South Siders Celebrate Pride in DuSable | Evening Digest

Newlyweds Crystal and Belinda Richardson settled into their lawn chairs Saturday afternoon, sipping drinks and watching the afternoon pass as thousands of joyful festival-goers descended on the sixth annual Pride South Side.

Most of the estimated 7,000 attendees dressed in warm-weather casuals as they explored the historic rotunda and plaza on the Washington Park DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center campus. Rainbow colors were everywhere.

(From left to right) Newlyweds Belinda and Crystal Richardson pose for photos during the sixth annual Pride South Side festival at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, 740 E. 56th Pl., on July 6, 2024.

As house music blared from the speakers, a dozen or so people in costumes filed past the Richardsons. Among them were three dressed as postmodern incarnations of magicians: one in a flowing black gown, another wearing a Bible bag and a plastic crown, and a third appearing as a white, gothic nun with a painted face.

It wasn’t the first Pride festival the Richardsons had attended together, but it was their first as a married couple. They wore matching white T-shirts with the screen-printed message: “Wife EST. 04.20.2024.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson showed up and worked the crowd, shaking hands and stopping to take photos with vendors manning tents around the plaza. The mayor’s security team stood beside him, stiff and aware.

Nearby, a woman mounted a mechanical bull and took it for a ride while her young son sat patiently on the ground and watched.

“I feel comfortable with my people,” Crystal Richardson said, looking out over the square. “We’ve been here since it opened, and I think we’ll be here until it closes.”

“You see young, old, white, black, all types,” added Belinda Richardson. “We just celebrate together. I love it.”

Jaynesane (@jasnityy) performs at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, 740 E. 56th Pl., roundhouse during the sixth annual Pride South Side festival on July 6, 2024.

Saturday’s event featured 26 artists and vendors from 51 organizations on two stages, while tables in the roundhouse and tents along the plaza hosted organizations including the Chicago Fire Department, the Black Gay Table Talk podcast, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Chicago Department of Public Health, Equality Illinois, the AIDS Foundation in Chicago and others.

Inside the venue, podcasters Kenan Cooper-Gilmore and Anna Dashawn interviewed attendees in a temporary multimedia production studio called “The Pride Pod.”

Among the interviewees was Shana Sumers, creator and co-host of Bad Queers Podcast, a show about breaking stereotypes in the LGBTQ+ community.

“When we come out, we’re equipped with a whole new set of labels, clothes to wear, music to listen to, ways to be, and that’s not the essence of the queer experience,” Sumers said. “So we talk about the news, we educate ourselves, we give advice when we probably shouldn’t, and we share our bad queer opinions, which are basically things people don’t want to say out loud but need to hear.”

(From left to right) Carol and Pati dance during the sixth annual Pride South Side festival at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, 740 E. 56th Pl., on July 6, 2024.

Outside on the square, DJ Sparkle was emceeing a “Face” fashion event that attracted about a half-dozen attendees when Mayor Johnson made his way to the Impulse Chicago booth.

Impulse has chapters in 26 cities on five continents and “connects the community with queer safe spaces,” said Darren Parker, president of the Chicago chapter. It provides free resources like HIV and STI testing and helps people find housing and mental health resources.

When asked what Pride South Side means to him, Parker said the event gave him a space where he could “be open about who I am and what my sexual orientation is.”

“There’s a huge stigma attached to being a black queer man,” he said. “You have to be super masculine and super macho because you’re black and you’re a man.”

“The Right to Be Proud” was the theme of this year’s event, which Parker said resonated with him.

“Here I can be open, I can be free and I can be whoever I want to be without that stigma,” Parker said. “(We’re here) without judgment, without ridicule and without having to fit into a social norm.”