Dallas Southern Pride building bridges as it continues to grow
Having a separate Black Pride is not about being apart from the mainstream community. It’s about celebrating what is unique about the African-American same-gender-loving community, organizers say.
And Dallas’ annual black Pride celebration, known as Dallas Southern Pride, has become one of the largest black Pride gatherings in the country.
Dallas Southern Pride 2015 takes place Oct. 1-4, with the Crowne Plaza Dallas-Market Center hotel, 7050 Stemmons Freeway, as the host hotel. There will be three “anchor events” — the Miss Dallas Southern Pride Pageant on Oct. 1 at the hotel, the annual DSP Sizzling Pool Party on Oct. 3 at the Bungalow Beach Club and The Unity Barbecue at Bachman Lake on Oct. 4.
But, DSP’s lead organizer Kirk Myers said, there are plenty of other parties and special events planned leading up to the Black Pride weekend. And many of those parties and events are intended to stress the goal of unity in community, he said.
Black Pride in Dallas began in the early 1990s as a way to provide entertainment for the hundreds of men and women who flooded the city each year for the annual football game between Grambling University and Prairie View A&M, two historically black colleges who faced off at the Cotton Bowl each fall, explained Betty Neal, a DSP organizer who helped put together those early events.
Neal worked at a nightclub called Raps, which catered primarily to the black LGBT community, and business was always hopping at Raps the weekend of the big game, she said.
“We had people who came up from Houston, from as far away as Atlanta — from all over for that weekend. So we decided we should start planning a big ‘purple vs. gold’ weekend. We had a big show with the best entertainers,” Neal recalled.
Another mainstay of the early Black Pride events in Dallas was a nightclub known as Elm and Pearl, Myers noted.
As the years passed, more people began to get involved. DJs and promoters started planning parties all over the city to cater to the Grambling vs. Prairie View crowds. Women of Distinction, an organization for African-American women who love women, began to create events just for women, while other organizations created events just for men.
Black Pride, she said, had become a profitable endeavor. And so the number of parties and events grew. Eventually, Neal said, organizers decided to hold Dallas’ Black Pride celebration on the first weekend in February every year, instead of tying it to the Grambling-Prairie View game weekend.
That change, Myers noted, was necessitated in part by the fact that the football game wasn’t held the same weekend every year, and the football schedule isn’t actually set until sometime in the summer. And Black Pride had become such a large undertaking that organizers couldn’t wait that long each year to begin planning.
“Just like the Dallas Tavern Guild does with the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, we plan year ‘round,” Myers said. “As soon as this year’s events are over, we will start planning for next year.”
Over the years, Neal noted, a division began to form. Some people wanted Black Pride to be all about the parties. Others wanted to take a more educational route and include workshops and seminars on serious topics like HIV/AIDS. A split developed, Neal said, with the two groups “bickering back and forth,” until finally, both side went more or less dormant.
And then, Neal continued, Myers, who is also CEO of the HIV/AIDS service organization Abounding Prosperity, stepped in and took control, reuniting the two once-separate groups under the banner of Dallas Southern Pride, and setting the organization on a path to success once again.
“With Kirk Myers in control, Dallas Southern Pride has really become a national-level Black Pride celebration. Dallas Southern Pride is one of the top five Black Pride celebrations in the country now,” Neal said.
“Dallas is going in the right direction now,” she added. “We are going in the direction of unity.”
That includes unity with the area’s “mainstream” Pride events, too, both Neal and Myers agreed.
“Having a Black Pride doesn’t mean we are trying to be separate from the rest of the community. Everyone is welcome to come to all of the events,” Neal said. “This is just a time that we celebrate our own unique culture and fashion and music and lifestyle, and we want everyone to celebrate that with us.”
Myers agreed. “Every major urban area has at least two Prides,” he said. “Some have more. New York City has Latin Pride, Indian Pride. It’s no different here. It’s not about being separate; we don’t want to be divisive. We want to add to Pride.”
In fact, he continued, Dallas Southern Pride continues to reach out to the larger LGBT community more and more each year.
“We have a Juneteenth picnic each year in June, which is national Gay Pride Month, and everyone is invited to attend,” Myers said. “This year, for the first time in at least the last three years, Dallas Southern Pride will have a float in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.
