From Shepherd Express by Christopher Walton
Indianapolis, Rochester, Fayetteville, Seattle, Portland, Birmingham, St. Louis, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Akron, Lexington, Dallas, Baltimore, Nashville, Gainesville, Jackson, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Houston, Minneapolis, Provincetown, Harlem, Austin, Albany, Memphis, Cincinnati, Little Rock, Chicago, Los Angeles, Richmond, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Charlotte…
What do all of these major American cities have in common? Capital cities? Sorry, neither Houston nor Dallas are the capital of Texas. Big liberal cities? Mostly, but I don’t think Fayetteville (N.C.), Gainesville (Fla.) or Birmingham (Ala.) would qualify as anyone’s idea of liberal bastions of progressiveness. So, what is it you ask? They all have Black Gay Pride Festivals.
I believe it’s more than time for Milwaukee to join the ranks of major American cities to have a Black Gay Pride Festival. According to the Center for Black Equity, “Black Gay Prides became popular because they provided a safe space for members of the black LGBTQ communities to come together to celebrate the duality of being both black/African American and members of LGBTQ communities.”
Historically, there is often very little room at the “traditional” LGBTQ pride events to do so. Black LGBTQ communities celebrate at Black Gay 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. Black Gay Prides have an added inherent cultural experience that is LGBTQ Afro-centered poetry slams, film festivals, music, theater, fashion, literature, visual arts, etc. Furthermore, Black Gay 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 LGBTQ issues (e.g. same-sex marriage, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ENDA), 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.
Seems simple enough, as Milwaukee is known for its numerous summer ethnic festivals, so we can check that box. Milwaukee, clearly being an African American plurality city, should have something like this. Now more than ever, Milwaukee needs to have a serious public discussion over the need for more black LGBTQ spaces, including LGBTQ bars, nightclubs, organizations and events focused on more than just HIV/AIDS. The black LGBTQ community, like the entire LGBTQ community, like the entire community of Milwaukee, is about more than one issue.
With all of the racial strikes against the city of Milwaukee for being segregated, for being the worst place to raise a black child in America as well as having the most incarcerated and impoverished zip code in America, we clearly aren’t doing something right. It is time Milwaukee starts taking serious, purposeful steps to be inclusive of all of its communities. If anything, we must make certain that we maintain that newly earned 100—the top score!—on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, which measures the effects of municipal ordinances on LGBTQ communities. We’ve earned it, now can we keep it?