Last week royalty joined together for a multi-day celebration during the 24th annual Hotter Than July black gay Pride celebration. The theme of this year’s event was Kings & Queens: Family, Friends, Faith, Fun. The event was produced via collaboration between LGBT Detroit and project coordinator Jerron Totten, who got on board with event preparation in spring.
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“For me, to have hit the ground in April and three months later we had the experience that we had, I’d say that things were pretty amazing,” Totten said. “I’m really thankful for the volunteers, for the rest of the staff at LGBT Detroit and our executive director for their support. I had volunteers that from day one have been consistent in making sure that the project moved forward.”
HTJ 2019 kicked off its traditional candlelight vigil and opening ceremony in Palmer Park and followed with events like Wednesday’s mixer at the Granite City Brewery, a Sunday worship service at One Church Detroit and a brunch at the Charlevoix Gallery. Another small event was Sunday’s Sip & Paint, which made its debut this year and drew over a dozen people.
“The Sip & Paint was a small intimate group and I loved the way that it turned out,” Totten said. “We had two male models.”
Collectively these events drew hundreds, but the biggest draw was Saturday’s Pride picnic in Palmer Park. Totten estimated that about 9,000 people came to the picnic throughout the very warm and sunny day.
“The best part of the overall experience was just hearing people say how much they enjoyed the weekend,” said Totten. “Just seeing people enjoy themselves. That was the best part for me. I was too tired to enjoy myself the way that other people were enjoying themselves. But it was great to see them enjoying themselves while I sat gathering myself.”
Though the event went smoothly for the most part, a frightening incident took place when a fight broke out between two women. Then, in the midst of the physical altercation, a woman standing nearby raised a handgun into the air and fired multiple times in a failed attempt to end the fight. The incident was captured on video by a picnic attendee and posted to Facebook.
“LGBT Detroit does not condone violence of any kind,” said Totten. “We understand that disagreements occur and emotions run high, but we encourage nonviolent resolution. We are thankful to the Detroit Police Department for their presence on sight and we hope that things like this do not occur again.”
The singular incident aside, Totten said he enjoyed his first HTJ and said he was confident that future years will only continue to improve.
“I learned that Hotter Than July is bigger than LGBT Detroit,” he said. “It’s bigger than Detroit. The project itself is a history maker. Being the second oldest [black gay] Pride in the world, Hotter Than July was one of the first to set a standard for black Prides. I was able to see and talk to some people who were there in the beginning days of Hotter Than July and just hearing their stories I understood why it is that we do what do.”
In fact, Totten said that is already looking forward to next year when HTJ will celebrate its silver anniversary. He said that event organizers will be “very intentional” about ensuring that attendees know the history and importance of HTJ.
“There will be new events and activities. It’s going to have a different look and a different feel because it’s a celebratory year as we celebrate 25 years of uninterrupted black gay Pride,” he said.
To find out more about HTJ, how to get involved and how to volunteer visit lgbtdetroit.org.