Dayton Black Pride founders, from left to right, Vanessa Moon, Mel Carroll, Naomi Tellis, Michael Knote, Chrisondra Goodwine, NaAsiaha Simon, and Cherry Poppins (aka Danny Thomas).
It took just five weeks to plan Dayton’s first Black Pride event in 2021. Inspired by a Facebook post, Equitas Health’s Mel Carroll and Danny Thomas, both of Dayton, worked hard to make it happen.
Driven by the dream of Chrisondra Goodwine and Vanessa Moon, the founders secured permits and pulled together vendors. They contacted food trucks, drag performers, burlesque dancers, and Equitas Health.
Then, they invited everyone to McIntosh Park –named in honor of W.S. “Mac” McIntosh, the founder of Dayton’s civil rights movement.
Not even the rain could dampen Dayton’s first Black Pride.
With a year to get ready and raise funds, Carroll and Thomas expect Dayton Black Pride 2022: Majestic Melanin to be a regal affair! They look forward to a larger crowd, more vendors, hot entertainers, and a parade with a purpose.
The first-ever Black Pride Parade will step off in front of the Montgomery County Building, cross the Third Street Bridge, and end up at McIntosh Park. Also known as the Peace Bridge, the Third Street Bridge reopened last fall after a two-year, multi-million dollar rehab project. It features artwork and sculptures highlighting Black leaders in Dayton’s history, a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and West African Adinkra symbols.
“I’m not originally from Dayton, but the story goes that African Americans at one time were not allowed over the bridge into downtown. They could not cross that bridge,” said Carroll, Equitas Health’s senior gender-affirming care navigation coordinator.
Spanning the Great Miami River, the 720-foot bridge divides the west side of Dayton from the east. Throughout segregation, it separated Black from white. Downtown Dayton did not exist east of the bridge for the BIPOC community. For Carroll, the parade route continues to break down the barriers that once separated the city’s Black and Brown LGBTQ+ community and the downtown area.
Thomas, an Equitas Health prevention specialist in Dayton, remembers growing up in the city’s Westwood neighborhood and attending high school on the east side. As a 15-year-old activist, he and a group of peers organized a “peace march” over the bridge. To cross the bridge as Cherry Poppins on July 9 will bring him great joy.
“Growing up Black and gay in Dayton was a little tough, because homophobia was a big thing. To be able to be in full drag and march into West Dayton where I grew up is amazing,” he said. “I’m really excited about the parade. That’s what is going to make it feel like Pride for me.”
You Can See Yourself Here
More important than bridging east and west, Dayton’s Black Pride Parade lets the young LGBTQ+ BIPOC community see a truer picture of their city.
“We want young people to see that there are Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people here in Dayton. Representation is everything,” said Carroll.
Nobody knows that better than Carroll and Thomas. Both are widely known throughout Dayton and among the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to the Black Pride board, Carroll sits on the board of the Dayton LGBT Center. Thomas, as Cherry Poppins, entertains at clubs and events throughout the area. Both serve as mentors to others.
“Dayton Black Pride is not trying to be segregated, but we want people to know that we exist. We also have to keep in mind that there are some people who don’t feel comfortable around another race. Some people don’t feel comfortable outside of their own neighborhood,” said Carroll.
“Having Black Pride in a Black neighborhood is monumental,” added Thomas.
Many Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ people call Dayton home. They don’t all like to meet in bars. Dayton Black Pride will offer them a chance to get together in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Sponsors include Equitas Health, Montgomery County Public Health, and Gilead. Of course, Cherry Poppins will emcee the day’s events. Joining her will be Amaya Staple, Sky Black, and Miss Demur, host of DATV’s longest-running talk show. Other entertainers include stand-up comedians, singers, rappers, and burlesque dancers. There’s even going to be a “majestic melanin” cocktail. Thomas described it as “real sweet, but tasty.”
“Last year we got our feet wet. It’s going to be big this year. The buzz is pretty big,” said Thomas.
Carroll is quick to remind us that, “Black Pride is not just for Black people.”
Dayton Black Pride is for everyone!
The parade will line up at 11 AM at the Montgomery County Building, 451 W. Third St.