Fire Island, NY is known as a destination spot for circuit parties, with its beautiful beaches and gay friendly community throughout the year. One event that has gained a steady flow of fans is Fire Island OutBlack (FIBO), a weekend that caters to the LGBT people of color. Now in its eighth year, FIBO has added many new events to its fun at the beach roster for all to enjoy. James Wellons, FIBO’s president, is at the helm of creating a new vacation experience here’s what he shared with us.
PRIDEINDEX:What is Fire Island Blackout? Who started it and when?
WELLONS: The Fire Island Black Out (FIBO) is a three day multi-cultural event celebrating the LGBT community of color – our families and our friends. FIBO was originally created in 2003 as an alternative beach event for the New York LGBT community. Since that time, it has grown into one of the nation’s largest beach events where the LGBT community of color can come together to celebrate and share our community with our families, friends, and the rest of the world.
PRIDEINDEX:How many people attend FIBO Blackout events?
WELLONS:This year we are expecting nearly 4,000 attendees!
PRIDEINDEX:Name some of the charities or organizations that have benefited from FIBO.
WELLONS: Each year, we donate our net profits to charities that provide life sustaining resources to the LGBT community of color. This year, for our third year, we are raising funds for the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing and other critical resources to homeless LGBT teens. We are also donating to the Housing Works Haiti Relief Fund. In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, Housing Works established the Haiti Relief Fund to provide desperately needed medical services, supplies, and medications to Haitians living with HIV and AIDS. Finally, as is our common practice, we donate to a local charity in the community hosting FIBO events, and this year we are proud to donate to the Friends of the Fire Island National Seashore’s Beach Preservation Fund.
PRIDEINDEX: How do you decide which charities or organizations to give to?
WELLONS: We ascertain suggestions from the members of the Leadership Committee, which is responsible for planning the event.
PRIDEINDEX:What new events do you have planned for this year’s fest?
WELLONS: A lot! We have a Volleyball Tournament, Best Beach Tent Contest, Writer’s Panel, Poetry Slam and Spoken Word Contest, and a 90 minute Happy Hour. And, to cap if off, we are bringing two time Grammy nominated artist, Brian Slade (Tonex), to our legendary Bump & Dip Dance and Pool Party! Tonex is known for his gospel records, but his musical efforts also include R&B, Soul, and Hip Hop. He will present his distinct secular sounds exclusively to FIBO attendees!
PRIDEINDEX: I understand there’s a writer’s forum, tell me more about that.
WELLONS: We are really excited about this event! We have gathered four prolific and accomplished gay authors of color to discuss relationships, sex and passion, the “down low,” gay marriage, and other interesting topics. The panel discussion will be filmed as part of EMBRACE TV’s inaugural programming and consists of moderator, Nathan James, whose works include The Devil’s Details, Check Ride, and In His Court and Taylor Siluwe, who is an accomplished author and social commentator and whose literary works include Dancing With The Devil and Breeding Season. Also participating in the panel is J. Omarr, (whose works include Masai and Justus) takes a spellbinding look at the black gay experience. And, rounding out the group is Delvon Johnson author of Love Yourself First, which has been optioned for development into a television series.
PRIDEINDEX:Will there be any health and wellness events/workshops or safe sex literature available?
WELLONS: We provide free safe sex literature and kits at our information table.
PRIDEINDEX: How is Fire Island Blackout different from Black Gay Pride?
WELLONS: While FIBO encourages everyone to “be yourself” – it is not an official gay black event. FIBO is a celebration of diversity, community, and friendships.
PRIDEINDEX: What are your plans for the future?
WELLONS: Plans for the future are to expand the FIBO concept to other beaches and other venues.
PRIDEINDEX: Is there anything else people should know about FIBO?
WELLONS: I would encourage everyone to visit our website at www.fireislandblackout.com to learn more about FIBO. And, I would like to publicly thank our sponsors: HBO, EMBRACE TV, Beleveder Vodka, The Ice Palace, Grove Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn, and NEXT Magazine for their support.
Click here to see FIBO on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_i7kzj2_aY