DETROIT – Hotter Than July, Detroit’s annual black gay pride, kicked off Tuesday evening with an opening ceremony and candlelight vigil in Palmer Park. The service took place near the blue spruce memorial tree, a tree organizers of the very first Hotter Than July planted in 1996.
“Graduation: 18 Years and Counting” is the theme of this year’s week-long celebration. Fittingly, things were done a little differently at this year’s vigil, which drew a crowd of about 60 people. Each event throughout the week is led by a chairperson and Cierra Burks chaired the vigil.
“Tonight we remember those we have lost in the last 18 years,” Burks said. “They may be gone but they are definitely not forgotten.”
Speaking on behalf of the gay community, John Trimble said, “It’s important that we remember those that we’ve lost. I’ve lost, at this stage in the game, maybe six people. So when we take time to remember, we honor the memory and the spirit of those who have gone on.”
“I think about Ruth Ellis,” said Rev. Selma Massey, who spoke on behalf of the lesbian community. “Long before it was even popular to say the word ‘lesbian’ she was standing in the gap.”
Selena, who spoke on behalf of the transgender community, referred to Burks’ leadership.
“Today is a landmark day for us,” she said. “Today is the first day that a transgender person is in charge of the candlelight vigil.”
Detroit City Councilman Rev. Andre Spivey, Burks’ cousin, also spoke.
“Cierra called and Cierra is family,” he said. “It was an honor for me to be here tonight.”
Spivey spoke to the crowd for about 10 minutes and delivered a message of spiritual hope.
“God made everything that you see in five days, and it was good,” he said. “And on the sixth day he made man, and it was very good. God didn’t say only heterosexuals were good. God didn’t say only lesbians were good. God said everybody was good. When you look at yourself, you see good.
“We serve a God who is love, and God loves all of us who are here.”