“This year, we’ve drilled down a little bit deeper, and are being more inclusive of the different parts of our community,” says Earl Fowlkes, one of the co-organizers of DC Black Pride, which will celebrate its 28th anniversary on Memorial Day Weekend.
Black Pride kicks off with Thursday night events for the politically involved, including a forum on LGBTQ political engagement, a first-of-its-kind #SlaytheVote ball, and efforts to encourage attendees to register to vote.
On Saturday, the Grand Hyatt Washington hosts men’s and women’s sexual health forums, where attendees can anonymously pose questions about any concerns they have, as well as a town hall meeting focusing on the concerns of both LGBTQ youth and the transgender community, a writer’s forum and poetry slam, a forum on LGBTQ aging, and the annual “Party with a Purpose,” a dance party for LGBTQ elders that will raise money for Mary’s House for Older Adults. Saturday also brings “Onyx U,” a day-long expo aimed at introducing attendees to the ins-and-outs of the leather, BDSM, and kink lifestyles. On Monday, the weekend closes out with a day-long Health and Wellness Expo in Southeast D.C.’s Fort Dupont Park, as well as live musical performances and a dance party.
Organizers say they particularly want to stress the educational workshops and events at DC Black Pride, which have served as the core of the event dating back decades.
“Black Pride didn’t start out as a bunch of parties,” says co-organizer Kenya Hutton. “It had a specific focus, which was about getting together and celebrating us as a community — all those black and brown people who weren’t visible in the larger community Pride.
“Part of having these workshops, forums, and town halls is to start a conversation, so you can take what you learned back to your local area,” he continues. “We try to weave in some educational components so that people walk away enriched, enlightened, and empowered a little bit more than you were when you came in.”
But that doesn’t mean the nightlife aspect can be ignored. In recent years, the number of parties and club bookings has increased, slowly elevating Black Pride’s national profile and attracting revelers from across the country.
“The host hotel sold out so fast it made my head spin,” says Daryl Wilson, the chief party promoter at DC Black Pride. “And then on top of it, they got two ‘overflow’ hotels that are sold out as well.”
Wilson is particularly proud of convincing popular male artists to perform at Black Pride. For years, agents of straight male performers would refuse to allow their clients to perform at LGBTQ events. But Wilson has managed to wrangle in some big headliners, including hip-hop and R&B stars Tank, Ginuwine, and Mario.
“When you think about where DC Black Pride started, and how it’s grown, we’ve come a long way,” he says. “We’re showcasing more male talent at some of the biggest venues in D.C., and I’m excited to be able to pull in someone with name value in the music industry, and has a great catalogue of music that is guaranteed to get the party jumping.”
DC Black Pride runs from Friday, May 25 to Monday, May 28. The host hotel is the Grand Hyatt Washington, 1000 H St. NW. For a full schedule of events and parties, visit dcblackpride.org or turn to page 35.