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Community Out Of Tragedy: Establishing Virginia’s First Black Pride Celebration

The first Black Pride RVA celebration takes place this weekend, but the event has been in the works for years, as Rev. Lacette Cross explains.

David Streever | July 19, 2018

After the horrific 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub, Richmond’s LGBTQ community tried to come together for unity, but instead, found division. Vigils were organized locally by leading LGBTQ advocacy groups, but as happens all too often in American society at large, Black and Latinx leaders felt underrepresented and excluded by an event that was supposed to mark a tragedy that had touched them personally.

Remembering the aftermath, local activist and minister Lacette Cross says she wondered, “Why didn’t they call us? It’s not like the organizers don’t know queer Black leaders.”

Cross felt the slight was unintentional, but it inspired her to create an intentional space for LGBTQ people of color in the city. At a post-event meeting, she says, “I said, ‘We can complain, or we can do something about it.’ Folks said, we can do something.”

That something is Black Pride RVA, a first of its kind event in Virginia, to be held this weekend in Richmond. Cross stresses that it’s not a competition with other local Pride events — she attends them all — but simply a way to provide representation to a group that faces additional challenges and discrimination. “This is not a homogenous world, and LGBTQ people are not homogenous. We’re not all the same gay, the same bi, the same queer. There’s a beauty in our diversity.”

The event is “a party with a purpose,” she says. Among the entertainment — highlights include a drag performance hosted by Alvion Davenport and Heaven-Leigh Kennedy on Friday night, a ballroom dance competition, and local rapper McKinley Dixon headlining on Saturday — Black Pride RVA will also feature a range of family-focused activities and educational classes. From a workshop on mental health, subtitled Navigating Your Truth in a Trump Era, to financial wellness classes and Black LGBTQ history, Cross has prepared a diversity of programming to make sure that the event serves the community it represents.

It has taken time to plan the event from those early discussions in September of 2016. After the talks, Cross founded a non-profit, Us Giving RVA Connection, and by February of the next year, the loosely-formed group had put together programming around Black LGBTQ history, creating the first Black LGBTQ History Month celebration, hosted by Diversity Richmond. They kept meeting monthly, knowing they wanted to do something bigger, and Cross took steps to make the process as inclusive as possible. “We wanted everybody to come to the table who wanted to be involved,” she says.

What she kept hearing was an interest in hosting a Black Pride event. While Virginia has never had a Black Pride event, they aren’t new; the first one was held in Washington, D.C., in 1991. It continues to this day under the umbrella group the Center for Black Equity, which plans other Black Prides around the country, and Cross knew who to turn to as she worked out the details on Richmond’s inaugural event.

“I got the Black Pride bootcamp, and it was amazing,” she says, talking about a series of training sessions she took in May of last year. That training introduced her to Black queer leaders from around the country, and helped her to schedule Richmond’s event to avoid conflicts with events both near, like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s June 24 event; and far, like the Black Pride held earlier this month in Paris, France.

Cross has a videographer and photography team who will document the event, and with her awareness of Black Pride on the national scene, I ask her how big of an event we should expect. “This is our first year, but I see Black Pride RVA as a tourist destination, especially over the next two years,” she says. She turns dreamy for a minute, talking about future events, before she laughs, exclaiming, “Don’t print that! I’m dreaming big. Right now, I just have to get through this weekend.”

Black Pride RVA’s first official event is “Dinner and a Drag Show,” hosted by Godfrey’s this Friday. Tickets are $12 online, $15 at the door. For more info, click here.

Admission to the main event, the Day Of Purpose, hosted by Diversity Richmond on Saturday, is free of charge, but attendees are encouraged to get a free ticket online. For more info, click here.

Saturday night is an after-party hosted at The Speakeasy Grill; tickets are $15 online and $25 at the door. Tickets to this event, as well as VIP passes and more, are available at Eventbrite.

The weekend will close with a Worship Service at Third Street Bethel AME on Sunday morning at 11 AM.

For more info on all events, visit Black Pride RVA’s website at blackpriderva.com.