BLACK GAY PRIDE has been an official annual celebration of Pride among Black Clevelanders since 1997. Informal celebrations took place in years prior to this, but on July 25, 1996, Jasper Slaughter, Melvin Foote, and Sharon Young decided to form a social support and advocacy organization to organize annual Pride events for Black members of the LGBTQ community in order to correct the failures of mainstream LGBTQ organizations to address the specific needs of people of color. Black Gay Pride has aimed to make Black LGBTQ people more visible and to advocate for support, services, awareness, and inclusion.
The first official Black Gay Pride in Cleveland was Black Gay Pride Weekend ‘97 from August 15 to August 17. The event was co-sponsored by Northeast Ohio Coalition, Inc. and the LEBSIAN/GAY COMMUNITY SERVICE CENTER OF GREATER CLEVELAND. Mandy Carter, a Black, southern, lesbian civil rights activist, was the keynote speaker for the event. Pamphlets for the first official Black Gay Pride emphasized the historic nature of the event and the importance of remembering the historic contributions of Black LGBTQ people, including Bayard Rustin’s role in the civil rights movement, Ma Rainey’s contributions to blues music, and the activism of Angela Davis against the brutality of incarceration and political imprisonment.
By March of 1998, Cleveland Black Pride had incorporated and applied for non-profit status. The Black Pride Celebration that year took place from August 14 through August 16 and consisted of workshops and a festival celebrating the local and national talent of the Black LGBTQ community in the arts. During the celebration, Black Gay Pride launched a youth program that focused on organizing activities and providing social support to young, Black LGBTQ people. Since then, celebrations of Black Gay Pride have continued annually and have consistently featured events designed to connect people to information and resources about services available to Black LGBTQ Clevelanders.
Black Gay Pride began with the aim of increasing the visibility of the Black LGBTQ community in Cleveland, advocating for support and services, and addressing the specific experiences and needs of the Black community that mainstream LGBTQ organizations had failed to address. These annual events have created spaces for Black LGBTQ people in and around Cleveland to come together in celebration, find resources and support, share experiences, and take pride in those who came before them.