AUSTIN (KXAN) — LGBTQ+ Pride isn’t new for Austin. But there is a new event happening in the city this year: Colors of Pride, a Pride month event that celebrates LGBTQ+ people of color.
The free, indoor festival occurs on June 25 at the Branch Park Pavilion in Austin, 2201 Aldrich Street, and organizers say that there is a major community need for this event.
“With so many big businesses coming to Austin, a lot of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) queer folks have moved out of Austin because of the rising rent and cost of living,” said Quỳnh-Hương Nguyễn (she/they), one of the organizers for Colors of Pride. “It was so important for us to bring so many different community organizers, from Austin Queer Asians, Austin Latinx Pride and QWELL, in and say ‘This is a space for us. It’s created by us.'”
Planning for Colors of Pride began in December 2021, and the organizers are proud of what they’ve accomplished.
One challenge identified by Nguyễn was in building community connections with people new to Austin.
“There are so many new folks in the city trying to get to know each other, especially in a pandemic. It’s been a long and hard process, but also worthwhile because we’ve been able to get funding and sponsorships from a lot of different people who are interested in seeing this event play out,” Nguyễn said.
Briona Jenkins, who organized the event’s sponsorships, says that finding sponsors was initially tough, but sped up as June approached. Jenkins’ work outside of Colors of Pride is similar; she helps local nonprofits in similar searches.
“Some of the challenges that we had were how do we celebrate BIPOC queer folks in a way that’s meaningful and not spreading each other thin,” Jenkins said. “A lot of the leaders doing this are doing it for free. It’s really difficult to do a grassroots-organized event with little funding. Some organizations are really passive in terms of allyship.”
Jenkins has had many community members approach her with concerns about rising anti-LGBTQ+ hate and fears of being outed.
“We’re trying to fight against legislation that is continuously pushing us down. At the same time we’re fighting, we’re trying to create a positive space where LGBTQ folks feel like they are able to be themselves,” Jenkins said.
T.K. Tunchez (she/they), director of Las Ofrendas and Frida Friday ATX, hopes that Colors of Pride will be such a space for Austin’s queer BIPOC community. Tunchez helped organize the event’s vendors and speakers.
“I think that we’re really setting the table for folks to be able to engage with each other in deep, authentic ways,” Tunchez said. “I’m excited about the intergenerational aspect. We have folks who have been in this community for years and years, and we have folks who are from such different branches of our community.”
Tunchez is especially excited for the Colors of Pride community conversation rooms, which are set up to encourage conversations led by community leaders Raasin Mcintosh, Diana Anzaldua, Rene Slataper and Jeremy Teel .
The event will also have what Tunchez calls “speed friending.”
“I don’t think we get a lot of chances to really meet each other and talk to each other authentically,” Tunchez said. “It will be a spectrum of folks coming together to share what they’re good at, their ability to create community and the hope that we will all foster community at the end.”
The event will also have structured events, which the organizers say are important for introverts and neurodivergent people. A leadership panel will bring together Ricardo Martinez (CEO of Equality Texas), Priscilla Hale, KB Brookins, Nguyễn and Denise Hernandez, to talk about building supportive community.
“People definitely wanted to get involved, give back and volunteer. Mostly everyone we’re working with to make Colors of Pride happen are queer people of color. A lot of the time people of color aren’t centered in the LGBTQIA+ conversation,” Jenkins said. “It’s been really beautiful to see the centering of queer people of color, seeing how many people want to support us in this way and making sure that those voices were centered.
“More and more folks are interested in attending the event and are very excited for it,” Nguyễn said. “But on the flip side, there’s limited community leaders, and we are doing our best to use what resources that we have to promote the work that we’re doing. A lot of us are spread thin.”
Intergenerational support is important for any community, and that’s one of Nguyễn’s hopes for Colors of Pride — build a space for Austin’s LGBTQ+ BIPOC people.
“We are trying to figure out how to best tap into different resources, but also support our folks and not burn out. We want to create this wonderful event for our next generation to be able to take on that leadership and then give back to the community,” Nguyễn said.
Jenkins hopes that the space will be an exciting celebration for a community that so often faces traumatic news, and that people will come together after the separation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m just hoping that people feel safe, brave and feel encouraged to come out and be centered. I’m hoping that this is a reminder to the community that there’s space for everyone,” Jenkins said. “There’s space for all types of queerness all types of people, all types of families that we can have fun and celebrate. I’m just excited to be with everyone in a space that’s been created for us, with us in mind.
Grappling with whiteness in Austin’s LGBTQ+ community
Nguyễn, Jenkins and Tunchez agree that Austin’s queer community has a problem with whiteness — beliefs and actions that focus on white people in the community.
“As a queer person of color, I always have to decide if I’m going to center my queerness or my blackness when I go into queer spaces, because they’re typically white gay spaces,” Jenkins said. “I think the city is trying, but I don’t think we are where we need to be. We still are very much centering white queer people in our city. I think this festival is going to really bring attention to that.”
According to a 2021 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA, the Greater Austin area has the third largest LGBTQ+ population in the U.S. by percentage, at 5.9 percent (roughly 90,000 people). The study also states that 44% of the area’s LGBTQ+ population are people of color.
“Much of the queer community here, or at least queer spaces, are predominantly centered on whiteness,” Nguyễn said. “There isn’t really an organization that caters to BIPOC voices and experiences. BIPOC organizations are usually underfunded, or so much more is needed, that it’s really hard to cater to so many different experiences.”
Tunchez recommends that allies support BIPOC-owned businesses and amplify events such as Colors of Pride.
“We really need that support all year. A lot of queer people of color show up for the rest of the community all the time. And we need you to show up for us in the same ways,” Tunchez said.