Personality: Rev. Lacette R. Cross

Spotlight on a founder of Black Pride RVA

7/12/2019, 6 a.m.
The return of Black Pride RVA, Virginia’s first Black Pride festival, is almost here. And for the Rev. Lacette R. ...

The return of Black Pride RVA, Virginia’s first Black Pride festival, is almost here. And for the Rev. Lacette R. Cross, a founder of the festival and co-organizer of this year’s event, the anticipation comes with mixed emotions. “I am excited and nervous and stressed — all of the good things,” Rev. Cross says with a laugh. It’s an understandable mood and an improvement from her outlook going into the inaugural festival last year, which came with a creeping doubt that the event would be successful in its goals of creating a space to educate the public and champion the black LGBTQexperience. The 44-year-old’s doubt was erased as more than 500 attendees last year showed that the ideas behind Black Pride RVA were on the mark. Black Pride RVA was created in reaction to the dismissal local LGBTQ people of color felt in the aftermath of the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 others were wounded before police shot and killed the shooter, a 29-year-old security guard. LGBTQ people of color felt excluded from the planning of community vigils and tributes held locally, Rev. Cross says. Darryl Roman “DJ” Burt II, 29, a financial aid officer at Keiser University in Florida who had close family ties to Richmond and Amelia County, was killed in the rampage. His funeral and burial were held in Amelia County. “Black Pride RVA is not just a moment. It’s part of a movement of marginalized people raising our voices and organizing in a way that says, ‘We’re here and our experiences deserve to be celebrated and this is what we want to be able to bring to our city,’ ” Rev. Cross says. The second annual festival, slated for July 18 through 21, will span a suite of locations that include Bryan Park and the headquarters of Diversity Richmond on North Side and will include a Day of Purpose to include workshops, HIV testing, health and fitness vendors, entertainers and music. Black Pride RVA has a lot more hands on deck both individually and organizationally this year, with an assortment of old and new groups sponsoring events and a large spread of vendors ready for the festivities. “I think any time you do something for the first time, people want to see if you’re really about it, right? They want to see are you going to sustain it and how successful is the event going to be,” says Rev. Cross, who serves as chairperson for the 2019 festival committee, whose membership doubled since last year’s event. “Because our exposure has increased since then, and the ways we’ve been a part of the community more, sponsors were more willing to say, ‘Yes, we want to come in,’ ” she notes. One of those sponsors is Virginia Pride, whose board questioned the need for Black Pride RVA in 2018, but ultimately backed it, Rev. Cross says. She sees this continued support as an acknowledgment of the gaps Black Pride RVA fills in “the fabric of pride festivals throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.” In Rev. Cross’ view, this solidarity contributes to a rise in awareness of racial identity and how it intersects with other identities, something she says is a clear and present need in Richmond. “That visibility has allowed us to have conversations that have been historically difficult, and allowed us to see one another more as complex human beings, instead of just all painted by one brush,” Rev. Cross says. Meet this LGBTQ advocate and this week’s Personality, the Rev. Lacette R. Cross: