DC Black Pride has decided to cancel its 2020 celebration, citing the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The announcement comes as many other Pride celebrations around the country postpone or cancel their festivities — including D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade and Festival — due to the potential of COVID-19 to spread rapidly amid mass gatherings.
“There is no higher priority than the health and wellbeing of Black LGBTQA community,” a statement on DC Black Pride’s website reads. “In light of the continuing global impact and community transmission of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) — and in accordance with public health recommendations — the Center for Black Equity has made the unprecedented decision to cancel DC Black Pride 2020. For the first time in 30 years, we will not gather in D.C. to celebrate our community during Memorial Day Weekend.
“This too shall pass. We will celebrate the 30th DC Black Pride in 2021, bigger and more celebratory than ever,” the message concludes. “Be sure to stay connected with us.”
In an interview with Metro Weekly, Kenya Hutton, the program director of DC Black Pride, said that the decision was influenced by a number of factors.
“First, our host hotel announced it would be closing its doors until late May or early June. The hotels are just shutting their doors altogether,” Hutton said. “The other thing is the president said on Sunday that they’re extending the federal call for social distancing until April 30. Knowing that our event is a month later, we had to make a decision of: ‘Okay, is it going to be safe for us to gather within 30 days?’ We’re not too sure. I don’t think so.”
The economic fallout from social distancing also influenced the decision.
“Many members of our community aren’t working right now. They’re unemployed, because everybody’s locked in the house,” Hutton added. “So it would be unfair and even selfish of us as an organization to expect folks to come out of this, and a month later, come to DC Black Pride — which in all honesty, is very expensive and can cost a lot of money, between hotels, transportation, et cetera — knowing that this whole country is experiencing financial hardship right now.
“For me, given that my background is in public health, my main instinct was: ‘This is not going to be a safe time for us.’ The president said we’re expecting to see the recovery from this starting June 1. That’s after our Pride,” Hutton said. “And our community is going to take a little longer to ramp up and rev up. We had to make that decision that’s for the betterment of public health, which is to cancel.”
Hutton said that organizers had looked into rescheduling DC Black Pride, but didn’t want to conflict with other Black Pride celebrations, or Pride celebrations from the spring that are being rescheduled for the fall.
“It would be unfair to move it to July 4, for example. That would have been competing against Chicago and L.A. Black Pride,” Hutton said. “If we moved it to sometime in October, we’d conflict with some of the other Prides that were being rescheduled, as well as Baltimore Black Pride. We were looking at going into November and December, so instead of doing that, and then having to turn around and try to do it again in another five months, it made sense to just cancel the gathering and come back for next year.
“Now, canceling doesn’t mean that we’re not going to do anything,” he added. “We’re already looking to hold some virtual events. Once we gain some sense of normalcy, we’ll do some smaller events in person.”
Hutton said that some of those virtual events will include workshops or town halls. He said that DC Black Pride will be sending out a survey to attendees to see what other events they would like to do once it becomes safe to hold mass gatherings once again.
“We’re basically asking them what they would like to see us do,” he said. “I can’t really answer what that is at this time. It’s going to depend on what the community wants. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure the community stays engaged. We also want them to know that we are here fore them, and that the decision to cancel wasn’t made for any other reason but public health.”
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