now we’re taking it from a moment to a movement. So we’re trying to expand to new horizons with it – we call it our Phoenix Project – basically we’re coming from the ashes of old to start anew.”
Last July, Black Pride announced that it would not be holding its annual August festival this year due to recent changes in leadership and the need to restructure. Founded in 1999, St. Louis Black is the second oldest LGBT Black Pride organization in the nation.
“We’re over 16 years old and proud of it,” explained Rafter. “So we do have a leg up on other cities. We might not be as large but we have a lot of momentum going, so we definitely want to show we’re going to do the work to make our city proud.”
Plans for the coming year include having a permanent office in the LGBT Center of St. Louis when they open their new building, partnering with LGBT organizations like SAGE and In the Lyfe, partnering with PNC Bank to provide financial literacy training for the community, and moving the Black Pride celebration to the Grove.
“It’s a big step to moving forward and bridging the community as a whole,” offered Rafter. “Minorities aren’t represented on a lot of boards in the community; you don’t see representation in different areas. That’s why Black Pride exists… So this is an opportunity for us to build those relationships for us to properly be at the table.”
“The first step is to become a stronger resource by appointing experts to our new board of directors, Rafter continued. “This is important because in order to make the changes that need to be made we have to have qualified people to do the work. These experts are going to be heading up the 12 new sub-committees of the Black Pride organization. These are areas that need to be handled within the community.”
Rafter announced the 2015 Black Pride Board members who were on hand: Byron Keaton, Youth Coordinator; Carlos Page, Economic Development Chair; Sherry Dickerson , Social Justice Chair; Leon A. Braxton, Jr. , Vice President; Demond Grant, Entertainment Chair; and Warren Holoman, Treasurer.
Other changes coming to Black Pride include the unveiling of a newsletter, a new website and hosting regular town hall meetings and presidential roundtables with community members.
“I need to hear from you,” Rafter told the crowd. “In order for us to really serve our community we’ve got to make sure that we have that dialogue and have that conversation. These are going to help to build the community into something that’s never been seen before.”
Rafter also announced two new initiatives that Black Pride will be focusing on in the coming year. Project Next is designed to build leadership opportunities for LGBT youth of color to get them more involved in the community. Project Enough – which stands for Ending Negativity Over United Grounds Harmoniously is dedicated to addressing violence within and against the African American LGBT community.
“It’s time for us to start taking the power,” stated Rafter. “It’s time for us to make sure that we’re ending and changing things in our own community. What happens on a Thursday night or what happens on a Saturday and Sunday has to stop. We’re going to take the lead and have these conversations. We’re reaching out to every club owner, every bar owner, ever promoter, every leader and we’re going to start having real dialogue. It’s time for all of this negativity to stop.”
“The violence has to stop,” Rafter continued. “We’re going to be reaching out to our elected officials, to our police department, to our aldermen, because now it’s time for us to start having real conversations about how we’re being treated within our own community. Ferguson was right in our back yard. But we see Ferguson on a regular basis.”
A date for St. Louis Black Pride 2015 has yet to be announced. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 314-884-8730.