Chicago Black Gay Pride’s Next Chapter

Photo courtesy of Jesse Hinton and Ariq Cabbler

There has been so much said regarding Chicago’s two black gay pride organizations. Unfortunately, not all of it has been kind. Jesse Hinton, President of Chicago Windy City Black Pride-SGL (CWCBP), hopes to change all that. Hinton has confirmed that CWCBP, a member of the International Federation of Black Gay Prides and Windy City LGBT Pride (WCBP) an independent 501 c3 organization is in the process of merging with the Rocks Committee, organizers of the after gay pride picnic which takes place at Montrose Beach. The new entity will combine resources under one house to better manage the annual summer events. This way it will better serve the needs of Chicago’s African American gay community.

Chicago Black Pride celebrations have been around in some form or another since the 1990’s. According to published reports the first Chicago organization was originally incorporated in 1998 and became nationally recognized in 2000. Since those early days, lack of unity, accusations of mismanagement, mishandling of funds, and high turnover have long stifled the Black Pride organization or its many incarnations from experiencing real growth. Hinton talked to Pride Index about what he hopes to accomplish, plans to reinvigorate the fledging outfit, and what it will all mean for Chicago’s LGBT community.

Jesse Hinton Photo Credit: Jesse Hinton

PRIDEINDEX (PI): What can you tell us right now about the merger between CWCBP and WCBP and the Rocks Committee? Have you simply begun to discuss how the three groups will integrate into one? Are you further along in the process and ready to make some announcements about what’s next?
JESSE HINTON (JH): We have come to the conclusion that we are definitely going to merge; right now we’re working on the organizational structure. You should see some announcements coming out this week from each group.

PI: Why would each group send out a separate statement instead of a single message from the new organization?
JH: The new organization is not in existence right now; we’re still working through that piece of it. Since each organization has been separate for such a long time, it’s really about bringing closure to those organizations of the past. This allows its leaders to say “hey this is something that we fully support” and ultimately will get the community to see that it’s really happening.

PI: Will the board members from the respective legacy groups be automatically transferred to the new organization or will there be special elections held to select a new board? Will there be input from the general public?
JH: We’re not bringing everyone from the three organizations. Some people will be resigning from the legacy groups; not because they’re being forced out, but because it is the right thing to do going forward. Some time in the near future we will recognize the accomplishments of these former board members for their service to former organizations. We’re going to move forward as one group with all the assets and knowledge gained over the past twelve years in which Chicago’s black gay pride celebration has existed.

PI: Who are some of the other principals involved?
JH: As of right now all of those decisions are forthcoming, but there are some people coming in such as Ariq Cabbler of the Rocks Committee, Nicky and Veronica Scarver and Tasha from WCBP. I’ve had several conversations with folks like Tim’m West and a host of others who are excited about helping. Beyond that I cannot make any announcements until everything is finalized.

PI: What about involvement from former board members of the very first black pride (E.g. Pat McCombs, Thayer Johnson or Kevin Tindell, etc) will they a play an active role in this new group?
JH: As of right now the only representative crossing over from CWCBP is me. There could be one or two others who could be looked at down the road. Everyone else will be resigning, but just because someone steps back it does not mean they cannot contribute.

PI: In essence you’re starting from scratch?
JH: No, we are not starting from scratch because we already have the foundation in place. We’re moving forward bringing new people in and mentoring those people to take over when they are ready.

PI: What’s the name of this new venture?
JH: That has yet to be decided; it will be determined soon and released by the end of the month.

PI: What do you hope to accomplish by coming together as one group?
JH: To combine resources. I have been president of CWCBP for the past two years, and from day one my mission was to reach out to WCBP and have conversations about how we could come together. You think about what a pride organization is supposed to be; it’s about unity, collaboration and bringing the community together. When there are two groups essentially doing the same thing in one city, it goes against everything you’re supposed to stand for. The merger that’s currently taking place is something that has been in discussion for the past two years. Now we’re going forward, showing good faith and keeping the lines of communication open and in the end it brings excitement about black gay pride back to our community. I have spoken with several community leaders, and they’re all excited about the merger. There are a limited amount of resources that have been divided among so many for too long and as one organization we will be able to make a greater impact in the community we serve.

PI: What does that mean for the Rocks Committee? Will the after the Pride Parade picnic at Montrose Beach continue?
JH: Yes, what you will see for the most part will be status quo. Black Pride will run from that Sunday, June 30th (after the Gay Pride Parade) with the Rocks Committee and continue through the following Sunday, July 6th with community events taking place during the week of the July 4th holiday.

