Fourth annual Community Chat and Candlelight Vigil Kick Off Hotter Than July
Detroit Police Chief James Craig made sure to emphasize his support for everyone in the crowd of about 100 people who came out for the 4th annual community chat in Palmer Park. That is the event that begins the LGBT Detroit-sponsored Hotter Than July festival. Hotter Than July the “world’s second oldest ‘Black Pride’ celebration,” said event organizers, and has morphed not only into a celebration of the local black LGBTQ community but an almost week-long social justice awareness event.
“I spent 28 years of my law enforcement career in Los Angeles,” Craig Said. “Los Angeles understood the importance of building relationships with the LGBT community. They knew.”
“Trust is about the ability to sit down and listen and talk with, not talk to,” he said. “I’ll say it again. Listen to and talk with. Because many times government official will come in and say, ‘This is what we need you to do,’” said Craig. “No, no, no. What do you want us to do? Because we’re the public servants. We serve you.”
Craig ended his 10-minute address talk with an expression of gratitude to the Detroit LGBTQ community.
“Thank you for being great partners,” said Craig. “We couldn’t do it without you. Please keep the dialogue open so we can do more. I love each and every one of you. We’re here for you. Keep up the great work.”
It was then that Deputy Police Chief and Commanding Officer of the Chief’s Liaison Community Unit Todd Bettison began his address to the crowd.
“We will ensure that your rights are respected and that we as the DPD make sure that you know we do care and we will relentlessly pursue anyone at any time who commits a crime,” Bettison said. “We won’t tolerate hate crimes or anything of that nature against this community.”
The chat is organized each year by Detroit Police Department LGBT Liaison Corp. Dani Woods. Woods gave out several awards for “dedication and outstanding service to the LGBT community and their work in the City of Detroit.” Awardees included Satrice Tillman, Nabill Adbulla of Wrigley’s Pharmacy, Dwayne Cole Jr. of the Ruth Ellis Center, T.J. Rogers from Freedom House, Between The Lines’ own Kate Opalewski and Lawrence Pennymon and Jamesion King of LGBT Detroit.
Woods also gave awards to several local community agencies including Fair Michigan, Freedom House, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, LGBT Detroit, Equality Michigan, Affirmations and Wayne Country SAFE.
Following the chat, the crowd proceeded to walk across the park to where the vigil is traditionally held. There, in front of the blue spruce memorial tree, a crowd of about 60 watched as a drum circle played, candles were lit and the Rev. Jeffrey Seals of One Church Detroit poured libations and called forth the spirits of the elders.
“We want to honor those who have passed before us,” said Cierra Burks, who spoke at the service. “Some of them have died tragically, some died peacefully, but they were here for us. And they’ve done something for us that encouraged us to be here today.”