“Also this year, we will [have a Dallas Southern Pride group] participating in the LifeWalk,” the annual AIDS fundraiser that takes place Sunday, Oct. 4. LifeWalk is presented by AIDS Arms and benefits that agency along with several others, including Abounding Prosperity.
While there are “a slew of club events and parties” tied to Dallas Southern Pride and the days leading up to the weekend, the three “anchor events” are the Miss Dallas Southern Pride pageant, the Saturday pool party and the Sunday barbecue. The pageant and the pool party, Myers said, offer more examples of how DSP is branching out.
“Miss Dallas Southern Pride really is a top-caliber pageant that produces top-caliber performs. Kennedy Davenport, who has been on RuPaul’s Drag Race, she is a former Miss Dallas Southern Pride,” Myers said.
“This year, for the first year ever, we are having two hosts of the pageant. We have Kelexis Davenport, who performs at The Rose Room in S4, and Kianna Lee. And that’s another nod to inclusion, since Kianna is the first non-black host we have ever had for the pageant,” he added.
Dallas Southern Pride is also reaching out to other Black Pride events around the country, looking to build its national profile and with that, its financial impact on the city of Dallas.
“The biggest event of the weekend is our Sizzling Pool Party that happens on Saturday. And this year, Sizzle Miami, the leading Black Pride in the country, is coming in as a host of our Dallas Southern Pride pool party,” Myers said.
A pool party in June drew about 670 people, he noted. “We’re expecting well over a thousand people at the Pride pool party.
“We’re seeing a new era of unity now,” Myers continued. “Dallas Southern Pride has seen exponential growth. Growth in the number of people coming in for Pride, and exponential growth in the economic impact Dallas Southern Pride has on the city. We look forward to continuing to build bridges, bridges with Black Prides in other cities and bridges with the majority Pride here in Dallas. We want to build that bridge and really connect in a way that will make all Prides better for all our community.”
4th annual B/HAP Conference comes to Dallas
Abounding Prosperity Inc. hosts the fourth annual Southern Regional Ball/House and Pageant Communities Leadership and Health Disparities Conference, better known as B/HAP, Oct. 1-4.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Going ‘Viral’: B/HAP Communities Beat Down Disparities — A Record-Breaking Win. It focuses, AP’s CEO Kirk Myers said, “on the future of B/HAP communities in terms of overcoming health disparities through effective, organic leadership.”
The conference will “highlight specific indigenous leaders confronting those health disparities to inspire larger national conversations about the relationships between sexuality, public debate and equitable access to healthcare resources,” according to a press release on the conference.
The idea, organizers said, is to focus on promoting “grass-roots voices and organic leadership” within the B/HAP communities and on promoting businesses that want to earn more significant market shares in the LGBT communities of color.”
The host hotel for the conference is the Crown Plaza Hotel Dallas, Market Center 7050 N. Stemmons Freeway. The Crown Plaza is also the host hotel for Dallas Southern Pride, Dallas’ Black Pride celebration, also taking place Oct. 1-3.
Registration for the conference is open now. For information call 214-421-4800, email conference manager Damon Humes at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit BHAPConference.org.
Dallas Southern Pride
• Host Hotel: The Crowne Plaza Hotel Dallas Market Center, 7050 Stemmons Freeway. King and double rooms are $109 a night plus tax with the booking code Dallas Southern Pride. Make reservations online.
• Miss Dallas Southern Pride Pageant: Thursday, Oct. 1, at Crowne Plaza Hotel Dallas Market Center, 7050 Stemmons Freeway. Doors open at 9 p.m., pageant begins at 9:45 p.m. Admission is $5 for registered participants in the B/HAP Conference, and $10 for those registered for the conference.
• DSP Sizzling Pool Party, 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Bungalow Beach Club, 3121 Ross Ave. Presented in conjunction with Sizzle Miami, the Miami Black Pride, featuring the Sizzle Miami Hot Body Contest, and music by DJ C Wade, DJ 008 and DJ Rudeboy.
• Black Pride Unity Barbecue, 1-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4 at Bachman Lake, 3500 Northwest Highway. Free food and beverages.
For more information on these events and for information on all of the other events and parties taking place during Dallas Southern Pride, and for the link to reservations at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, visit DallasSouthernPride.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.