DC Black Pride
Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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DC Black Pride returns Friday, May 26, for its 32nd anniversary. Events—from workshops and panels to parties and drag brunches—run through Monday, May 29. The weekend-long festival of sorts, which has been organized by the Center for Black Equity since the late 1990s, is meant to be a time of fellowship, networking, and—of course—celebration.

“DC Black Pride and all the Black Prides around the world are important to maintain that safe space where folks can come and network and be authentic to who they are without fear of judgment or harassment,” says Kenya Hutton, deputy director of the Center for Black Equity. “I know in some states, people are very scared and unsure about what’s going to happen tomorrow. I want them to come to D.C. and shed away those worries and be free, be proud and unapologetic about who they are, and show up as their truest selves.” 

Our city has been a mecca for Black queer and trans folk since the late 1970s, thanks to the Club House, a space that nurtured the local Black LGBTQIA community and attracted others from across the south. DC Black Pride stems from the legendary Memorial Day parties thrown by the Club House, which closed in 1990 after several staff members died of AIDS. A year later, Welmore Cook, Theodore Kirkland, and Ernest Hopkins started DC Black Pride, according to a 2015 WCP article, “to educate their peers on HIV/AIDS prevention and provide a once-a-year safe space for mid-Atlantic and Southern black queers, many of whom were not out in their communities.” 

Today, especially in light of the nearly 500 anti-LGBTQIA bills proposed in legislatures across the country, Black Pride is a much welcoming space where Black queer and trans southerners can find refuge and community. And, in keeping with the one of the two original goals of keeping the community healthy, there will be a Health and Wellness Pavilion at the host hotel at 999 9th St. NW, where community health organizations will be offering HIV and STI testing, overdose prevention kits, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis, which helps prevent HIV/STI transmission if used within 24 hours after unprotected sex), and much more. 

There’s a lot happening and a lot to keep track of. We’ve rounded up some of the standout Pride events spanning the next week. A full schedule of official events, including the countless parties happening each night and day that we didn’t have space to include here, can be found at dcblackpride.org. As Hutton tells City Paper, there’s a little something for everybody.

You can also visit our events calendar’s LGBTQ page for our listing of queer prides popping off for Pride starting now through the end of June. 

Thursday, May 25

Kicking off the celebration is the 4th Annual DC Black Pride Unity Ball, organized by the Capitol Ballroom Council in collaboration with Icon Charles West, Legends Twiggy Garcon, Duante Balenciaga, and Domo Alpha Omega. The party starts at 8 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th St. NW. capitolballroomcouncil.org. Free.

Sin City Kick Off starts at 9 p.m. at metrobar, 640 Rhode Island Ave. NE.

Friday, May 26

On both Friday and Saturday, there will be an expo featuring organizations and vendors that sell products specifically for the LGBTQIA community. The Rainbow Row: Organization and Vendor Expo runs Friday, 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m at the Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th St. NW. Free. 

Ring in the weekend with the DC Black Pride Opening Reception Talent Showcase. The event—a celebration of Black LGBTQIA artists from the area—will feature comedians, singers and more local artists, including Brandon Kanion, Rebekah Lauren, Violet Gray, and more. The reception is complimentary—and attendees get two free drink tickets with registration—but advance tickets are required for entry. The reception and showcase starts at 6 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th St. NW. Free; tickets required.

All Black Party starts at 10 p.m. at KOI, 1413 K St. NW.

Saturday, May 27

Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Bright and early Saturday morning, local dancer and choreographer Gabriel Sanchez will lead “PrideFit,” a hip-hop dance class and “warm up” for Black Pride Weekend. This PrideFit class will include musical performances from Marck Angel and Ruepratt. Class starts at 10 a.m. at Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. Free; RSVP requested

Throughout the day, there will be workshops on pronouns, kink and BDSM, and faith in Blackness, among other topics. All workshops will have ASL interpreters. Workshops run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th St. NW. Free. 

On Saturday afternoon, pay homage to the Club House, the space that basically birthed what we know now as the city’s Black Pride weekend. The event will celebrate the rich history and culture of the space and its impact on the city’s Black queer and trans community. There will also be a performance by DJ Suspense. The celebration starts at 3 p.m. at Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th St. NW. Free, but registration required

Thee Ultimate Day Party starts at 4 p.m. at Throw Social, 1401 Okie St. NE.

Local poets will have a chance to compete for more than $1,000 in prizes at this year’s annual DC Black Pride Mary Bowman Poetry Slam, hosted by four-time slam winner Kenneth Something. The slam starts at 6 p.m. at Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th St. NW. Free

Sunday, May 28

On Sunday, sip on mimosas while enjoying Brunch & Babes: The Second Annual Black Pride Iconic Drag Brunch. Sophia McIntosh hosts and performers include Stasha Sanchez Garcon and Raquell Lord Balenciaga, Exotic Lord Mugler, Syria Synclaire, Paris Brooks-Bonet Ebony, and Haven Garcon. Brunch runs noon to 4 p.m. at Hook Hall, 3400 Georgia Ave NW. $20–$60

Project Briggs, Inc. and Butler’s Kitchen host the third Pride By the River. This community outreach event features a number of musical performances and speakers. Attendees are encouraged to bring grills, blankets, umbrellas, and chairs to make a gay day along the Anacostia. Pride By the River runs noon to 8 p.m. at Anacostia Park, 1500 Anacostia Dr. SE. Free

The African-American Collective Theater joins the celebration by hosting OUT with IT! This one-day, two-performance festival includes short plays written by founding artistic director Alan Sharpe. Stories mix drama, comedy, and romance, all while exploring LGTBQIA issues. Performances start at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m at Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church, 900 Mount Vernon Place NW. a-act.org. $20–$30.

On Da Roof starts at 5 p.m. at SpaceDC, 1355 U St. NW.

Monday, May 29

Spend Memorial Day at Royce and MC Boom’s Pride Festival in the Park! The celebration promises free food, games, ax throwing, and performances by a lineup of local performers, including Reesa Renee. The party starts at noon at Fort Dupont Park, Minnesota Ave. SE. Free

Wednesday, May 31

Sure, the official celebration ends on Monday, but you can keep the celebration going with translator Jess Oliveira, who will discuss and read from the collection of Black trans erotic poetry that Oliveira helped translate: Tiely’s Transpoethicalbody. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at Little District Books, 737 8th St. SE. Free.

For more Pride events, check out our calendar.