PI: When you mention black gay pride in Chicago, there is a long list of people who have reached out to help but for whatever reason they came away with an unpleasant experience. What do you have to say about that? How do you plan to ensure that no one ever walks away again with their needs being unmet?
JH: Obviously I cannot speak to what those other organizations or people have experienced in the past. I can only speak to the last two years since I have worked with CWCBP and for the most part everyone involved walked away with a positive experience. Over the past two years since I have been President, it has been about building a stronger foundation. You have to remember when I came on board; black gay pride in Chicago had been going on for over a decade. I do understand that it has been a challenge. I have reached out to all the promoters and started having conversations with them, and they have come back on board. Last December we did our first The Color Is Red party and all the city’s major promoters came out in full force. We also did The Color is Red Gala this past February and reached out to all our community organizations, and they too responded. So the feedback and support have been all positive. We are just going to keep on doing what we’ve been doing and when we say that we’re going to do something for the community, we are going to do just that. We are going to partner with other groups if it’s in the best interest of the community and not in the best interest of an individual.

PI: Have you reached out to other pride related groups such Trans Pride headed by KOKUMOKINETIC, or even Orgullo En Accion (Pride in Action), the organizers of the annual Latino Gay Pride picnic?
JH: We are reaching out to everyone. We recognize there are different segments within the LGBTQI community, and we plan to collaborate with them. We’ve definitely reached out to the transgender community, for example, in the month of May we have a transgender debutante event.

PI: PrideIndex receives dozens of emails from a number of sources and for some reason have yet to receive an email from you to ask for our input?
JH: Well you know that’s a two street. (Laughs) We have made efforts to reach out to everyone. If you or anyone else would like to volunteer simply go to the website and contact me.

PI: Which website?
JH: The main site is cwcbp which is going away when we launch the new site, but right now all of my information is still right there. I am always accessible; in fact I am currently taking calls from folks about Pride in 2013.

PI: Have you reached out to other pride groups in other cities? If so which ones and will this new pride group be a member of the International Federation of Black Prides (IFBP)? Obviously the answer is “YES” but have you also reached out to the International Association of Pride Organizers (InterPride)?
JH: (Cuts in) Whoa, Whoa, don’t, answer my questions for me! (Laughs) Right now we’re in the process of building the stage for black gay pride in Chicago, so I have not reached out to any of those groups for memberships yet; that’s something we are working through. I believe that the Federation (IFBP) is a great resource , and it has the capacity to do great things for Chicago’s Black Pride, and as far as any other organization that exist on a national or international level we can certain look at them as well. We’re not an organization that discriminates on race or geographic, or demographics. Any organizations that help build the Chicago’s black pride organization and have common goals, values or ethics; we will look at partnering with those organizations in the future.

PI: I once heard a promoter say something that was quite disturbing to me regarding black pride. The promoter said something to the effect of…”people do not come to pride to attend a workshop, and therefore, we should not put any resources into any workshops at all…because people don’t attend them.” In 2013 what events do you plan to produce that are not taking place at Joe or Moe’s clubs or on any specific promoter’s night?
JH: I completely agree with that promoter 100% that it is not the promoters place to be concerned with workshops. That is not the promoters place or responsibility; it is the pride committee’s responsibility to handle workshops. This past year we had a week long schedule of events; we had events that took place at the University of Chicago that included several workshops.

PI: Really?
JH: (Cuts off) Yes and we will continue to do workshops in 2013.

PI: I have in my possession every flyer from every event that took place during Chicago’s Black Gay Pride 2012 and there is not a single flyer that was not party-centric or that listed any workshops.
JH: That does not mean that workshops did not take place. (Laughs) Take a look at the website and you will see we did have a flyer with workshops. We (the new pride group) will need to get better at communicating with the community about all of the events that are taking place. And we’re working through the issues that people had in terms of contacting us. The three organizations working together as one will mean more people will be available to deliver the message of what’s taking place. We welcome others to come aboard as well.

PI: What is the one thing you’d like to accomplish as president of this new black gay pride organization?
JH: The one big thing I wanted to do… (Or is already about to happen). I want all the groups to merge as one powerful group, and work well as a new group and lay the framework for successful strategic plans that are not just short term but long-term. The plan is to not just work from a “let’s get pride together for 2013” but from the viewpoint of “let’s get pride together for 2025.” We have to create a plan for future leadership. When we go out and look for new people to bring their talents and resources to this group; there will be someone shadowing them with an exit and succession plan to keep moving pride forward.