One great thing about summer are all the Pride celebrations, and this year, a new one has come to RVA. Virginia is having its first Black Pride celebration right here in Richmond, hosted by the organization Us Giving Richmond Connection (UGRC). The celebration, which encompasses several events taking place around Richmond, begins on Friday, July 20 and runs through Sunday, July 22.
The question of necessity often arises in relation to Black Pride. Because non-POC make up the majority of the population, it is easy to understand why having primarily white folks at an LGBTQ celebration may appear normal. However, living as a minority does not erase your need for representation. “For those that aren’t in the majority, their perspectives and often their feelings get lost,” Black Pride RVA Planning Committee Member Jonathan Albright said. ”So having a Black Pride highlights a subset within a subset, which has value, and needs to be heard and voiced. Black persons express themselves differently than the majority of those who identify [as LGBTQ].”
Pride can mean many different things, depending on who you ask. For many, Pride has been a recurring proclamation of queer liberation that has spread throughout the world. Some question the integrity of what Pride has become, because it started with riots and protest as a direct response to over-policing of QTPOC spaces and police brutality, and has now turned to days filled with parties, rallies, and parades.
Brooke Taylor, Black Pride RVA planning committee member, speaks to this by explaining that Black Pride RVA has been focused on purpose. The three-day event is centered around the Day of Purpose, taking place at Diversity Richmond on Saturday, July 21. “Many prides focus on the parties, and we are going to party, of course,” said Taylor. “But Richmond Pride differs because we realize that it is not only about the Black Queer community, but the Black community in general.” Taylor goes on to explain the mission and set-up of the event, which will feature not only an ample selection of vendors but several workshops of varied focus.
It is important to note the origin of what is presently known as Pride as the political and social reaction that it was. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, a Black trans woman and a Latinx trans woman, respectively, have been termed gay liberation trailblazers for being the frontrunners of the Stonewall Inn riots. Though there were liberation and equality movements and gay activists prior to the 60s, Johnson and Rivera stood out due to their gender expression, and the lack of inclusivity they dealt with during that time.
Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (via Netflix)
Despite these beginnings, QTPOC (Queer and/or Trans People of Color) are often forced out of discussions about the LGBTQ community. “Quite often, we are left out of the conversation because no one offers us a seat at the table, consistently enabling voices that are not ours to govern,” Taylor said. “In the rare instances where we are present at the table, the dishes that we enjoy are not present. We have our own stories to tell, so we opted to make our own table, and left it open for folks to pull up a chair and see how we do things.”
This is part of the heavy importance of a Black Pride in Richmond — Black folks in the city have made the decision to come together and fulfill a need. There are ways of being and ways of celebrating that are specific to communities, and just as Black History Month serves an important role, Black Pride RVA provides an important opportunity to have that celebration freely, within the lived intersections of the Black and LGBTQ communities. “When you look at Pride in a more specific way to highlight an ethnicity or a group of persons, that’s a way to value and enrich those who can and do get lost in a general stroke of celebrating individuality and uniqueness,” said Albright. “Because in our deciding the way that things operate, [the decision] is typically dominated by the majority.”
Current Pride celebrations make a statement about the freedom that members of the LGBTQ community have, and that we’re here to stay. Black Pride RVA makes the same statement about the Black LGBTQ community. “We’re at a turning point of who you are, how you are, and whose you are,” said Black Pride RVA Program Associate Larry Williams.
All of the members made a point to emphasize that everyone is welcome to attend Black Pride RVA — just as there are no bars on who is allowed to come to the better known Prides, despite some feelings of exclusion that members of various groups have felt. Black Pride RVA is simply meant to empower those living within intersections of the Black and LGBTQ communities — which is a necessity, considering our history and the struggles still occuring today. America’s history has purposefully been whitewashed, and the LGBTQ community is not exempt from that. The folks from UGRC and the Black Pride RVA planning committee are working to change this narrative for the future, so everyone can feel welcomed during these summer months of celebration.
“We can experience proudness in the same way that you can, and it shouldn’t be questioned,” said Williams. “I want people to know how proud I am of everyone who sat at the planning committee table […] Black excellence is a thing, and will continue to be a thing.”
Black Pride RVA begins on Friday, July 20 with Dinner & Drag at Godfrey’s (308 E. Grace St) beginning at 7 PM, and an After-Party beginning at 10 PM. It continues with the Day Of Purpose, taking place at Diversity Richmond (1407 Sherwood Ave) from 9:30 AM until 4 PM on Saturday, July 21; which will be followed by an Official After-Party at Speakeasy (526 N. 2nd St) from 9 PM til 1 AM. It will close on Sunday, July 22 with a Closing Worship Service at Third Street Bethel AME (614 N. 3rd St) beginning at 11 AM.