Celebrating 15 years of Black Pride in Nashville
by James Grady – Out & About NashvilleA group of activists and community leaders joined together fifteen years ago to host a new event and form a new organization: Nashville Black Pride. Held in October, the event is organized not to compete with the Nashville Pride organization and events but to offer a safe and affirming place to celebrate the community that it serves.
As the fifteenth annual Nashville Black Pride approaches, O&AN spoke with Dwayne Jenkins, the organization’s president and one of its founders, about how the event came about, how it developed, and where he sees its future in Nashville.
When and how did Nashville Black Pride form, and what were the major concerns that made you feel like such an event would well serve your community?
The first Nashville Black Pride celebration was hosted in October 2003. Our mission is to bring together African American and other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) and Same Gender Loving (SGL) People of Color in a social, non-threatening environment to uplift, empower and educate the community.
Highlighting the accomplishments of local, regional and national Black and Brown LGBT/SGL people was something that was important to us. This very targeted and intentional outreach effort would help to maintain and develop healthy, productive and visionary individuals to carry our history for generations.
My primary work in HIV at Nashville CARES with Brothers United (BU) provided me with the opportunity to participate in a lot of events. Since the BU program and the separate 501(c)3 BU Network organization had a large following, I was asked to host a targeted event during what was then a week-long Nashville Pride celebration. Simultaneously, I was traveling to Black Pride celebrations in cities like my hometown, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., and I hoped that something similar could one day take place in Nashville.
When I shared this sentiment with my mentor, Earl Fowlkes, the President of DC Black Pride & CEO of the International Federation of Black Prides, he encouraged me to stop waiting for someone to do it and make it happen.
The process [of organizing the first event] took about a year-and-a-half. Our Board disseminated a survey within the Black LGBT/SGL community to ensure we had a pulse on what people wanted, and included two advisors from the Nashville Pride Board. It was important that our organizations worked together in a non-competitive fashion, which is a something we’re still proud of fifteen years later.
How has Nashville Black Pride evolved to meet the needs of the community?
The Black Pride movement has grown immensely over the years, across the country and abroad. The Federation of Black Prides was renamed the Center for Black Equity (CBE), and pride events for Black and Brown LGBT/SGL individuals have moved beyond the large metropolitan areas to include over thirty different cities within the southern states of the United States, as well as to places like Paris, France, London, England, and Jamaica.
Most Black Pride organizations were rooted in addressing a variety of advocacy issues in their respective locations. When we came together, our collective purpose was to network, develop sponsorship strategies, foster community development, provide technical assistance, mentor and support one another as CBE members.
Over the years all Pride and Black Pride organizations ask themselves how we can stay relevant in our ever-changing environment.
Although the political climate, along with other social issues, can provide a road map for topics [driving] the evolution of overall vision and purpose, we understand that people want to have fun and be entertained.
Many organizers have realized that a large number of participants simply want to assemble to celebrate their shared experiences and their contributions that have helped build stronger, healthier communities in a manner that effectively combats homophobia, transphobia and stigma in the Black community, as well as to address racism in the greater LGBT community.
Where does it go from here? What is the future of Black Pride?
Each year our Board comes up with a theme that sets the tone for the weekend. “Stronger Together” was selected for our 15th Anniversary Black Pride celebration, because we understand the importance and power of gathering as one.
The cohesiveness of our team is unique, in that some have been in the trenches and have volunteered their time, money, blood, sweat, and tears since the very first event in 2003. Their commitment to celebrating our life and culture is something that many won’t see outwardly, but will feel inwardly when people share that they had a good time, learned something, or were just happy to be in a space that sees them.
I think any group or business has to continue to ask themselves why are they here, and how do we continue to contribute to our local citizens? At one point, Prides/Black Prides were seen as huge money makers to outsiders and promoters, which made it difficult for the actual organization hosting the event, especially those that weren’t associated and or giving back to the primary organization hosting Pride.
People would sleep, shop and prepare for the party or nighttime club events during the day, and not participate in the film screenings, book signings, vendor marketplace, workshops or town halls. Some felt that participants would lose out on a prime opportunity to meet actors, authors and other special guests, but also miss out on what the entire experience of what pride means.
This in no way means that parties and club time aren’t important, because the truth of the matter is, at least for Black Pride in Nashville, a bulk of our donations have come from our official bar sponsors/partners, and we appreciate their continued support.
When I traveled to other cities, it was the opposite of what I see a lot today. I attended as many sessions and activities as I could to meet our Black & Brown LGBT/SGL pioneers up close and personal. I spent my time getting autographs and photos and all my coins on DVDs, books, and vendor items, and skipped paying the $25-and-up entry fees to clubs. I’d attend the poetry slams & spoken word events that took place in the evening not only to network and enjoy the talent but also because it fed me in a different way.
Today attendees have different appetites, and we have to take that into consideration when planning. In short, it’s important to find the balance between the past and the future, in order to try and provide that vibe that can appeal to the widest audience, without losing the integrity that the foundation was built on but also keeping it fun, safe and memorable.
This year our weekend kicks off with a special Award presentation theatrical performance. Each year the Brothers and Sisters United Network, recognizes local individuals and businesses with our prestigious Legacy Award. Each of our honorees have either volunteered or supported our efforts for a minimum of ten years. Our 2017 BASU Legacy Award recipients are bestselling author Terrance Dean, Tennessee Equality Project, and the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Nashville Black Pride Weekend
Schedule at a Glance
Thursday, October 12:
7:00 p.m.: Black Pride Welcome & BASU Legacy Award Presentation
7:15 p.m.: Special Theatrical Performance of “You Shall Live 2 Zero,” produced by TK Hampton.
Special guests include Nashville in Harmony, Michelle Prather and Nate Bean.
Wightman Chapel, Scarritt Bennett Campus, 1104 19th Avenue South, 37212.
Friday, October 13
6:30–7:30 p.m.: Dinner & Learn Black Pride In-Service RSVP required.
MY HOUSE, Upper Level, 442 Metroplex Drive, Suite #100, 37211
6:00–9:00 p.m: Black Pride Happy Hour! $5 food & drink specials.
Cloud IX Hookah Bar & Lounge; 3807 Gallatin Pike, 37216
11:30 p.m. –3:00 a.m.: Freaky Friday Pajama Party
MY HOUSE, Lower Level Mpowerment Space, 442 Metroplex Drive, Suite #100, 37211
Saturday, October 14,
1:00–4:00 p.m: Vendor Marketplace, seminars, town hall meeting, & day party.
MY HOUSE, Upper Level, 442 Metroplex Drive, Suite #100, 37211
10:00 p.m. –3:00 a.m.: Inspired Concepts & Events Presents, “Show Your Pride Party”
$10 admission, music by DJ J Roc
200 Indian Summer Court, 37207
11:00 p.m. –3:00 a.m.: Nashville Black Pride presents a special party for the ladies
“Do You in Blue”, DJ TBA.
MY HOUSE, Lower Level Mpowerment Space, 442 Metroplex Drive, Suite #100, 37211Source