This year, organizers of DC Black Pride are trying something different. Instead of closing out the annual Memorial Day Weekend celebration with a large Sunday expo and stage show, organizers of Black Pride are joining forces with Us Helping Us, People Into Living Inc., for a smaller local gathering at a park.
”Economically, it’s been difficult,” Earl Fowlkes, a DC Black Pride board member and president of the International Federation of Black Prides, says of the prospect of a large Sunday festival. ”We’re a nonprofit, and the support from sponsorship is not there as it’s been in previous years to do the full-day thing.”
DC Black Pride and Us Helping Us’s Health and Wellness Festival is scheduled for Monday, May 30, from 1 to 6 p.m. at Fort Dupont Park in Southeast D.C.
”The other part of it is the organization is shifting,” Fowlkes says. ”We’re shifting away from just doing Black Pride. We have to figure out what’s the relevance of DC Black Pride in the daily lives of people in this area.
”We’re really a local organization and Pride has become more regional than it used to be, and so that’s why we’re looking at domestic violence.”
Ron Simmons, executive director at Us Helping Us, says it’s appropriate that Black Pride’s main event is merging with Us Helping Us, adding that it speaks to Black Pride’s original mission: to combat HIV/AIDS.
”I like that idea because it’s sort of bringing Pride back to the local community as opposed to it being this national event,” Simmons says.
”Talking about losing attendance – unless you are promoting an event or you own a club – is that really going to impact you? It’s not like people were coming by and dropping money at AIDS services organizations,” he says. ”We get thousands of tourists in town, and the clubs are packed, and they usually charge twice as much. If you live here, you realized that doesn’t make sense.”
Simmons adds that a smaller event doesn’t cause him any worry.
”The intent of Pride was never to become this big event that attracts tens of thousands of people,” he says. ”It was to show, recognize and celebrate our presence as a black LGBT community and to raise money for AIDS organizations. A lot of people seem to forget that that was part of the initial focus, helping out with HIV.”
Simmons says that too much attention in later years may have gone to ”all of these stars coming and all this hoopla.”
Part of DC Black Pride’s local outreach to coincide with this year’s festival includes donating to Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for the homeless, according to Sterling Washington, resource and grant development manager at the International Federation of Black Prides.
”DC Black Pride is donating money for the project and we will be on hand for some of the building,” Washington says.
Washington says Black Pride will be donating $250, while the federation will also donate $250.
”It’s not a huge donation,” he says. ”But it helps.”
Fowlkes says attendees of this year’s park event can expect to see some vendors, entertainment and karaoke. He adds that the park event is not the only event organized by DC Black Pride this year.
The weekend festivities, a schedule of which is available at dcblackpride.org, include a Thursday, May 27, town-hall meeting on domestic violence; and a Friday, May 28, opening reception honoring Ron Collins, director of the Mayor’s Office of Boards and Commissions, and Khadijah Tribble, executive director of Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care. Both events are at the host hotel, the Hamilton Crowne Plaza, 1001 14th St. NW.
”There’s still a lot of stuff going on during the weekend,” Fowlkes says. ”People will be having pool parties, people will be barbequing. We may have a happy hour at one of the local bars. So it is different. There’s no entertainer or major headliner, and we are doing this on purpose because we really need to be the organization that is relevant throughout the year.”
That relevance will require DC Black Pride to continue building a relationship with Us Helping Us, Fowlkes says.
”We’re talking about collaboration and building a longer and deeper relationship. That means we have to do things differently.”
For a full schedule of events, visit dcblackpride.org.