Following a two-year hiatus, the in-person celebration of DC Black Pride over Memorial Day Weekend will return to the nation’s capital, from May 26-30.
Organized by the Center for Black Equity, this year’s DC Black Pride has over 25 events around the city, highlighting the Black LGBTQ community in Washington. The focus for this year is making it accessible, making it happen, and making it fun.
“For a lot of our community from around the country, DC Black Pride, and Black Pride, in particular, is like a family reunion,” says Kenya Hutton, deputy director of The Center for Black Equity. “We want to make sure that we can make this an enjoyable experience for whoever you are, wherever you’re coming from, or whatever your financial status is.”
From a happy hour overlooking the city and workshops on how to thrive as a Black queer community to a poetry slam competition, the variety of events showcase the diversity of the queer Black community, and emphasizes how there isn’t one way to celebrate.
This has been especially clear in the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 DC Black Pride was canceled, and after D.C. experienced an uptick in COVID infections in 2021, DC Black Pride shifted to celebrating “12 Months of Black Pride,” in which all but a handful of events were held virtually.
The Center for Black Equity used the feedback from last year’s virtual pride to make this year’s in-person events that much more perfect, says Hutton.
“It really just laid the groundwork for this year’s Pride by really doing a temperature check on the community,” Hutton says. ”Helping us really like to decide what we want to highlight. What people really want.”
That feedback was clear and explained why in-person events are so essential to the DC Black Pride celebration.
“People want to have fun,” says Hutton. “People want to connect with each other. That’s what people wanted. They wanted to see each other.”
Hutton acknowledges that although joining together and having fun is one aspect of pride, safety is a top concern for the weekend.
Fentanyl testing strips and Narcan will be available throughout the weekend, just in case someone is in need of medical assistance following a possible overdose. Hutton explained the strips and Narcan would be provided with “no questions asked. We want everyone to be safe.”
Gilead, the drug manufacturer and sponsor of both the “wellness lounge” and a sexual health workshop on Saturday, will provide sexual health services and medication, including post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), medications used to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
To mitigate against a potential surge in COVID infections, the Center for Black Equity has purchased thousands of masks that will be distributed throughout the Renaissance Washington D.C. Downtown, where most of the events will take place. While not mandatory for Pride-goers, all staff are required to wear masks and will be providing additional safety measures as well.
“We’re going to also have rapid test kits available for anyone that if you start feeling a little funny on Friday or Saturday,” Hutton says.
The weekend kicks off with the DC Black Pride Unity Ball at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel on Thursday, May 26. Last year’s Unity Ball, although virtual, was a major draw. The ball consists of competitors walking down a runway to music with various categories and themes while judges critique from the side. This year there are more than 20 categories to be walked with prizes totaling over $5,000.
On Friday, May 27, and Saturday, May 28, Rainbow Row, a vendor gathering and display space, will return to Black Pride, showcasing over 40 vendors that “support and sell products for the LGBTQA+ community,” says Hutton.
In addition to the Unity Ball on Thursday, the CommUNITY Opening Ceremony on Friday is anticipated to be big, with full performances by Big Freedia and up and freshly signed artist Tai’Aysha. Two drink tickets will be given out to anyone who registers for the opening ceremony.
Asked what event he was most excited about, Hutton replied like a parent asked which child was his favorite. “It’s really hard to pick just one,” he says. “But the brunch is definitely, definitely it. If anyone has ever seen these entertainers perform, they bring the heat, they bring the business. So definitely I would love to be able to participate and see that.”
The DC Black Pride Brunch & Babes is Sunday, May 29, at Karma DC.
Mariah Paris Balenciaga from RuPaul’s Drag Race will host the show, backed up by a slate of local and visiting queens. Proceeds from the brunch will benefit the Capitol Ballroom Council, helping to raise money for the local House and Ballroom community. Tickets for that event are on sale online.
Some sponsors of DC Black Pride have donated gift cards from places like Target and Shake Shack. These gift cards can be won in raffles across the weekend. Anyone can enter the raffles by scanning QR codes that will be around the hotel and event space.
“If you did spend your last dollar to come this week, which we know some people do, we [could] give you some money so you can enjoy yourself a little bit,” Hutton says. “So have a good time as much as possible.”
DC Black Pride is May 26 to 30, with most events taking place at the host hotel, the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown, located at 999 9th St. NW.
For a full list of events, parties, and other important information about the weekend, visit the DC Black Pride website at www.dcblackpride.org.
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