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  • Hotter Than July headliner and LGBT Detroit Executive Director Curtis Lipscomb hug backstage during the HTJ concert on July 16 at Sound Board at Motor City Casino and Hotel. Photo: Andrew Potter

I Co-Founded Hotter Than July 27 Years Ago. Here’s What the Black LGBTQ+ Pride Event Means to Me Now.

'It’s genuinely for the people, by the people'

By |2022-07-19T12:56:19-04:00July 19th, 2022|Michigan, Opinions, Pride, Viewpoints|

Through hard work, determination, support and imagination, Hotter Than July has been a premier event for 27 years. The project is now older than some people I know. Many have shared their talents with the project through discussions, stories and recollections. An idea that arose in a downtown Detroit one-bedroom apartment at the intersection of John R and Elizabeth Street became Hotter Than July.
HTJ has been operated by three organizations — Detroit Black Gay Pride, Inc., Black Pride Society, and currently LGBT Detroit. Although the members of these various groups had different mission statements and values, the overall focus was on ensuring event/program efficiency, fiscal responsibility, and community engagement/involvement. These traits ensure longevity in celebrating Black and Brown LGBTQ+ culture in Michigan and midwest America.
Community members and allies give their time and talent annually to make HTJ successful. Celebrations, forums, vigils, services, fairs and other activities are initiated and cultivated by these exceptional content creators. At the end of a magnificent experience, a beautiful project is unveiled. The core programming makes our Pride unique and different … it’s genuinely for the people, by the people.
HTJ is the world’s longest and continuously operated Black LGBT+ Pride held in southeast Michigan. I never thought this most important event would be so transformative for me professionally and the many people served.
The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on how we safely engage and express ourselves. Organizers of Black LGBTQ+ Prides across the country were challenged to rethink public gatherings to ensure social distancing requirements and other risk reduction techniques. Some led to cancellations; others went with virtual options. Detroit and Michigan had the highest recorded COVID-19 cases, and our mission was to prevent contractions and potential deaths in any way possible. I’m proud that our LGBT Detroit Board of Directors agreed to implement safety precautions that afforded us to operate a virtual Pride. This decision significantly increased outreach and donations while curtailing expenses.
Investments and self-examinations are often actions that must occur both personally and professionally. Last year’s assessment focused on the question, “How can we deliver services to our constituents?” Words were heard such as “Leveling Up,” “Something Different,” and “Increasing Nightlife Activities.” HTJ delivered on those requests, and the participation was well received.
HTJ took a significant risk and examined how we could increase the visibility of LGBT+ people and this part of American residency. Every year, donors ask, “How can you improve on what you’ve done?” That request has always pondered the following year’s planning. Thoughts and ideas seem to gel around the possibilities. This year a new activity was created. A risk was taken. The Hotter Than July Concert held at Sound Board at MotorCity Casino and Hotel, with rap legend and reality star Da Brat as the headliner, was a sold-out success.
This and our anchored activities such as our Candlelight Vigil, Endorsed Candidate Forum, Testing Zone at Palmer Park, Art Show, Worship Service and Sunday Brunch had tied together a reflection of the community from many points of view. Da Brat highlighted a financial commitment and promised elevation of what it is to live in intersections. A historic moment was powerfully made by headlining an all-Black female cast — Dames Brown and Deidre “DS Sense” Smith.
Led by Jerron Totten, the planning committee who created this year’s stellar event is predominantly young, LGBTQ+, gifted, and Black and Brown. This energetic and epic group of people has proven to not only manage and develop the most invested project to date but also has the strength, stamina and imagination to push it forward.
To ensure success and sustainability, HTJ requires an increasing need for capacity. We have a small group of folks to operate this event, but it is not enough. The project is community-driven and needs time and talent commitments from everyone to make a continued investment — including “unhealthy critics,” “wallflowers” and “unbelievers.”
One of my favorite pearls of wisdom is, “Don’t talk about it; act on it. Don’t say what’s wrong; show what’s right. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.” HTJ documents past successes and uses these opportunities to learn. Reflecting on the most massive and meaningful project I have ever led, I’m elated with what has been achieved. Its future is bright and abundant.

About the Author:

Curtis Lipscomb is the executive director of the "safe," "brave" space that is LGBT Detroit. He is the co-founder and manager of Hotter Than July, the world’s second-oldest black, LGBTQ pride celebration. With the dedication of a Board of Directors, staff and advisors, he is charged to fulfill the mission of an organization founded in 1994.
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