If you reside in the nation’s capital and, at the end of every May, don’t notice thousands of black LGBTQ people descend from the gay clouds in their fiercest outfits to slay the weekend away, then you may be living under a rock.
To be sure, Memorial Day weekend is certainly when we honor those who have served and lost their lives for a U.S. military often known for unnecessary and violent interventions. On that day, I dedicate much of that time giving honor specifically to black people who fought—and died—in the name of freedom for a country that never wanted them to access it.
That same weekend, however, is also Washington, D.C.’s Black Pride, so the sea of melanin is an embarrassment of riches.
DC Black Pride, the oldest documented pride celebration in the country specifically created for black people, is a program of the Center for Black Equity, a coalition of Black Pride organizers. It’s a time when black LGBTQ people come from all over the country to indulge in a full weekend of activities, including town halls addressing the state of the LGBTQ community, conversations on sexual health, queer brunches and, of course, parties.
DC Black Pride may not be perfect—like other parties where personalities, pettiness, brilliance and liquor combine, conflicts are bound to occur. But Black Pride is still ours to own and operate. It is entrenched in our community, centered on both our blackness and queerness—the two cannot and should not be separated.
That’s why it’s critical for the larger, more mainstream community to understand that Black Pride is for black people only.
On social media, during DC Black Pride weekend, I made such a proposition, and although generally well-received, some commenters made statements indicating that they believed this position to be a manifestation of “reverse racism” that would push out allies.
To be clear, fraudulent allyship should only be our concern when we’re calling it out. If those opposed to making DC Black Pride exclusively black begin any conversation centering such “allies,” they’ve already lost their way. Claiming allyship has become code for “Not all of us!” It is a quest for fictive kinship with no real accountability to the communities in which these allies want access. It’s also a way to decenter the feelings of the most marginalized; the same marginalized people whom “allies” claim they want to support get pushed aside to make room for white feelings and whiter “intentions.”
Make no mistake—racism is thriving within the LGBTQ community. It’s a community that often rejects black queer and transgender individuals, so oftentimes we are forced to create our own—culture, dance and community, and, yes, pride. Then, when that rejected community becomes profitable, the mainstream community wants involvement. When that immersion isn’t received—or is outright rejected—it is called “exclusion.”
Exclusion is what created Black Pride. It’s just not the one that the mainstream community is willing to understand: Exclusion, deeply rooted in whiteness, is what caused Black Pride to even occur. This is the same exclusion that recognizes that this is now our safe space and that the inclusion of those who are nonblack contributes to our violence.
Black Pride isn’t for white partners of black LGBTQ people.
Black Pride isn’t for white friends who happen to be down with the swirl because they grew up around black people.
It is for the black culture, connected experiences, house scene, vogue culture, parties, intersectional discussions, intellectual girls and banji girls. It’s for communities universally excluded, those who needed to create this space because of, not in spite of, that.
I’m perfectly fine being “divisive” here because black people have been forced to be accommodating to communities who easily take advantage of our kindness. We are told to be nicer than, wiser than and more respectful than others. The mainstream LGBTQ community still isn’t accepting of black and Latinx people writ large. We know this.
And if black LGBTQ folks aren’t dealing with white partners of black queer people trying to center themselves in our events and the institutional exclusion that made these events a necessity, then we are dealing with the queer black folks among us who believe that following a business model rooted in gaining access to white capital is “progress.”
Pride events in June, especially in places like D.C., are heavily rooted in capitalism and financial investment. Much of that investment isn’t even from corporations that are supportive of LGBTQ rights; and honestly, even the straight performers we invite don’t really speak out about our marginalized identities.
We have become so money-hungry that we don’t care, but accessing white capital too often means diluting blackness, and that has always cost us too much. We know better.
If a person fundamentally believes that black spaces are important as safe spaces, then it is contradictory to then say that no person can dictate that Black Pride events be exclusively black. As a person who has organized Black Pride events, I repeat: Black Pride weekend is for black people—it isn’t segregation, it’s ownership of spaces once excluded. We have rights to our own safe spaces at all times. And if this is still a problem, it’s because we have not taught people that they don’t have the right to always be centered.
Like Solange says, “Don’t be mad that you can’t sing along; just be glad you’ve got the whole wide world.”