New President for St. Louis Black Gay and Lesbian Pride

click to enlarge Audrey Pearson
Audrey Pearson
After more than a decade with its original founder, the St. Louis Black Gay & Lesbian Pride Committee has a new president. Audrey Pearson is taking the reins from Erise Williams, and she's got some new ideas for energizing the festival and acting as a resource for the community.

"We have to be more engaged," she says. "We have to support each other."

She's arrived at this conclusion based on showing up and networking at every possible event she can, be it the youth-focused Growing American Youth or transgender support of TransHaven. She says there's a diverse group of people who don't work together simply because they don't cross paths enough.

Pearson says it's important for the diverse facets of the St. Louis LGBT scene to support each other and look to their similarities, rather than differences. Too often, she says, people will compartmentalize themselves and not socialize with other LGBT community members because of differences in race, gender expression or any other perceived barrier.

"If we need a reason to be together, we can look back on our struggle. It's not a white issue, a black issue -- it's our issue," she says. "It is my goal to be involved even more, no matter whose event it is."

Things as simple as social networking and parties, she says, can go a long way toward bridging gaps.

Black Pride arose out of the B-Boy Blues Festival and grassroots groups meant to assist black people living with HIV and AIDS. It's not been set in opposition to the larger Pride St. Louis, as Williams explained to the Daily RFT back in August before the 11th Black Lesbian & Gay Pride celebration.

The transition to Pearson's presidency was not born of any friction, she says, and Williams will continue to stay on as executive director, mentoring her.

"It's important to know your history," Pearson says. "If I didn't know the struggle Black Pride emerged from, I wouldn't know how to evolve."

Pearson herself came to Black Pride during her own coming out, when she found support in poetry and spoken word groups. That kind of expression and organic networking continues to inspire her, she says.

"The politics of it all--it's more than just sexuality," she says. "When we go home, we have to fight the same issues." Minorities, both racial and sexual, she says, face challenges in finding housing, health care and jobs.

"We want to be a resource," she says. "It doesn't matter if it's me, if it's TransHaven, if it's Growing American Youth. If I'm coming up with all these different resources, it's shame on me if I don't share it."

The 12th Annual St. Louis Black Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival runs August 19th-21st. 

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