6th Annual Pride South Side Festival: Community, Advocacy, and Empowerment

The 6th annual Pride South Side Festival highlights the enduring legacy of the Black and Latinx LGBTQI+ community through live performances, engaging activities and a strong emphasis on economic mobility. (All Photos courtesy of the Pride Southside Festival).

Southside Pride Festival, entering its 6th year, is dedicated to community, peace, love and support for all Black and Latinx queer individuals looking to celebrate right in the heart of Chicago’s South Side. This inclusive event, taking place this Saturday (July 6), is free and open to all through online registration, but due to high demand, spots are limited.

The 6th annual Pride South Side Festival theme, “The Right to Pride,” will spotlight the enduring legacy of the LGBTQI+ Community in advocacy, culture, and leadership. 

The day will include live performances and engaging activities. Participants will also learn more about the roles of Black, Latinx and LGBTQI+ communities in voting rights, elections and shaping public policy.

Pride Southside’s Mission

As we explore the essence of Pride South Side, it’s crucial to understand its mission and purpose and what sets it apart from other Pride events.

“Our mission is to establish safe havens for BIPOC and queer individuals, celebrating our artistry and fostering investment within our communities,” said Adrienne Irmer, co-organizer of the Pride Southside Festival. “What sets us apart from other pride events is our strong economic focus on uplifting the BIPOC workforce and community.”

Irmer said that in the festival’s inaugural year, it directed over $44,000 towards BIPOC queer artists and vendors, including those who are not part of the queer community but are people of color.

As the festival enters its sixth year, it is on track to invest $100,000 this year, bringing the total community investment to over half a million. The primary goal is to promote economic mobility and create opportunities for those BIPOC-owned businesses. From the beginning until the present moment

As we embark on a deeper understanding of Pride South Side, we must delve into its beginnings and trace its growth from the year it started, 2017, to its current standing. This transition offers a pivotal gateway to comprehending the roots and development of this influential movement within the community.

“In 2018, following the main Pride Parade, numerous parties ensued across the city, yet many members of the Black and queer community felt unwelcome or excluded at Northside bars,” said Irmer. 

“This coincided with Lori Lightfoot’s rise in popularity during the mayoral election. We saw this as an opportunity to create an inclusive space celebrating Black and Brown queer individuals.”

Additionally, said Irmer, a CDPH (Chicago Department of Public Health) study highlighted alarming rates of new HIV infections, particularly in South Shore, which underscored the lack of safe social spaces and access to healthcare resources. 

“Thus, we aimed to harness the momentum of these events by establishing an economic hub for our businesses and artists through performances and vendor opportunities at the Festival.”

“We also sought to integrate essential healthcare services into the event, including gender and sexual identity-affirming care, anonymous testing and vaccine access. Witnessing the rapid growth and impact, from just over 2,000 attendees in the inaugural year to over 4,200 last year, has been inspiring,” she said.

This year, Irmer stated that Pride Southside anticipates hosting between six and eight thousand people for various festival activities and evening parties. 

While their focus remains on economic empowerment, they ensure that the event is also a celebration, offering attendees an opportunity to have fun while championing their mission. 

Adrienne is thrilled with the response and looks forward to welcoming everyone to the festivities. 

“The festival is about family. The chosen family is your biological family. However you define family. We welcome allies and co-conspirators; we welcome parents with teen teenagers who identify in the community and to show support and love, to bring their kids with them; we want to focus on building safe spaces for queerness even outside of the perimeter of the festival, fostering love and inclusion and acceptance of our queer babies.” – Adrienne Irmer

What Proud Southside is All About

The 6th annual Pride South Side Festival highlights the enduring legacy of the Black and Latinx LGBTQI+ community

As readers delve into Pride South Side, they may wonder about the array of activities, programming and overall experience awaiting attendees. What festivities, events, and engaging opportunities will shape this celebration? 

Let’s explore the vibrant tapestry of Pride South Side, anticipating the enriching experiences it promises to offer.

“We have a diverse lineup of DJs, predominantly from the queer community, ready to keep the energy high,” Irmer said. 

“Expect captivating live performances from BIPOC queer artists, both local talents and those traveling from out of state, showcasing the national reach of our brand and mission. Our festival has attracted attendees from over five states, highlighting its significance beyond local borders.”

Familiar crowd-pleasers such as oversized games and bull riding activations will make a comeback, complemented by beloved features like photo booths and a video wall showcasing the rich history of Black and Brown queer individuals in Chicago. 

Aligning with this year’s theme, “The Right to Pride,” which coincides with an election year, organizers will provide voter registration and storytelling opportunities to emphasize the significance of community engagement.

There will be a lively marketplace showcasing a carefully chosen array of businesses owned by Black, Brown, and queer individuals, presenting a diverse range of items from art pieces and jewelry to artisanal products and skincare essentials. 

Refreshments will be available from the cash bar, and participants will explore products from CBD and THC collaborators while food trucks and seating options are conveniently available on-site. 

Due to the expected high attendance this year, everyone is advised to register online in advance. Admission is complimentary.

Attendees will receive entry wristbands upon check-in, ensuring a seamless and inclusive experience. Those interested in participating as vendors can still sign up via the website.

A Pride Southside Success Story

This year, Pride Southside Festival is proud to announce that their investments in Black, Brown, and queer businesses may surpass half a million dollars, marking a significant milestone. However, what truly sets the festival apart is its intergenerational appeal. From young children to individuals in their 70s, it welcomes people from all walks of life.

Irmer mentioned an elderly lesbian couple who attended the inaugural Pride Southside Festival and expressed joy at having a space to enjoy together in their neighborhood. 

“Our heartfelt appreciation underscores our curated space’s meaningful impact on individuals of all ages and backgrounds. It’s incredibly validating and affirming to receive such feedback, knowing that our efforts resonate with the diverse communities we serve.”

The Future of Pride Southside

The 6th annual Pride South Side Festival highlights the enduring legacy of the Black and Latinx LGBTQI+ community

Looking ahead, it’s essential to consider Pride South Side’s plans and aspirations, particularly in light of the evolving landscape of LGBTQI+ advocacy and community engagement. As the organization continues to grow and evolve, its focus remains on fostering inclusivity, celebrating diversity and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities. 

Embracing change and adapting to the community’s needs will be paramount as Pride South Side strives to create a more equitable and empowering space for all.

Irmer added, “Our partnership with the DuSable Museum and several Black history museums and education centers fills us with great pride.  Over the next five years, we aim to expand this collaboration further. 

“With ample land surrounding the museum, our vision is to create a larger outdoor space similar to renowned events like the High Park Brewfest or the Silver Room Block Party, capable of accommodating upwards of 20,000 attendees.”

While Pride Southside Festival aspires for growth, its commitment to its mission and vision remains unwavering. It wants to maintain its community-centric approach and prioritize economic impact for Black and Brown individuals. 

Economic mobility for these communities, especially within the queer community, is often challenging.

Hence, festival organizers deliberately invest to benefit people like them, fostering sustainable growth without corporatization.

For more information about the Pride South Side festival, visit pridesouthside.org.

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