Coronavirus shrinks Black Gay Pride festival but not its nightlife

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The official events have moved online or have been canceled, but Black Gay Pride nightlife continues in full force this weekend in Atlanta – despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The event – a staple of Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta – won’t look like past years. The Pure Heat Community Festival has been canceled and In The Life Atlanta, the official organizer of Pride weekend, has taken its events virtual. But numerous parties will go on at venues throughout the city.

Pure Heat (photos) attracts thousands to Piedmont Park every Black Gay Pride weekend, but concerns about the pandemic led organizers to skip this year’s event, which was scheduled for Sunday.

“We are disappointed that we will be unable to hold this year’s event for our over 30,000+ attendees and supporters,” Pure Heat organizers said in an Aug. 28 press release. “But we know that it’s the right decision based on the information we have from the City of Atlanta and guidance from the CDC.”

Traxx Girls, the Vision Community Foundation and Rockstars Production host the annual festival. In May, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms put in place a moratorium on the city accepting permit applications for events. Traxx Girls owner Melissa Scott told Project Q Atlanta in June that the festival would go on only if the mayor lifted the moratorium by August, but it is still in effect.

In The Life Atlanta scaled back its slate of events and moved to Zoom and Facebook Live. ITLA held a workshop on Thursday and will host a townhall on Friday, a literary event and film festival on Saturday, and a mental health forum on Sunday, according to an announcement on Facebook on Wednesday.

ITLA President Rickie Smith told Project Q in June that it would likely be a virtual Pride this year.

“Keeping our people safe as we celebrate Pride is a big priority,” he said at the time. “I’d rather err on the side of caution.”

Thousands to pack Atlanta clubs

While the outdoor festival has been canceled and ITLA events have moved online, events labeled as Black Gay Pride parties will go on with varying levels of coronavirus safety protocols in place.

Atlblackpride.org is hosting seven Black Gay Pride parties at clubs around the city, according to its website.

“We will be following CDC guidelines all weekend with temperature checks, providing masks to guests that does not have their own and hand sanitizing stations throughout the venues,” the site said.

Rockstars Production is hosting four Black Gay Pride events, and the W Atlanta Midtown will be the promoter’s host hotel this year, according to its website.

“After a 90-day hiatus, it is time to resume operations,” Rockstars’ site said. “However, it won’t be business as usual. It is our intent to follow CDC guidelines and regulations to ensure the safest operations possible.”

Rockstars’ event precautions include mandatory masks for staff members, requesting patrons to wear masks, limiting venue capacity and making hand sanitizer available.

Traxx Girls will host a number of events throughout the weekend, including a Saturday night party at 595 North in West Midtown that’s expected to draw 2,000 people, according to Traxx Girls’ Atlanta Black Pride Weekend website.

The promoter is putting the onus of coronavirus safety on partygoers, according to a post on its Facebook page Thursday.

“Lots of messages in the inbox regarding masks and parties,” the post said. “We encourage you to use your best judgement for your health. Wear a mask. Try to social distance. Bring hand sanitizer. Traxx Girls and affiliates assume no liability for your health and safety practices.”

ITLA is attempting to put distance between its events and others.

“As a reminder, Atlanta Black Pride 2020 is an virtual events [sic],” a post on the group’s Facebook page said Thursday. “If you are traveling to Atlanta during Labor Day Weekend, you are attending Labor Day Weekend events, NOT Atlanta Black Pride!”

This story is made possible through a grant from Facebook Journalism Project’s COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund.

Photos by Russ Bowen-Youngblood

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