President Donald Trump’s words and actions were at the forefront of people’s minds on Sunday at St. Louis’ Black Pride Rally.
One of the longest-running black LGBTQ community events in the nation, this year’s gathering coincides with a summer in which the president announced on Twitter that transgender people were banned from serving in the military and, more recently, assigned some blame to counterprotesters for violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We need to make sure that we are relevant and we are heard, and our voices are out here — and we stand up together and we stand up as one,” Black Pride St. Louis President Randy Rafter said.
LaTonya Kelly said Trump’s presidency is a wake-up call for people to speak up and take action.
“We’ve been telling people for a long time that racism still exists,” Kelly said. “And now, things like [this festival] says ‘we’re here. We’re not going anywhere.”
Festival co-organizer Leon Braxton said unity is especially important, considering a racial divide between St. Louis’ gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents. Current events, she said, require white members of the LGBTQ community to re-assess their beliefs.
“Sometimes I need to tell my white siblings that ‘you all have white privilege.’ And you need to check your white privilege,” Braxton said. “You can be a white gay male and still be accepted. Compare that if you’re a black trans woman. First, you have to come out again. And then right now because of what’s going on with the transgender ban in the military, that puts a target on the trans community’s backs right now. And I feel it makes them, the trans community, second-class citizens.”
Sharon Spurlock said that, at first, she wasn’t sure there was a need for a separate pride event. But she added that “people want to claim their space,” adding that African-Americans don’t feel like “they have the space to be who they are and to express themselves at other events.”
“I think for those of us who experience privilege, we need to try and understand what other people's’ experiences are to the best of our ability” said Spurlock, who is white. “And we need to create a space that is abundantly welcoming and that it’s clear that we people to come in with their own ideas and their own cultural expression.”
Rafter estimated between 3,000 to 4,000 people were expected to attend Sunday’s festival in the Grove neighborhood. Darius Rucker — not the country/pop singer — noted that some of the events weren’t explicitly political, including a three-on-three basketball tournament.
The national political climate is causing a lot of “pain and hurt” among blacks who are LGBTQ, he said.
“Let’s be happy,” Rucker said. “Let’s get on stage, let’s perform, let’s sing, let’s dance together — and start to eradicate all those pieces that come with the political climate.”
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