The Miami Herald recently ran an article
entitled "Gay Pride Celebrations: the Nation’s Top 10 Festivals
are Diverse and Delightful.” Unfortunately there was nothing diverse
or delightful in its choices. Topping the list of most festive gay
pride celebrations were New
York City, San
Francisco and Long
Beach, California. However, their equally popular and festive
counterparts were nowhere to be found on the list.
As Black gay pride organizers scramble to provide
comprehensive cultural celebrations for their thousands of anticipated
guests this year, the Herald's top ten list was a slap in the face
and further feeds into the notion that gay and now gay pride is
The International Federation of Black Prides is home
to 25 Black gay pride celebrations, including Toronto and South
Africa. These cultural celebrations are flocked to each year by
thousands of Black same-gender loving persons are all over the country,
some with a cult following. The three largest and highly attended
celebrations include D.C.
Black Pride celebrating 15 years Memorial Day weekend, At the Beach
Black Pride celebrating 17 years Independence Day weekend and Atlanta
Black Pride celebrating 9 years Labor Day weekend.
These celebrations each typically bring in around
10,000 people that are culturally diverse, socially active, event
loyal, frequent travelers and beauty, health, fitness and fashion
conscious. Given all of these facts, why then do Black prides still
receive less financial support than their white counterparts?
A look at the websites of the Herald's top ten picks
shows financial support from Delta Airlines, Travelocity, Absolute
Vodka, Gay.com, Showtime, Starbucks, Bud Light, Bank of America,
PlanetOut.com, Hertz, Virgin and more. But take a closer look at
who is sponsoring Black pride celebrations.
Black pride organizations cater to the Black gay community
and unfortunately, this community is still being affected in large
numbers by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. So it's only obvious that pharmaceutical
companies and AIDS service organizations would want to sponsor events
where they can target a high number of Black gays with their message.
However, there is so much more to the Black gay community than HIV/AIDS
prevention. We dine out, read the newspaper, watch television, travel,
buy clothes, and are included in the overall contributions of African-Americans
to the U.S. economy.
In addition, it's not just at the corporate level
that companies do not sponsor Black gay pride celebrations. Many
elected officials shun off Black pride celebrations to their health
deputy's (HIV/AIDS) instead of to their city's cultural affairs
office where these celebrations should be getting support from as
well. Like Black film festivals that highlight Blacks in the filmmaking
business, Black gay pride celebrations are cultural events that
celebrate the uniqueness of being Black and gay. So that should
open up a plethora of sponsorship opportunities for Black gay prides,
not only from the companies listed above but from Viacom who owns
Black Entertainment Television, TVOne, RadioOne, Ebony, JET, ESSENCE,
Walmart, Target, NAACP, Urban League, music labels, and other businesses
that thrive off of Black dollars.
With the new gay networks HERE
targeting gay viewers, they too could benefit from marketing to
Black gays at pride celebrations. Without the support of the Black
gay prides last year, LOGO's Noah's
Arc, America's first Black gay television series debuting in
September, would probably still be a straight-to-DVD production.
I once had a corporate marketing executive tell me
that they sponsored a Black film festival and sponsored a gay pride
celebration so they didn't see the need to sponsor a Black gay pride.
In their minds, Black was straight and gay was white and there was
nothing in between. Sadly, that's the misinformed thinking of many
corporate executives when it comes to marketing.
The irony in all of this is that at most white gay
pride celebrations, you see about a handful of Blacks. In a recent
poll, Black gays were asked, if given a choice would you attend
a white pride celebration or a Black pride celebration. An overwhelming
number of those polled indicated that they would attend their Black
If white Conservative Christian evangelicals can see
the value in marketing to straight Blacks regarding gay marriage,
why can't companies see the value in marketing to Black gays?
Take me for example. I am a 27-year-old Black lesbian.
I listen to National Public Radio everyday. I have a subscription
to my local daily newspaper, the Advocate, Black Enterprise, and
ESSENCE Magazine. I watch Desperate Housewives every Sunday
and pick up my weekly Black newspapers every Thursday and Friday.
I shop faithfully at Lane Bryant and Ashley Stewart. I find myself
in an airport traveling once or twice a month and I vote regularly.
I think quite a few companies would benefit from marketing
me and others like me.
So while, the Miami Herald probably boosted the incoming
sponsorship dollars for the 10 prides it listed in its article,
it did a disservice to people of color gay prides across the nation
and further fed into corporate America's notion that gay is white.
Jasmyne Cannick is a
member of the National Association of Black Journalists, a board
member of the National Black Justice Coalition, a Black gay civil
rights organization, and co-producer of the new cable series Noah's
Arc, America's first Black gay series. A 27-year-old Los Angeles
native, Jasmyne is a public relations and communications strategist
who is pursuing her long-term interest in public policy and political
activism. She can be reached via her website at www.jasmynecannick.com.