The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina Black Pride brings awareness to Columbia community

The Academia Society, Inc. serves the first Pride Brunch of Black Pride Week. Black Pride Week is hosted every August.
The Academia Society, Inc. serves the first Pride Brunch of Black Pride Week. Black Pride Week is hosted every August.

People regularly question Darius Jones, the president and CEO of South Carolina Black Pride, why the Black pride movement exists separate from statewide LGBTQIA+ communities. 

His answer: Black pride is important and distinctively different from the greater LGBTQIA+ community's pride.

That is why, for the past 16 years, S.C. Black Pride has given a dedicated space for LGBTQIA+ groups and communities of color to express themselves freely, even as other groups serve somewhat similar purposes. 

The organization’s mission is to unite LGBTQIA+ communities of color to promote human rights for all.  

“We celebrate pride our way, we celebrate it the way we’ve always known,” Jones said. 

Every year since it was founded in 2009, the organization puts on S.C. Black Pride Week to educate others on the experiences of LGBTQIA+ people of color. The weeklong celebration gives people in the community a place to feel welcomed. 

Jones attributed the inspiration for the intersectional nature of the organization to the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion — a series of protests caused by police raids on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, that is considered the start of the gay rights movement — because, although the participants were protesting one oppression, many sought equality on multiple fronts. 

"Most of the individuals were Black and Brown people, Latino people, individuals of color, and we wanted to make sure that we didn't get lost in the whole pride movement," Jones said. 

Members said it is important to ensure their existence is acknowledged and prioritized. 

Rosheka Davis, an attendee of S.C. Black Pride Week 2022, said she enjoys the liberation Black Pride Week provides for the Columbia community. Davis has been attending for the past five years and said she appreciates the unification of different people from different backgrounds.

“It doesn’t matter your sexual orientation or any of that, let's all just come together and have a good time in the name of love. Love wins,” Davis said.

The annual Black Pride Week, which the organization puts on every August, was highlighted by three cornerstone events this year. A welcome reception that kicked off the week was accompanied by a cultural arts and wellness festival that gives artists a place to express themselves while selling art, and the Unity Block Party, which includes music, dancing and competitions.

"One of the things that we try to focus on is the arts and making sure we give individuals in our community the opportunity to display their art and their talent in front of an audience that is going to appreciate it and that can relate to it," Jones said.

Willie Antwann, the Event Coordinator of S.C. Black Pride, said he made it a point to incorporate these artists into the week's events to celebrate their contributions to the communities they represent. 

Aiko Finesse Herbert, known professionally as DJ Aiko Finesse, was a featured artist in the S.C. Black Pride lineup. Finesse, a trans, local DJ, said he uses his platform to be a voice for other trans men.

"When you're coming out as gay, African American and trans, that's a lot of weight," Finesse said. 

Finesse underwent surgery as part of his transition in recent years. He said people came up to him at S.C.Black Pride to express how his courage inspired others at Black Pride to move forward with their own transitions. 

Finesse has not seen many transgender people at SC Black Pride but hopes that if he continues to DJ the events, more will be encouraged to attend. 

S.C.Black Pride has been able to promote the well-being of LQBTQIA+ people of color over its history by working with sponsors like CAN Community Health to raise awareness of issues regarding HIV. 

Kamron Singleton, program specialist at CAN Community Health, said she has seen the positive changes within the Columbia community. 

"I believe Columbia is starting to transition into a better accepting and understanding of individuals that's living a different lifestyle," Singleton said. "So I think events like this is necessary to give that awareness and give those safe spaces for these type of individuals."