After more than a decade with its original founder, the St. Louis Black Gay & Lesbian Pride Committee has a new president. Audrey Pearson is taking the reins from Erise Williams, and she's got some new ideas for energizing the festival and acting as a resource for the community.
"We have to be more engaged," she says. "We have to support each other."
She's arrived at this conclusion based on showing up and networking at every possible event she can, be it the youth-focused Growing American Youth
or transgender support of TransHaven
. She says there's a diverse group of people who don't work together simply because they don't cross paths enough.
says it's important for the diverse facets of the St. Louis LGBT scene
to support each other and look to their similarities, rather than
differences. Too often, she says, people will compartmentalize
themselves and not socialize with other LGBT community members because
of differences in race, gender expression or any other perceived
"If we need a reason to be together, we can look back on
our struggle. It's not a white issue, a black issue -- it's our issue,"
she says. "It is my goal to be involved even more, no matter whose
event it is."
Things as simple as social networking and parties, she says, can go a long way toward bridging gaps.
Pride arose out of the B-Boy Blues Festival and grassroots groups meant
to assist black people living with HIV and AIDS. It's not been set in
opposition to the larger Pride St. Louis, as Williams explained to the Daily RFT
back in August before the 11th Black Lesbian & Gay Pride celebration.
transition to Pearson's presidency was not born of any friction, she
says, and Williams will continue to stay on as executive director,
"It's important to know your history," Pearson
says. "If I didn't know the struggle Black Pride emerged from, I
wouldn't know how to evolve."
Pearson herself came to Black Pride
during her own coming out, when she found support in poetry and spoken
word groups. That kind of expression and organic networking continues to
inspire her, she says.
"The politics of it all--it's more than
just sexuality," she says. "When we go home, we have to fight the same
issues." Minorities, both racial and sexual, she says, face challenges
in finding housing, health care and jobs.
"We want to be a
resource," she says. "It doesn't matter if it's me, if it's TransHaven,
if it's Growing American Youth. If I'm coming up with all these
different resources, it's shame on me if I don't share it."
The 12th Annual St. Louis Black Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival runs August 19th-21st.