For lots of folks inside and outside of Chicago’s gay community, last Sunday’s Pride Parade is the focal point of what’s become a month-long celebration of gay pride.
Not so for many in the black LGBT community. In fact Chicago Windy City Black Pride didn’t enter a float, didn’t even march in the parade – though they did participate in the annual Rocks LGBT Pride celebration at Melrose Harbor.
When I ask why, Chicago Black Pride’s president Jesse Hinton says, “That’s a good question. Historically there’s been a division among white and black gay people, a sense among past presidents that the mainstream [and largely white] gay community is not very embracing.”
It isn’t news that racism runs through both gay and straight life – Hinton says, “You can see it in the way young African-Americans are treated, the way the police and the gay community handles them.” And segregation is as visible in Boystown as it is in other Chicago neighborhoods. Hinton points to the population breakdown in the bars along Halsted Street, saying, “These places are not an inviting environment for blacks.” Instead people in the black LGBT community go to promoter events aimed specifically at them, like the Urbano party happening Saturday night at the Metro.
Of course the gulf between black and white gays has complicated and various reasons, including what Hinton argues is a “whole other culture in the black household,” one that still has “couples in 10, 15-year relationships saying ‘This is my roommate’ when they come around family.” And sometimes people do just want to be with their own. Hinton stresses that "although we’re open to diversity, sometimes you want familiar surroundings.”
Things may change under his leadership. Hinton became the president of Chicago Black Pride about a year and a half ago, after a long-term relationship ended and he was in search of new leadership opportunities. He says Steamworks, a gay bathhouse in Boystown, recently reached out to do some cross-marketing and promoting for an event. Hinton laughs, saying, "It hadn’t even crossed my mind” as a possibility, though he welcomes the invitation, and says, "We’re definitely open to it, to someone bringing up the conversations.”
Black Pride Week kicked off Thursday and runs through July 4th, but Hinton thinks upcoming events will provide other opportunities for collaboration. His organization will host a cotillion in October to recognize the transgender community, an event he says will be “a North Side and a South Side event, involving black party promoters and people in Boystown."
Meanwhile Hinton has an invitation of his own to issue to Black Pride's July 1st party at Rainbow Beach: “Come out and party with us, gay, straight, whatever. Just come out and have a good time!”
That's one respite from this hot, hot weather we’re having. The rest of Weekender's picks are below. So go on now, and enjoy yourself!
Sunday 4 p.m.
"I know you are but what am I?" What more do you want?
4050 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Monday 8 p.m.
The late Adam Yauch is remembered by local bands and entertainers.
Lincoln Hall 2424 N. Lincoln Avenue