Kofi Adoma and Alicia Skillman instruct the crowd to light their candles at the 19th annual Hotter Than July candlelight vigil Tuesday in Palmer Park.

HTJ Opening Ceremony Draws Large Crowd

By Jason A. Michael

DETROIT - Nearly 100 people came out for the 19th annual Hotter Than July candlelight vigil Tuesday evening in Palmer Park. The event serves as the kickoff of a week's worth of events under the HTJ umbrella.

"Today we celebrate those we have lost," said Cierra Burks in opening remarks. "It's not a mourning ceremony. It's a celebration. They are gone but they are not forgotten."

Rev. Jeffrey Seals, co-pastor of Whosoever Ministries, sponsors of HTJ's official Sunday worship service, poured libations and called on the elders who have gone on to bless the service.

"Pouring libations is simply calling on those people who have played an important role in your life," Seals explained. "It ain't a sad moment. It's a happy moment. Libations just lets you know that we will always remember who they are."

The evening's guest speaker was community activist Alicia Skillman.

"It takes a lot year after year to bring Pride," Skillman said. "We really need to celebrate Hotter Than July. It's the second oldest black gay pride celebration in the country. Pride celebrations come and go. But HTJ is still here so we need to celebrate it."

Skillman spoke about this year's HTJ theme, which is "Happy Together."

"We are remembering those who succumbed to AIDS, those we lost to hate crimes," she said. "But as we look at the theme 'Happy Together' we must celebrate ourselves. We must celebrate what's going on today [and] those who are serving us today."

Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of Kick, the agency that produces HTJ, closed out the evening with remarks.

"The candlelight vigil is the most important ceremony of Hotter Than July," said Lipscomb. "During this week of sailing, movies, a conference, picnics, church, brunch and parties, firstly we ask God to bless this sacred activity we hold dear."

Lipscomb presented to the crowd a marker that will be placed at the foot of the blue spruce memorial tree in Palmer Park. The marker was donated by Robert Tate, co-founder of the Billionaire Boys Club, one of the founding organizations of HTJ.

"The Hotter Than July candlelight vigil bronze plague is the only marker in Detroit that recognizes lgbt contribution to our loves ones who have passed away," Lipscomb said. "This plague will be placed on a larger memorial structure and again ceremoniously recognized at Hotter Than July's 20th anniversary in 2015."

HTJ 2014 Schedule of Events http://hotterthanjuly.org/all-events
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