Pride and politics

Hotter Than July picnic draws mayor and council candidates

By Crystal A. Proxmire

DETROIT - Thousands of men and women gathered in Palmer Park on Saturday, July 25 for the 14th annual Hotter than July picnic celebrating black gay pride. Among them were several Detroit politicians, including Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the first openly gay city council candidate Charles Pugh.

Pugh, who has attended the picnic for the past eight years, said that his favorite thing about Hotter Than July is that "it's the one day a year that we all really get together and celebrate."

"I'm not really here to try and get votes," Pugh said. "Young people don't vote. I could have handed out a thousand fliers here and it wouldn't get me as many votes as if I did a hundred someplace else. This is more about showing, well, pride. I want to let young people know they've got an 'out' candidate they can look up to. And to show these young people they can be anything."

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing also made an appearance, happily shaking hands, posing for pictures and answering questions from reporters.

"We are going to be the comeback city and we need as much help from you as we can get," Bing told the cheering crowd. In an interview with Between The Lines, Bing said that though he has "no ties to the community personally" he is "hoping to learn more."

"I met a lot of people today to learn from," said the mayor. "I'd want them to know that I'm very open minded and supportive of people, all people."

Bing said that while city finances are his number one priority, he and his staff are discussing the possibility of reforming the city's LGBT advisory committee. Deputy Director of General Services Brad Dick said that committee started during the Kilpatrick administration but wasn't very active.

Dick, an openly gay man who worked for both Kilpatrick and Bing, said he is confident that communication will continue to improve. "In previous years administrations did not reach out to gay people, but I think Mr. Bing really will," he said. "He gave up a Michigan Alumni picnic to be here today. I think that shows that he really wants to connect."

Other candidates took the opportunity to introduce themselves to voters with fliers that littered the park and the surrounding streets. Many drivers found multiple leaflets stuck under their wipers or slid between their windows and doors.

The Detroit City Council primary election takes place Aug. 4, narrowing down the top 19 candidates out of over 200 hopefuls.

Kai Lampkins and Ladie Milltown of Detroit were more interested in enjoying a day in the sun walking their two dogs, hanging out with friends and listening to the many DJs and other performers that are a popular feature of the annual celebration.

"I'm not really active in the community in any way," Lampkins said. "But I like to go out a lot to the clubs and stuff." This was Lampkins first time at Hotter Than July, and she and her friends were "definitely here for the entertainment."

And plenty of entertainment there was. Dancers rocked the stage, a DJ led a group in doing the hustle and there were plenty of jams for the young and the old. Venders sold jewelry, T-shirts, snacks, books, Michael Jackson memorabilia and even penis-shaped rainbow suckers. Many came out with tents and BBQ equipment; others had blankets and picnic ware. Some couples lounged in the more quiet areas of the park, relaxing beneath gently rustling trees, while other people danced to pounding club music from the main stage. And groups like Kick, Black and White Men Together and Black Pride Society handed out information at their booths.

Black Pride Society puts on the annual HTJ Pride event, which is based upon the seven core principles of Kwanzaa. It serves as a year round mechanism and foundation to promote community-building activities and events with the goal of cultivating and sustaining a healthy community. Black Pride Society President Hank Millbourne said that attendance seemed to be down because of that morning's rain, "but now people seem to be coming out and enjoying themselves."

Millbourne assured that despite any economic downturn, Hotter Than July is a tradition that will carry on in the city. "I think we need black LGBT pride because we need to support each other," he said. "We need this empowering. Motor City Pride is for the whole gay community. But we live in the black community first and in this community we need to empower people to be themselves in this environment."

For more information about Hotter Than July, visit the Black Pride Society's Web site at http://www.blackpridesociety.org.

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