by Jessica Carreras
DETROIT – After a stressful week for organizers of Detroit’s annual Hotter Than July black, gay Pride festival, the City Council, led by openly gay President Charles Pugh, have promised that the closing of Palmer Park – along with many other city parks – will not be part of budget cuts set to go into effect July 1.
But Pugh says the festival, which takes place at Palmer Park every July, should think about switching locations anyway.
It was a busy week for Pugh, who juggled a first-time trip to the White House for a June 22 LGBT Pride Month reception with pressure from Mayor Dave Bing and constituents to make the call on $32 million in budget cuts ordered by the City Council. The cuts, said Bing earlier this month, would have to mean 100 police and fire layoffs, a 50 percent loss of senior services and programs, plus the closure of the outdoor pools at Rouge and Palmer Park, three recreation centers and many of the city’s 300 parks.
Last week, Bing said that 77 parks would have to close July 1 if the city did not restore the funding it voted to cut earlier this month. One of those closures would have been Palmer Park, the site of the gay community’s Hotter Than July festival for the past 14 years. Their 15th event is set to take place July 24 in the park, culminating a week-long celebration of black gay Pride in the city.
Robert Clarke, president of the Black Pride Society, which puts on HTJ, told Between The Lines last week that the closure of Palmer Park would mean cancelation of two of the group’s events, and would force them to find a new home for their Palmer Park Festival. It would be a move that cost cost them up to $28,000 if their second-choice location, Detroit’s Chene Park, became HTJ’s new home.
Pugh said at the LGBT Pride Banquet June 25 that the park closures were just a threat from Mayor Bing. “We were never going to close those parks,” Pugh promised. Palmer Park, he added, will remain open until further notice.
However, Pugh said that in his opinion, “the day after the HTJ festival,” organizers should start planning a move to a different location – not because they have to, but because HTJ needs to revamp itself.
“We need to update,” Pugh said, adding that sticking to tradition could mean less visibility for metro Detroit’s black, gay community.
As for the city’s budget, Bing and the City Council are still working to resolve the proposed cuts by the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.