The DC Black Pride Memorial Day weekend celebration brings thousands out to celebrate the unique joy and experience of being black and same-gender loving, or GLB or T, or just being an ally who wants to come enjoy the fun that this crowd is sure to generate. The weekend is a party that the community enjoys and one that is more than deserved.
The mission of DC Black Pride reflects that, laying out a charge to ''build awareness of and pride in the diversity of the Black LGBT community.'' But that mission goes on to add a duty to address HIV/AIDS and other health issues. There's every reason for that.
Most know just how disproportionately hard the District has been hit by HIV, but the disparities - some from being GLBT, some from being African American, some from both -- affecting the community go so much further than HIV. Still, it bears repeating that while African Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 47 percent of the country's HIV/AIDS cases. Then there's the infamous study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that looked as same-gender loving (SGL) men in five cities, including Baltimore, and found a 46 percent HIV infection rate among black participants, compared to a 25 percent infection rate among the entire pool of participants.
Then there's sickle cell anemia, higher rates of diabetes, certain cancers and on and on. It's not the sort of news anybody wants to bring to a party. But who says you can't have your news and your party, too? Certainly not Christopher Lane.
''We're going to have a live DJ, and people can participate in acupuncture, Reikki and massage,'' says Lane, owner of 1Vision Solutions by day and a former member of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League board, who's marking his first year coordinating the Health & Wellness Expo as a member of the DC Black Pride Board. ''You'll be able to participate in a 'boot camp' earlier in the morning, and maybe win passes to some of the local gyms.''
When you start throwing DJs into the health and wellness mix, it's obvious that Lane is going out of his way to make sure that his expo isn't going to be the sort of affair that rains on anybody's pride parade. Instead, it's a celebration. Sure, there will be screenings for syphilis, diabetes and other diseases, but that's all just part of keeping you in the game -- not kicking you out of it.
''We want to meet these things head on and help people be proactive in maintaining their health,'' says Lane. And Victor Price, a group exercise coordinator for Washington Sports Clubs, is one of the people who is going to help him do it.
''It's definitely going to be intense,'' promises Price, talking about the two ''boot camp'' workout sessions he'll be leading as part of the expo. ''But I don't want anybody to wake up the next day being sore -- at least, not too sore to walk around the festival. I want people to feel charged for the rest of the weekend.''
When it comes to health and wellness, the focus lies with that charge that Price hopes to deliver. The focus is not on worrying about test results or avoiding them altogether, because tests are just tools in any person's overall effort to take the biggest bite out of life possible.
''We just really hope to encourage people of color coming to DC Black Pride to get fit,'' Price adds. ''It's important for us to improve the health of gay individuals. And if I'm proud to be gay, I'm going to live a better life. Health and wellness is all encompassing. It's about making healthy decisions. I definitely want to encourage people to come out to the boot camp, to do something different during Pride. They'll take away workout ideas and plans, thoughts about losing weight, gaining strength, just living healthier. It's a new option for living life.''
And between dancing to the DJ or enjoying your massage, Lane says he hopes you'll consider taking advantage of the multiple health screenings on offer, because they're there for you and a community stands behind you.
''It's good to know,'' Lane insists. ''Be proactive and maintain your health. Get yearly checkups, mammograms. While it can seem scary, it's scarier not to know. And there are people here who can help you maintain your health.''
The third annual D.C. Black Pride Health & Wellness Expo, ''Elements,'' co-sponsored by the D.C. Department of Health and Tibotec Therapeutics, will be held Saturday, May 24, at Center City I Lower Level of the Renaissance M Street Hotel, 1143 New Hampshire Ave. NW, from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Check on-site for more information about the 9:30 a.m. Reikki session; the 10 a.m. and noon WSC 'boot camp' sessions; and the 1 and 3 p.m. body conditioning sessions, presented by Results.