Why Atlanta needs Black Pride Weekend

Gentlemen’s Foundation and LoveWorks’ Gee Sessions-Smalls on annual event’s significance

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Photo credit: Brandon English/CL File
LOVE WINS: A couple gets their photo taken during Atlanta Black Pride Weekend 2013.

As part of the Atlanta Black Pride Weekend (ABPW) welcoming committee, the importance of the event is not lost on Gee Sessions-Smalls. “I think it needs to continue because there is still work to be done as far as our community is concerned,” says the man behind the nonprofit, Gentlemen’s Foundation, and one-half of the LGBTQ relationship-counseling duo LoveWorks with Juan and Gee.

2015 marks Sessions-Smalls’s first year working directly with Black Pride Weekend, though he’s been a frequent visitor in years past. On Wed. Sept. 2, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, in conjunction with ABGPW partners, launched its LGBT Institute to kickoff the weekend’s festivities. Visitors got a sneak peek at the Institute’s first exhibition Forward Together: A Look at Atlanta’s LGBT History Since Stonewall.

Smalls-Sessions spoke to CL about why this year’s ABPW carries more weight in light of social and civil unrest in the last year, and the need for a fest focused on the black community.

Obviously in America, social change and human and civil rights is a big topic. Can you talk about how that plays into this year’s event and where now do you see Atlanta’s black gay community in light of so much awesome social change?

I think that the fact that the Center for Civil and Human Rights extended an invitation to the black gay community to host their event there was very monumental. Obviously, people are aware of deeper issues within the black community as it relates to bridging gaps with the black gay community. So the fact that this invitation has been extended this year after all the success with equality is huge this year.

Why is there still a need for a Black Gay Pride weekend?

I think it’s still important. I think that from where it started, just as with any black organization that is formed, it’s because we may not feel accepted by mainstream or recognized or celebrated. So we created our own pockets, if you will, to celebrate ourselves. That’s really where it started and I think it needs to continue because there is still work to be done as far as our community is concerned. I think that it’s extremely important to keep it the way that it is because I think that we may have this stigma that the black community is not so forward with who they are, as far as being LGBT. It’s important to have this huge event every year and have to have hundreds of thousands of people — black people — that come and say, “No, I am here and I’m proud of who I am.” For me that’s the main reason it needs to stay.

For folks who might not be gay or black, what’s the draw? Why is it still an event for anybody in the city to want to be a part of?

Although it is a Black Gay Pride weekend, it’s definitely inclusive of everyone and it’s really just about celebrating each other. We are a part of the black community, not just the LGBT community, so that needs to be celebrated by everybody.