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Rebranded Montrose event focuses on health
by Jason Carson Wilson
2015-06-28

This article shared 2 times since Sun Jun 28, 2015
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Black LGBT and same-gender-loving people celebrated Pride weekend at Montrose Beach in fun and healthy way from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 28. About 10,000 people, including LGBT allies, attended the rebranded Pride at Montrose, formerly known as Montrose Rocks.

Miguel Diaz, who was visiting from Mexico, was one of those people.

"It's nice … it's great," Diaz said. "It's got everything."

AIDS Foundation of Chicago served as the lead organizer of the revamped Black gay pride celebration experience. The event rose out of a mutual agreement between the Rocks Coordinating Committee and "Step Up. Get Tested (SUGT)."

"There were no incidents and everyone was happy with the changes," organizer Anthony Galloway said.

Changes included having plenty of entertainment. Galloway noted that there were both gospel and hip-hop stages. With that said, testing and health screenings was Pride at Montrose's other important ingredient.

"We saw there was a need for the community," Galloway said in a previous story. "It was at great threat of being taken [from the community]."

The health village featured high blood pressure, comprehensive sex transmitted disease, diabetes, glucose and Hepatitis C screenings as well as HIV testing. Harmony Health Care of Illinois is underwrote the event.

Anne Carmack, a SUGT steering committee member, offered some insights. Carmack stressed again that this event grew out of serving the Black queer community. Carmack highlighted the diversity of attendees, particularly in age. She said it ranged from age 15 and up.

"It's run incredibly smoothly," Carmack said. "We've not had one incident."

She said a total of 300 people were tested. Approximately 150 people got tested for HIV. The remainder took advantage of the Chlamydia, diabetes, gonorrhea, Hepatitis C and high blood pressure screenings and testing.

Carmack said no one was diagnosed HIV-positive on site. If so, she said the patient would've been taken to more private quarters for counseling. His, her or their contact information would have been collected, in order to facilitate follow up.

Chicago Public Health Department also provided invasive meningococcal disease vaccinations. The disease has become prevalent among men who have sex with men, particularly Black gay men. Carmack didn't just talk the talk.

"I got a vaccination," she said.

SUGT is Chicagoland HIV Testing Collaborative (CHTC)'s HIV prevention campaign. CHTC includes more than 30 partner agencies. A complete list of agencies can found at www.StepUpGetTested.com/partner-agencies.

This event provided the biggest opportunity for agency participation, according to Carmack.

"It's grown in terms of people supporting it," she said. "Our capacity to develop programming has increased significantly."

MillerCoors is also a sponsor. But, Galloway noted, in a previous story, alcohol was prohibited.

Violence during certain Montrose Rocks events prompted the police to demand no sound after 5 p.m. Galloway credited fruitful negotiations with 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman's office and area Chicago Police commanders with garnering an extension to 7:15 p.m.

Cappleman's chief of staff, Tressa Feher, confirmed the cooperation and collaboration with Galloway and SUGT. Feher commended the organizers' efforts.

"They have put together a solid plan that has been approved by the Park District and the Chicago Police Department," she said. "[Ald.] Cappleman is in full support and is looking forward to a great event for the community."

Continuing the tradition, Galloway said, with a focus on holistic wellness, is the goal.

"We're not trying to be different from other years," Galloway said. "We're trying to build on a legacy."

He said the city "doesn't have a lot of spaces where [Black LGBT] people can be themselves." Galloway, a cultural organizer, said he strives to create that space.

"We only want to add to the celebrating events," he said. "It really is a movement."

Galloway said Pride at Montrose is part of an overall effort to help uplift the Black LGBT community. With that said, he wants that all LGBT people—and allies—to be part of the movement.


This article shared 2 times since Sun Jun 28, 2015
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