Michigan

Dani Woods Presents Keynote Speech at HTJ Opening Ceremony

DPD LGBT Liaison Officer Says 'We Need to Show People Who We Are'

BY JASON A. MICHAEL

Around 60 people came out to Palmer Park in Detroit on Tuesday for the Hotter Than July opening ceremony and candlelight vigil.

Music was played by a drum circle featuring longtime community activist Dr. Kofi Adoma, a prayer was given by Rev. Jeffrey Seals of One Church Detroit, and a moment of silence was held in honor of those in the community who have passed.

The keynote speaker was the Detroit Police Department's LGBT Liaison Officer Dani Woods, who was appointed by Chief James Craig in 2013. She explained that her partnership with organizations like LGBT Detroit helped guide her during a time when she had no idea how to start, where to go or what to do.

"The fact is that I care. I genuinely care about everybody under this tent and everybody in this park - even if they're not over here. I care and I take my role seriously," said Woods, adding that her work as an activist is not always easy.

"I get let down. I get my feelings hurt. More often than I would like to. But I keep going because this work and this movement is bigger than me. It's bigger than us. It's far beyond our reach. I am because we are. I love the theme this year," she said about the theme - "I am because we are" - for this years's black LGBT pride event, which comes from the ancient African word Ubuntu.

Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of LGBT Detroit, previously told BTL that Ubuntu's translation derives from the Bantu philosophy "humanity to others." The theme, he said, "reminds us to stick together, lock arms and weather the storms that come our way."

Woods agreed, "That's exactly what's going on right now. I am because we are...I'm sure plenty of you can attest to it. I'm looking at all of these activists and advocates out here who just keep going and keep going. You press on and that's what I do."

She spoke to attendees about the responsibility police officers have to the LGBT community while in uniform, and the consequence of wrongdoing.

"You can't just put this on and be biased and feel like I'll do this over here, but not that. If you mistreat any of my family, you know where I'm going - to the chief to have a conversation and he does hold people accountable," said Woods, noting that she doesn't take pride in getting people disciplined, but "I take pride in getting some act right put on you."

Woods ended her speech on a positive note, stating how honored she feels to be able to serve the LGBT citizens of Detroit.

"Hotter Than July is the longest running gay black pride in the world," she said. "There's not a whole lot of things you can say 'in the world' about. This is a week long event. It should be a year long event. Seriously. Because this is pride and we should be proud of who we are and loving who we want to love and being out in public doing our thing. We need to show people who we are."

Visit Hotter Than July on Facebook for upcoming event information. The festival runs through July 30.
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