Little Rock Pride Festival Celebrates Black and Brown LGBTQ Community

The festivities include a drag brunch headlined by the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

collage of Black drag queens

It’s time to break out your pride flags. The Little Rock Black Pride Festival returns to central Arkansas this weekend. The three-day event is designed to celebrate the Black and Brown LGBTQ community, says Antoine Ghoston, director of Arkansas’ Black Pride.

“It’s not to take away from anybody else’s celebration and it’s not to be divisive, it’s just a way for us to celebrate in our own way that might not be culturally appropriate for another demographic,” Ghoston says.

While Black and Brown activists helped lead the Stonewall riots in 1969, Ghoston says these groups were culturally excluded when pride celebrations began popping up around the world. 

“As we all have different cultures, we celebrate differently and we celebrate each other differently,” he says. 

Festivities kick off tonight with the Girls Will Be Girls Rooftop Gala featuring singer-songwriter Amanda Perez. Saturday, the Transgender Town Hall will be hosted at the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Downtown Conference Center. It’s part of the LGBTQ Educational and Leadership Summit that will connect attendees to community resources. During Saturday’s sessions, guests can learn about HIV medication, get tips for overcoming trauma from mental health professionals and sign up for a free bank account.

Additionally, HIV, hepatitis C, cholesterol and blood pressure tests will be available. Through the Testing for Tickets initiative, those who are tested will receive a voucher to attend an event for free in the evening. The goal of the summit, Ghoston says, is to equip and empower people.

“We want to be able to train them with skills that they need every day, not just come to a party and then leaving in the same condition that they came to the events with,” he says. 

Symone, a Conway native and winner of season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, will headline a homecoming drag brunch Sunday morning at Discovery Night Club. Other performers include Dominique Sanchez who originally hails from Little Rock and was crowned Miss Gay USofA 2010. Social distancing will be implemented in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and masks are required. 

An in-person ball caps things off Sunday night. The theme for the annual event is “Walking to Help End the HIV Epidemic.”

The festival is open to everyone and it’s important for the event to be visible, Ghoston says, so that Arkansans living in parts of the state without a big LGBTQ community can feel a connection to others who look and feel like them.

“Black Prides are a huge, huge weekend in major cities and that’s what we’re trying to do here is become more visible and let people know, don’t be afraid to have your flag. It’s alright,” he says. 

The Little Rock Black Pride Festival is July 23-25. A full schedule of events is available at Facebook.com/LRBLACKPRIDE.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is Editor-in-Chief of Arkansas Soul, the host of the Affirmative Action podcast and a Northwest Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts in Arkansas for nearly 15 years.