"It's not a party. It's not a gala. It is a social marketing effort that also has a fundraising component."
Clyde Penn's description of last Saturday's Sixth Annual White Attire Affair, presented by The Ummah Foundation, doesn't quite do the fabulous event justice. Two thousand revelers paid $50 or more to convene at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue, where they had a stylish night to remember, dancing to the funk-driven sounds of local DJs Mandrill and Unknown, delighting in the atomic vocal prowess of R&B songbird Seleena Johnson, partaking in a mock casino, all the while receiving a healthy dose of HIV/AIDS education, including being tested for HIV on the spot, if so desired. White, of course, was de rigueur, and most everyone complied with the requested dress code.
"The white signifies the importance of life," says Penn, who serves as Ummah's Chairman and CEO. "It represents a commitment to making healthier lifestyle choices."
Ummah -- which in Arabic means "community" and whose mission "to raise funds and distribute them within the [African-American] community in the fight against HIV and AIDS" -- has named Us Helping Us as recipient of its "2004 Fund Distribution." Although final figures weren't available as of press time, Penn says the group hopes to contribute "up to $100,000" to UHU's current Capital Campaign. (The final figures will be announced at a special reception on October 29.)
The White Attire Affair, which began four years ago as an intimate backyard barbecue at the home of Ummah founder Abdur-Rahim Briggs, has evolved into one of the summer's most glamorous and anticipated events within the African-American GLBT community. Still, says Penn, "Our organization is not a gay-identified [one]. We try to make sure that we appeal to every demographic aspect in the Washington area in order to be most effective with the African American community in the fight against HIV and AIDS." -- Randy Shulman