At St. Pete Pride 2022, I hope to hear 'Black Lives Matter' being shouted just as loudly as 'We Say Gay'

2022 introduced six new board members of color to St. Pete Pride and the City of St. Petersburg.

click to enlarge Tampa Leigh represents Blaque/OUT Magazin. a monthly digital publication that firmly centers Black and Brown Queer qulture worldwide. - Photo c/o St. Pete Pride
Photo c/o St. Pete Pride
Tampa Leigh represents Blaque/OUT Magazin. a monthly digital publication that firmly centers Black and Brown Queer qulture worldwide.
I moved to St. Pete a couple years ago carrying with me a lifetime of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) experience and the sincere desire to make my new home, inclusivity-wise, as much of a utopia as the beautiful beaches and smiling faces suggested it should be. Discovering my own Queerness years ago inspired a joy and freedom in me that I had never known in my life before it. Sadly, it was always hampered by the incredible oppression that came with the world’s opinion of it and the shade of my skin.

Intersectionality became my life and was fated to also be my work. I am a native New Yorker, where LGBTQ+ laws and protections are groundbreaking on paper but not so profound in practice. Where just like the South or the West or anywhere in between, being Black as well as being Queer can get you killed.

I came to my new home armed with experience, passion and purpose. I was ready to take on my new Floridian world and to be entirely honest, St. Pete Pride. I had turned several other Prides and organizations. I, along with a team of dedicated staff and determined volunteers were able to change the look of entertainment, of staff, of the color of the people at the table. We had made the orgs we interacted with, for the most part, Blacker, broader, less cis and less male focused. I was determined that the same could happen in St. Pete. Each time we can make the big, queer world big enough to fit everyone, we make the world a better place.

Generally speaking, it’s easy when you are the big fish in the small pond to take up all the air, resources and recognition in the room. St. Pete Pride had intentionally or unintentionally done that for many years. But it’s often less malice and more lack of intentionality that causes such oversight and exclusion. I was actually told at one point last year that there were no people or programs that supported, represented or served the QTPOC community in this area. Over the last year I was honored and grateful to learn that wasn’t true. As is everywhere, there are endless Black and Brown folks fearlessly doing the work to make that big queer world big enough to fit us all. I’d like to introduce a few.

It matters. Who is at the table always matters.

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2022 introduced six new Board Members of color to St. Pete Pride and the City of St. Petersburg: Dr. Byron Green, Clifford Hobbs III, Darius Lightsey, Fernando Chonqui, Gabe Alves-Tomko and Stephanie Morge.

It matters. Who is at the table always matters. Each of us carries blind-spots and without full representation in every space, something always goes unseen. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work must come with overwhelming humility, the ability to name and acknowledge what you haven’t done and a sincere, fearless willingness to make it right. That must come even in the face of opposition, misunderstanding and embarrassment. For those who step in first to integrate that school, to come out in a crowd, to fight that legislation.... to take that seat, must do so fearlessly and in our community and working to embody the principles of our ancestors with grit and grace. Look them up, support their visions and if your party, panel, presentation or event that centers Queerness doesn’t include one or all of them—you didn’t try hard enough.

The corner St. Pete Pride is turning is long overdue. The letting go of “we don’t see color" and the adopting of celebrating, commemorating and uplifting a profound, important and inherently unique Black Queer qulture is a new one. This year St. Pete Pride will feature Ballroom (think POSE), one of the pillars of Black Queer qulture. There will be the first-ever official Juneteenth celebration to highlight Black, Queer history and a party to celebrate and honor Black Queer Woman in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Black Lesbians group.

I’m proud to have played even a small part in that and I look forward to a future where it’s a conversation we no longer even need to have because it’s just what St. Pete Pride is. But even the baby steps matter. There is too much fighting that needs to be done in this state to be living in division. No one is free, until we are all free. And I hope to hear “Black Lives Matter” being shouted just as loudly as “We Say Gay” this Pride parade. May St. Pete Pride one day be the organization leading both of those chants.

BlaQQueer Unity Council Orgs & Members

Rocky Butler
9 Colors Initiative
The 9 Colors Initiative supports youth by empowering the community through unity. Currently operating as a referral agent and community advocate for the LGBTQ community we strive to ensure equality, wholeness, & community engagement.

DeAndre “Yummy” Brown
Yummy translated his joy of dance into a storied career that has stretched 15+ years. Brown’s mastery of Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Lyrical, Vogue, Hip-Hop and other forms of dance were cultivated as a student at institutions such as “The University of the Arts.” Cultural-based training in churches and organizations like Hype Elite, YCDT with Traci Young-Byron, Iconic House of Ninja and Iconic House of Prodigy only served to enrich his style, versatility and range. In the next ascension of DeAndre’s dance life, he stepped into his most recent form of artistry within the Black Queer Ballroom scene. Brown’s passion for showcasing his art and educating at a worldwide level just fuels his quest for bigger and more transformative stages.

Cadin Small, Choya Randolph, Dominique Euzebe, Quin Killiings, Brook Carter
The Blunt Space Incorporated
A nonprofit corporation and media hub for art, advocacy, and culture. We aim to be a safe haven and provide resources to marginalized voices within the arts! Writers, Poets, Advocates, Journalists, Dreamers, Creators and Revolutionaries. They see the Council as an opportunity to ”truly be unified on one front about the events and initiatives that advocate for the intersectional identities of being Black and Queer. It means organizing, supporting, and communicating with one another to better serve the community we hold close to all of our hearts!”

Tamara Leigh

Blaque/OUT Magazine, Blaque/OUT Consulting & Tampa Bay Black Lesbians
Blaque/OUT Magazine is a monthly digital publication that firmly centers Black and Brown Queer qulture worldwide. Blaque/OUT Consulting provides workshops, trainings, process and procedure evaluation and education for schools, businesses and orgs around creating safe spaces and understanding intersectionality. Tampa Bay Black Lesbians is a safe community space to build relationships, create and attend events with other Black Queer women in TB, Pinellas County and surrounding areas. You can find the group on FB, IG and TikTok.

Antonio Miles
Evolve Tampa Bay
A passionate educator and sexual health advocate. He is also the proud Executive Director of EVOLVE Tampa Bay; Tampa’s unique non-profit organization, that provides empowering monthly events that uplift Black and Brown same-gender loving men. His work also reaches into the field of sexual health care, as the Program Manager for Positively U, Inc, a non-profit the focuses reducing the rates of HIV and other STIs through education, advocacy and care. Antonio, is laser-focused on creating connections across the bay area that foster creative, safe and affirming spaces for queer people of color.