Due to controversy, conflict and a lack of unity, Chicago will most likely have two separate Black Pride celebrations put on by two different organizations July 2008.
Although this isn't the first time Black Pride has been riddled with controversy and conflict, the recent rift has caused many in the community to become concerned regarding the future of Black Pride celebrations.
There are now two separate organizations planning a Black Pride celebration: Windy City Black LGBT Pride ( WCBP ) and Chicago Windy City Black LGBT-SGL Pride ( CWCBP ) , headed by former WCBP president Charles Nelson, who was voted out by the first organization.
Nelson cites conflicts over management style, the planning process and interests for the rift. Some previous WCBP members resigned ( including current CWCBP Vice President Lois Bates ) before the group allegedly voted Nelson out this summer. Much of the conflict occurred in the midst of the 2007 Black Pride. The current WCBP board claims that alleged activities took place without the board's approval, which led to the removal of Nelson.
The first Black Pride celebration took place in 1999 after a series of yearly park parties held by the non-profit Chicago Friends. The Rails Entertainment Group ( now The Rails Marketing Group ) and Chicago Friends joined forces in 1998 to create Chicago Black Pride, which threw the 1999 event. In 2001, Chicago Black Pride became WCBP, which was incorporated as a non-profit April 2006, and attained its 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) status in August 2007.
CWCBP, Nelson's current organization, was incorporated as a non-profit in July 2007, and its 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) status is pending.
On Nov. 16, WCBP held a tense and emotional community forum called 'Breaking the Silence' at the South Side's Anderson Park Fieldhouse. The forum was created with the intent of 'dispelling misconceptions,' answering community questions and discussing Pride 2008. The result was flared tempers, some clarification and a weak promise that the two organizations will eventually sit down and talk.
Many feel the conflict is harming the annual celebration, as well as the larger Black LGBT community. 'Unfortunately these conflicts hurt the Pride organization, the planning process, and our community as a whole,' wrote party promoters Bob Yeaworth and Danny Bekoe of Clubhouse-Afrik Productions in an open letter to the community prior to the forum. Both are angry Nelson was voted out as president of WCBP, and call the current WCBP board 'illegitimate.'
Previous Black Pride celebrations have had the backing of the International Federation of Black Prides ( IFBP ) , a coalition of Black Pride organizers.
IFBP backs Nelson's CWCBP. Nelson currently serves on IFBP's board of directors.
'We are fully supportive of Charles,' IFBP President Earl Folkes, Jr., told Windy City Times.
Folkes feels the rift in the Chicago community is due to personality conflicts and different management styles. He dubs the current WCBP board a 'renegade Pride' organization.
'The Federation does not recognize them,' Folkes said. IFBP is not a governing body. Members pay yearly dues.
'It really saddens me this kind of thing is going on in our community,' Folkes said.
Nelson's organization is also endorsed by a number of party promoters. Yeaworth and Bekeo have stated their support, as well as John Fleming ( Madman Productions/Lipstick & Lace ) , Karl Grant ( Smooth Productions/Talents Chicago ) and Thomas 'Tut' Hunt ( House of Tut ) .
WCBP's celebration, 'Windy City Black Pride,' will take place July 3-6, 2008. According to the board, the host hotel is the Hyatt Regency-McCormick Place. The plans include benefits, workshops, a poetry slam, a park festival and a vendor fair, among other activities. Its mission is 'to develop, implement, and sponsor programs, activities, and special events to promote unity, cultivate pride and help improve the quality of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons of African descent.'
CWCBP's celebration, 'Chicago Windy City Black LGBT Pride,' is slated for July 2-6, 2008. Nelson told Windy City Times that the host hotel will be on Michigan Avenue, and the celebration will take place on the lakefront. The organization's Web site does not yet include information as to the 2008 program, mission statement or sponsorship information. Nelson told Windy City Times that a lot of information will be released after the board meets at the end of the month.
Many present at the forum were very concerned about the idea of having two separate Black Pride celebrations.
When asked if the situation will make it even more difficult to garner support and funding, WCBP's Keith McCoy said he was not worried. 'We've always had to garner support on our own, anyway,' he said. He told Windy City Times that holding off on a celebration until everything is resolved is 'not feasible.'
Many were dismayed by the lack of unity, as well.
'I find it ironic this event is called Windy City Black Pride,' community activist Lloyd Kelly said. 'This is really not something to be proud of.
'As a Black gay man, I'm completely embarrassed.'
Tarrina Dikes, who served on the Chicago Gay Games board of directors, also announced her embarrassment during the forum. Dikes had collected corporate sponsorship information in preparation for the forum, and said that she does not know who to share the information with now. 'I need to see some unity first,' she said.
There were several emotional outbursts during the meeting, some from the WCBP board itself in frustration with being bombarded with questions about past conflicts, when members like McCoy expressed that they simply wanted to focus on the future and move forward.
But to many audience members, the future could not be discussed without talking about the past and achieving some sort of common ground.
When asked if the two separate organizations would sit down and talk, Nelson, who was present for the forum, immediately agreed. The WCBP board reluctantly agreed after first saying it was merely a 'possibility'.
'We would be more than happy to talk with them,' WCBP's Langston Smith said, adding that he will talk with CWCBP's board, but not Nelson.
'All we're asking is for mutual respect,' said WCBP's David Dodd.
After the forum, Nelson told Windy City Times that he feels unity is really needed, but he is not optimistic that both groups will be able to work together and achieve common ground. 'They [ the community ] want one pride,' he said. 'That's very obvious.'
He is, however, 'fine with competition,' if that's what he comes to, Nelson said, adding that he is 'deeply saddened' by how the situation has played out.