The loss of a tradition


Hotter Than July stands at the edge of a big decision - one that doesn't belong to the organizers of the annual week-long celebration of black gay Pride in the city of Detroit. It hangs on the shoulders of the Detroit City Council and Mayor Dave Bing, who are facing another $32 million in cuts to the city budget that could mean, among other things, the closure of 140 of the city's 300 parks.

One of those locales would be Palmer Park, which has been home to Hotter Than July for 14 years. With just one month to go until the milestone 15th, HTJ's festival may be homeless as soon as next week.

So what's the big deal? Michigan Pride moved locations this year to Lansing's Old Town. Motor City Pride has moved before. On Labor Day weekend, Arts Beats & Eats will be held in Royal Oak instead of Pontiac for the first time. Festivals change and move. So what.

But this is more than a location change, and it's something we should all care about in our LGBT community.

First of all, 2010 HTJ planning has been going on for months. The finances, the acts, the logistics, the vendors - all of these things need to be set in place to make a festival run smoothly. The planners of Hotter Than July - namely the Black Pride Society - found out about the possible Palmer Park closure on June 16, only one month before HTJ's week of events is set to start.

To put it in perspective, Michigan Pride's location switch is something that has been being planned for over a year. One month is not nearly enough time to move an entire festival, or to come up with the necessary funds for their back-up location of Chene Park, which could end up costing $20,000 or more on top of HTJ's budget.

Second of all, this doesn't just affect the festival. The Ruth Ellis Pride March and the Candlelight Vigil both take place every year in Palmer Park. If the park closes, those events won't be moved - they'll be canceled.

But the most important factor to look at is the fact that Palmer Park is home for Hotter Than July - so much so that their festival is called the Palmer Park Festival and the tree where the Candlelight Vigil is held was planted by and for HTJ.

It's not just a location where Detroit's black gay community celebrates for seven days. It's in the heart of the community, and it comes to life for HTJ. Passersby hang out along Pontchartrain Boulevard. Families take a dip in the outdoor pool to cool off. Attendees set up tents, grills and stereos.

It's true that HTJ is only as strong as the people who attend, and can continue no matter where it goes. If a closure is imminent, we need to support HTJ with dollars and volunteer work to help it transition to a new location. But before we give in to that answer, we need to fight to keep Palmer Park open - at least long enough to say goodbye.

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