Hotter Than July Conference Focuses On Past, Future Of Detroit's African American LGBT Community

By Jason A. Michael

DETROIT - Nearly 60 people attended Hotter Than July's annual Gathering on LGBT Issues Friday. The conference took place at the Michigan State University Detroit Center in Midtown.

Tim Retzloff, a longtime Between The Lines contributing writer and a doctoral graduate of Yale University, delivered the keynote address, which focused on African American LGBT History in Detroit from 1945 - 1985.

"IT's history that's slowly being forgotten," Retzloff said.

While he mentioned familiar names like Ruth Ellis and controversial minister Prophet Jones, Retzloff also spoke of lesser known early gay organizers in Detroit such as Leon DeMeunier and John Pierre Adams. He spoke of the separatism and racism that existed in Detroit's lgbt community.

"African Americans who were 'in the life' in the two decades after World War II had far different options for socializing than lesbian and gay whites," Retzloff said. "They were largely unwelcome at the white working class gay bars around Farmer and Bates during the 1940s and `1950s."

Applause at the end of Retzloff's presentation was thunderous. It was followed by a panel discussion on bridging the gap between the lgbt community's past and future. Later, the Hotter Than July Milestone Awards were presented. Awardees included veterans of Detroit's lgbt community Kofi Adoma, Hank Millbourne and Rev. Darlene Franklin as well as younger activists Bre' Campbell and Royale Theus.

"We believe that Hotter Than July is a space where we recognize not only our past but our future," said Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of KICK, the agency that produces Hotter Than July.

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