Rochester Black Pride is in its third year and, according to organizers, is bigger and better than ever.
The five-day festival will offer big name performers like Big Freedia, workshops on important topics like sexual and mental health and just offer a great time like with their “Old School” party.
However, it’s a lot of work to put on said, Adrian Elim, who added that it’s worth it to see proper representation and a pride that may be more authentic. He said the idea to make a separate pride arose from two places: continued exclusion from the local mainstream LGBT community and the fact that many cities across the nation have Black Prides, including New York City, Chicago and Dallas.
“The reason why black pride even exists is because we want to pay homage to and elevate the voices who are missing from Pride,” Elim explained. “Pride started out of a riot. It was a riot. Pride was resistance by black trans women, black queer women, you know…this was at a time when white men were like, ‘oh no you can’t do this. We’re having a comfortable life and we don’t want to mess that up.'”
Elim was referring to the slow growing acceptance of LGBT but which often looked a certain way: white, male and often very masculine. This left out a number of people in the community who didn’t look this way and locally this was a problem as well.
Thomas Warfield, a noted community artist and Director of Dance at the National Technical Insitute for the Deaf, said he remembers this being an issue for decades. He said he grew up in the Neighborhood of the Arts area and remembers the exclusion the LGBT community of color faced.
“At that time there was a very big gay community here,” said Warfield. “It was concentrated on Park Avenue and Monroe Avenue and there were like 13 or 14 gay bars. It was a huge time and at that time there was a lot of racial stuff within the gay community but it was never addressed and it created kind of a resentment.”
But even more than offering something separate, it’s about offering something safe, said Elim who stressed “safe spaces” are important to the structure of Pride. Some events this week are only for people who identify a certain way, including the Women of Color: 50 Shades of Blue event, which is only for black women. This allows them to have conversations and interact as openly as possible.
“There are so many issues we have within our communities and traumas that we have that we just need to start thinking of what are ways we can deal with them that are both fun but also productive,” said Elim. “So it’s not just let’s just get drunk, and I know for Big Freedia people are coming to shake their ass but while you shake your ass you going to see performers from our community who rarely, if ever, get a platform to perform or to showcase their talents.”
Still, Black Pride organizers understand that many in the city don’t understand the need for the split and so in the flyers for the event, they’ve actually addressed those questions with an explainer under “Why It’s Necessary.” It states: “This is an opportunity for the unique flavor, voice, aesthetic and experience of the Black Queer/LGBT community to take center stage to celebrate , educate and empower one another.”
It continues on to discuss the conscious effort made by organizers to “welcome all factions” in the planning of Pride. Elim said in that way they can ensure different identities are represented fairly and equally.