Monday, August 11, 2008

What happened to PRIDE?

A few months ago as I planned my summer calendar of trips to take and events to photograph, I made the decision not to photograph Pride In the City, NYC's "official" Black Gay Pride Festival. I thought long and hard about my annual mission of documenting the People Of Color in Crisis, Inc. (POCC)- sponsored events (even though they never "hired" me to do so), including the Opening Ceremony, the Family Day Picnic in the Park, and the climactic Riis beach event. The feeling just sort of fell flat on me when I began to ponder the concept of community Pride.

I wondered if I was being too idealistic in my attempts to depict the community in a positive light, when by most accounts the "community" itself hasn't steadfastly rallied it's members and demanded better for themselves. PRIDE for all intents and purposes takes place once a year in NYC, when black SGL men (and women) from across the United States converge on the city for a weekend of parties, hedonism, and well...not much else really. I made it my own duty to make it much more, to show expressions of love, fellowship,diversity and a change of the status quo. While I'm proud of the work I've done these last three or four years documenting the black gay community at these events, I am somewhat dismayed by the lack of follow-through, or aftermath, if you will of the PRIDE that could take us to higher ground.

A few weeks ago, I received an email containing jaw-dropping allegations of investigations, mismanagement and misappropriation of government funds by POCC's "leadership" (among other things). The email also stated that Michael Roebson was no longer the Executive Director of the agency. Rather than get into the messy nuances, I'll leave it at that. Needless to say, only days before the events were to take place, I received another Press release saying that all POCC-sponsored PRIDE events would be canceled but the parties will still take place! And so they did, apparently with not a care in the world about the potential backlash the community will face in terms of receiving future dollars (or not) for HIV prevention and care.

As I write this blog entry on August 12 2008, two weeks after the disco ball has stopped spinning, after hook-ups have been made during PRIDE weekend, long after the announcement of Last Call, after everyone has flown back to their respective cities, there hasn't been much rallying of the community here to ensure that our HIV prevention CBO's stay open, or even to get to the bottom of the truth of what went down at POCC. Where has our PRIDE gone? This is sad news indeed for those of us concerned about the future of the black SGL community, and sadder even for those of us losing friends and loved ones to AIDS on a daily basis.

Still, I'm proud of the work that I've done and continue to do in the community, particularly with my photography. I won't leave this earth wishing I'd done something, or anything to project a positive light on the community and to shatter negative stereotypes about us. I will continue doing the work, in my own creative way, and while I still believe in US, the sad reality is that it seems like in this SGL world of ours, it's every man for himself.

Couple embrace in the ocean. From Pride in the City Riis beach event, 2007.

To view my images from 2007 Pride In The City, visit the blog page at


taylorSiluwé ..... said...

Amen. There's not much more to say.

Anonymous said...

yeah. that pretty much sums it up. said...

Not only are you an outstanding photographer, you're also an inspiring writer. Thank you for always making a difference. I sure hope people read this!!!

AltB said...

As a hopeful photographer and BGM I say thank you for your inspiration and work!