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Palmer Park Picnic
Boat Ride Cruisers Along Detroit River
DETROIT – Hotter Than July, Detroit’s black gay pride celebration, presented a variety of programming over six days, July 23rd-28th, that both entertained and educated. This was the celebration’s 18th year and the theme was Graduation: 18 Years & Counting. And if this year was any indication, HTJ will be around for many years to come. Here’s a brief synopsis of all the events.
Monday: The week kicked off with “Many Faces, One Dream,” an economic development conference produced by the Small Business Administration, the National Black Justice Coalition and Kick!, and sponsored by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Conference leaders said Detroit’s fiscal crisis is an opportunity for all small businesses, especially those owned by LGBT people.
“Entrepreneurs spring up when they have no other alternative,” said Eugene Cornelius, the openly gay deputy associate administrator for field operations at the U.S. SBA in Washington D.C.
Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of Detroit’s Kick and the local host for Many Faces, One Dream, welcomed about 40 attendees to the opening breakfast. “We have to own our own power,” said Lipscomb. About 80 people registered for the conference and participated in the day’s workshops and plenary events.
Tuesday: The traditional candlelight vigil and opening ceremony took place in Palmer Park, near the blue spruce memorial tree, which HTJ organizers planted during the event’s first year in 1996. About 60 people attended this year’s vigil, which was chaired by Cierra Burks, marking the first time a transgender individual has chaired an HTJ event. Burks invited her cousin, Detroit City Councilman Rev. Andre Spivey, to speak. “We serve a God who is love, and God loves all who are here,” he told those gathered.
Wednesday evening about 80 people set off aboard the Diamond Belle for a three hour tour along the Detroit River. The crowd danced to old school tunes provided by DJ Tone and feasted on a buffet provided by Dee’s Catering. This was year four for the boat ride.
Thursday: This year’s film festival took place at the Cass City Cinema and drew a crowd of about 100. The event was chaired by Chris “Tall Guy” Sutton, who tried hard to present films not found elsewhere.
“One of our main focuses was to highlight obscure black LGBT films,” he said. “A lot of these films are not highlighted or getting exposure because there aren’t a lot of festivals focusing on black LGBT films.”
In addition to the films and documentaries shown, the audience was treated to the trailer for the upcoming documentary TransParent, which tells the story of murdered Detroit trans teen Shelly “Treasure” Moore. Lyniece Nelson, Moore’s mother, was in the audience and spoke briefly after the clip was shown. She said she hoped the film will show that her daughter “was not somebody who was confused about who she was, because she knew exactly who she was.”
Friday began with an all-day conference, called The Gathering on LGBT Issues, at the U of M – Detroit Center in Midtown. About 100 people came out for the conference, which featured a discussion with current candidates running for mayor of Detroit. Fifteen were invited, four showed up, including former Detroit corporation counsel Krystal Crittenton, former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan, State Rep. Fred Durhal and community activist Jean Vorkamp.
When asked about their connection to the LGBT community, each candidate tried to convince the crowd of their credentials.
“Everybody gets to choose a life partner that you love,” said Duggan, who said his sister-in-law is a lesbian. “I see people as people and I think people should be treated based on their own merits.”
Crittendon was perhaps the most blunt.
“I don’t care who my heterosexual friends are sleeping with, so I definitely don’t care who my homosexual friends are sleeping with,” she said. “I’m concerned with improving the quality of life for everyone.”
Vortkamp, who runs a non-profit organization, said she had previously worked with the Ruth Ellis Center and Durhal, who came late to the luncheon, was not present to answer the question.
Later that evening, about 50 people came out for the first ever HTJ Youth Prom, which took place at the Liberal Arts Gallery. The event was sponsored by Agape Spirit Life Ministries and was suggested by Agape’s founder Rev. Darlene Franklin, who came up with this year’s HTJ theme. Beats were again provided by DJ Tone and the evening featured performances by Cierra Burks and Detroit recording artist Logan Mario.
Saturday is the big day for HTJ: the annual pride picnic in Palmer Park. Overcast skies and the occasional downpour kept attendance numbers down early in the day. But by late afternoon the sun was shining and the crowd came out.
The picnic featured music, entertainment and a mini-ball, as well as appearances by a couple of the candidates running for mayor of Detroit. This year the picnic featured extended hours – from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. – and more food vendors and non-profit booths than ever.
Sunday: The last day of HTJ featured two events. It began with a worship service at Whosoever Ministries. The church is pastored by Rev. Selma Massey, who was pleased to welcome a crowd of over 150 people. Lastly, about 50 people attended Sunday Brunch at the Robert’s Riverwalk Hotel.