ST. LOUIS – It was a three-day celebration hosted over the weekend by the nation’s second-oldest LGBT pride organization in the country, Black Pride St. Louis.
The 2019 St. Louis Black Pride Festival took place Aug. 16-18.
The weekend of events kicked off Friday with an awards ceremony, Black Pride Accolades. This year’s awards were held at the Missouri History Museum from 6 to 8 p.m.
The purpose of the show was to highlight and honor some of the best of the best among St. Louis’ LGBT residents. Those categories included health, arts and entertainment, pioneer, legend, lifetime achievement and entrepreneur of the year.
As a board member and co-chair of Black Pride Accolades, Latonya Kelly had a hand in coordinating the evening event.
“I wanted to be apart of an organization that was about changing people’s mindsets about the LGBT community, and I think St. Louis Black Pride has done that on so many levels,” Kelly said.
“I’m happy with it. I’m happy with the vendors this year. I’m happy with the turnout. I’m proud of it,” she summed up.
Randy Rafter, president of Black Pride St. Louis, described his weekend as being busy, exciting, emotional and prideful.
What stirs his emotions, Rafter said, is “to be able to gather a marginalized group, for them to be prideful in who they are and to give them a safe space where they can be free to be great. We’re able to really give them an opportunity to really be their authentic selves.”
Rafter has been president of the 24-year-old organization for the past five years. The Black Pride festival isn’t just about one moment, he said.
“St. Louis Black Pride weekend is … a fundraiser for us to do work throughout the entire year. It’s definitely about a movement of our community,” Rafter said.
“From economic development to arts and entertainment to education to health and wellness, there’s so many different issues within the LGBT people of color community that need to be addressed.
“This offers people an opportunity to get connected to the resources, but we also do things throughout the entire year to not only get people to the resources but to build equity in their everyday lives.”
The Black Pride Festival took place downtown in Kiener Plaza on Saturday from noon until 8 p.m.
More than 25 vendors participated, including the Human Rights Campaign, Metro East Pride, Planned Parenthood, Fahrenheit Chicago, Pride St. Charles and Janssen, among many others.
Good food, lemonade, snowcones and tons of prideful gear were all within arm’s reach, thanks to several vendors and sponsors.
The director of the city’s Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, Charles Bryson, said it was important for people to know their rights.
“It’s important for us to be here because we want to make sure that those communities that are marginalized both as African-Americans and as the LGBTQIA community know what their rights, rules and regulations are in the city of St. Louis,” Bryson said in an interview.
“It is crucial that they have that information because whether it’s fair housing, whether it’s public accommodation or disability or whether it’s an employment opportunity, they should know their rights and be armed with the facts when they go into those situations,” he added.
Festivalgoers could also get tested for HIV free of charge thanks to The Spot, an extension of the Washington University School of Medicine. The Spot provides medical and social services for people ages 13-24.
Brandon Moore worked alongside The Spot and Washington U. to offer those free services at the festival.
“I believe that our community, especially those young men of color and men who have sex with men, desire to see most of their communities … come help support their own movement,” Moore said.
On Sunday there was a Morning Glory Service at St. Louis University’ Center for Global Citizenship at 10 a.m. And capping off the weekend of events was A Bountiful Brunch at 11 a.m. at the Last Hotel.
More information about Black Pride St. Louis is available at blackprideSTL.org