Separate But Equal

by Jamie Kirk

It seems like everything comes down to politics, race, gender, rich or poor.

Many decisions that are made – from the classroom to the courtroom – often come down to relationships, who has them, and who does not. Relationships are funny because many of them are based on assimilation. We gravitate to folks like us. Folks that look like us, tend to think like us, and who generally have the same belief systems. 

When it comes to celebrating uniqueness and differences, up to and including diversity and inclusion, this area can be a little murky. 

You find yourself marching alongside someone that has many of the same struggles as you do, yet there are glaring differences. The fight is the same, the expected outcomes are the same, but the road map to get there can be very different. This pertains to all of the oppressed.  

This is the case of the Black queer community wanting a voice in the movement of celebrating their queerness. Wanting to dance half-naked on a float, going down a main street in a busy city. Wanting to throw a big party with lots of fanfare and special guests and entertainment. However, back in the 1990s, and obviously prior, much of the Black queer community didn’t feel shunned per se, but they didn’t feel welcomed either. 

Many of the major cities would bring in artist that didn’t cross over, but catered to a more queer white audience.  Even Black artists that didn’t necessarily cater to urban radio and their listeners were headliners across the country, leaving many Black queer men and women without someone or something to cling too. It wasn’t just the parties or the events, it was the fight. It was the mission. Many in the Black queer community saw the need to venture out and clear a path that allowed them to showcase their own uniqueness by creating a weekend “just for us.”  

In the beginning many naysayers and detractors thought, “Why do they need a separate weekend?” or “Why can’t they just celebrate with us?” or “They say they want to be treated equally, but then alienate themselves.” Not falling into the trap of giving up or giving in, the founders on Black Gay Pride held to their convictions and decided to designate a weekend (Labor Day) to focus on their own history, struggle, and pain. Which, come to find out, was pretty different. 

While many of the gay Pride events would address issues like marriage equality, gays not being able to have insurance benefits of their life partner, and trans rights. The Black Gay Pride events were committed to focus on mental health issues, a lack of affordable health care, racism and homophobia. That is not to say that there was not overlap, there certainly is/was, but the communities seemingly took varying ways to address.  

It is very necessary to have a Black Pride, just like it is very necessary to have Historically Black Colleges and Universities. And equally necessary to have the NAACP or the SCLC, Black fraternities and sororities and, back in the day, housing projects that were only in Black neighborhoods. As much as we all believe that racism, sexism, and ageism are all horrific, they DO exist. They exist unconsciously in who we are. We have to make good choices and sometimes turn a blind eye from things we saw in our childhood, especially things said around the dinner table or behind closed doors.  

Having a Black Pride annually should not be seen as a group of people “going rogue” or even attempting to divert attention from the overall fight for equality and equal rights. The goal of having a separate weekend has simply been to focus on agenda items that are often overlooked or not considered in the fight for continued inclusion.

The goal of any group that is oppressed is to simply be heard. I think it’s pretty cool that we have two outlets to be heard, twice a year. That reinforcement of both groups should be a unifying voice, not separated by race or color.

Blacks need to show up and show out for Black Pride, just like the participants of Gay Pride need to show up and show out for Black Pride. We are all equal, separated only by a few months on a calendar regarding this ongoing fight for basic human rights.

Two teams, one goal: Freedom.  

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