New York City Black Pride is returning for a 26th year, with several events across the city from Aug. 16-20.
“Black Pride is basically a way for us, as a Black and Brown LGBTQ community, to uplift ourselves around the things that we have accomplished — past, present — and things that we’re working on towards the future, Lee Soulja-Simmons, organizer of Black Pride, told Gay City News.
The first event is centered on mental health, with the title of “HEALTH IS A HUMAN RIGHT!” The event is scheduled for Aug. 16 from 6-9:30 p.m. and it is free to attend. Hosted by Michael Roberson, the event will take place at The Center at 208 W. 13th Street, with special guest speakers and complimentary food and beverages on deck.
YOTEL is serving as the host hotel for NYC Black Pride.
“We are seeing attacks happening across the United States towards our rights as LGBTQ people,” Soulja-Simmons said. “The attacks that are happening towards people who perform drag and our transgender community, so right now it’s really important that we understand the things that are happening around us. And how do we handle that? We’re having large discussions around mental health.”
Soulja-Simmons added: “Even in the last couple of days, you may have seen that even the president is speaking about mental health care for everyone. But I think in our community, it’s most important when we’re being attacked. How does that play out for an individual to want to feel safe and come out in the community and be who they are? To just simply be a human being and live our lives?”
On Thursday, Aug. 17, there will be a Mr. and Miss Black Pride International at 5 p.m., also at The Center. Registration is at 3 p.m. and interviews take place at 4 p.m. It costs $100 to compete, but general admission is free. Hosted by Harmonica Sunbeam, the categories are interview, presentation on what Black Pride means to the contestants, swimwear, formal wear, talent, and the Q&A. The winner will receive $2000, while the second place finisher will be awarded $1000 and the third place contestant will get $500.
“Last year, for the 25th anniversary of Black Pride, I thought about just having a pageant for New York City Black Pride alone,” Soulja-Simmons said. “Like a Miss America pageant or a Miss Universe… This year, the amount of people that have hit us up from around the country, wanting to come, to attend, to participate, it’s very exciting. But it’s about doing something for that sector of the community. It’s about having a spokesmodel, and a representative.”
According to the website, organizers are “looking for an ambassador to represent not only the title of Mr/Miss Black Pride International but also BLACK PRIDE. The ambassador must demonstrate the highest level of excellence in and out of the reign. This title must be carried with the utmost respect, professionalism, intelligence, and poise. You must conduct yourself at all times in the highest manner, for you will also be the face of Black Pride for your selected year of reign.”
The rules and regulations for the competition are available at nycblackpride.com.
On Aug. 18, there will be a Heritage Awards Ceremony from 7-11 p.m. at the Brooklyn Museum at 200 Eastern Parkway. This event will be hosted by Soulja-Simmons, with music by DJ Audi Mansell and DJ Sedrick. The honorees are Amida Care, Native Son, New Pride Agenda, J. Harrison Ghee, “A Strange Loop,” “The Inspection,” Black Queer Town Hall (Bob the Drag Queen and Peppermint), Tommy G, Jessica Foxx, Appolonia Cruz, Yamil X, Jennifer Medina Matsuki, Kraig Pannell, Qween Jean, and Kenneth Courtney.
Last year’s edition of the Heritage Awards took place at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and featured names such as “Pose” star MJ Rodriguez and Brooklyn Councilmember Chi Ossé.
The penultimate event will be the Pride Ball on Aug. 19 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., with free entry. The event will take place at Racket on 431 W. 16th Street and is slated to feature award categories such as best dressed, old way vs. new way, team performance (choreography), MF runway, face as a house, realness as a house, FQ perfection, and futuristic bizarre/bazaar.
“Drag balls have been happening, and started here in New York, since 1869,” Soulja-Simmons said. “There’s something significant about that being four years after the Emancipation Proclamation, that LGBTQ people were already creating a safe space for themselves at a time when it was still considered to be against the law and to be a mental illness. During Black Pride here in New York, we never forget that history. That’s over 150 years of history. We don’t forget that. So we still want to celebrate by having a ball every year.”
The last event of the week will be Pride at the Beach on Sunday, Aug. 20 from 12-8 p.m. at Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk at 21st Street. Music will be provided by DJ Frankie Paradise, DJ Audi Mansell, DJ Missy B, and DJ Sedrick, and there will also be many vendors around the beach and boardwalk.
This event was first brought into fruition with the help of Mayor Eric Adams when he was Brooklyn borough president, according to Soulja-Simmons.
“The whole idea of Black Pride is for us to completely acknowledge the things or accomplishments of Black and Brown folks, things that we have contributed to society at large,” Soulja-Simmons said. “Most of the time, we’re not recognized for the things that we have done or we’ve accomplished. [Black Pride] is a way for us to take honor for ourselves, that Pride itself started on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement and started from Black and Brown people of trans experience. We never want to forget the memory of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and Stormé DeLarverie. Those are three important people, three important names. And most of the time during Pride itself, they’re lost in the sauce.”