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:

Occupation: Pastor of Restoration Fellowship RVA and director of volunteerism and outreach for Side by Side, a nonprofit dedicated to helping LGBTQ youths.

No. 1 volunteer position: Co-founder of Black Pride RVA and chair of the 2019 festival committee.

Date and place of birth: May 12 in Oceanside, Calif.

Current residence: Richmond’s Manchester area.

Education: Bachelor’s in social work from The Catholic University, 2009; master’s of divinity, Virginia Union University School of Theology, 2012; master’s of theology, Union Presbyterian Seminary, 2016; and working on doctor of ministry at VUU, with graduation anticipated in 2021.

Family: Single with no kids; three younger brothers.

Reason for Black Pride RVA: As Lucille Clifton writes, “Celebrate with me that every day something has tried to kill me and has failed.”

Importance of celebration: The demonstration of radical self-love that allows us to say we are here, we are resilient, we are our amazing selves.

I got involved because: I held the first meeting because I was sick and tired of complaining and wanted to see if there were others who wanted to do something as well.

Message festival will send: Black Pride RVA is a party with a purpose. We hope people will get to celebrate the fullness of who they are, learn necessary information and recognize that community matters.

Differences between Black Pride RVA and PrideFest: Black Pride RVA was created from a tradition of black LGBTQ persons gathering to connect, raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and party. Black Pride RVA is different for three reasons: We center on education and health/wellness awareness, we unapologetically celebrate black/African-American culture in its fullness and we host events over three or four days. Black people and persons of color who are LGBTQ deserve a dedicated space to revel in the fullness of living life at the intersection of race and LGBTQ identity. Black Pride is the only festival questioned in a city that prides itself on nearly every racial/ethnic festival possible such as Greek, Cambodian, Irish, Filipino, etc.

Estimated LGBTQ population in city: 5 percent of 223,170, or 11,159.

Goal of festival in five years: Black Pride RVA would like to be headlining a known artist, host a full day of education and arts and be viewed as a tourist destination for our neighbors to the north, south, east and west.

Perception of LGBTQ community in Richmond: Richmond is a progressive city with a conservative spirit. There are amazing things happening that let us know the city is accepting and ready to grow as a city that fully affirms and celebrates LGBTQ persons.

Perception of black LGBTQ: Black LGBTQ persons are known in this city and still others choose to simply live their lives without the need to “come out.” Coming out within black communities is not viewed in the same way as socially described. Therefore, African-Americans who are also LGBTQ make choices about how they show up in the world. Being LGBTQ is not a primary identity marker for plenty of persons, especially here in the South.

Reason public should participate: It’s fun!!! And very informative. Plus who doesn’t like a good party.

Outlook at start of the day: Each day I wake up I say a prayer of gratitude and a prayer of guidance. I am always ready to have a productive and impactful day.

How I unwind: By watching the sunset, sitting quietly and watching mindless TV.

A quote that I am inspired by: “The dripping water smooths the rock.”

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Watch sci-fi apocalyptic action movies.

Best late-night snack: Popcorn or blue corn chips.

If I had more time, I would: Travel more.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: Always be kind/polite to others. There’s nothing wrong with speaking even if they don’t speak back.

Person who influenced me the most: Chandra Jackson.

What I’m reading now: “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance” by Edgar Villanueva.

My next goal: Create a leadership development fellowship program specifically for LGBTQ persons of color.

Black Pride RVA Events

Thursday, July 18

6:30 and 9:30 p.m. — Paint with Pride! Exotic Paint Night, Studio Two Three, 3300 W. Clay St. Two sessions. Tickets: $25 in advance; $45 at the door.

9 p.m. — Welcome Mixer & FUN-raiser, Thirsty’s Bar & Grill, 3516 Forest Hill Ave., with a portion of proceeds to benefit Black Pride RVA.

Friday, July 19

6 to 8 p.m. — Black Pride Reception, Urban Hang Suite, 304 E. Broad St. Tickets: $10.

10 p.m. — Friday Fun Night Pride Party, Godfrey’s, 308 E. Grace St. Pre-party meet and greet with Ms. Black Pride RVA 2019 at 9 p.m. Tickets: $5; $6 after 10 p.m.

Saturday, July 20

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Day of Purpose, Diversity Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Ave. Free and family friendly.

9 p.m. to 2 a.m. — Black Pride RVA Official After-Party, Diversity Richmond. $10; $50 for VIP tables.

Sunday, July 21

10 a.m. to noon — United Worship Service, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, 1902 Rosewood Ave.

Noon to 8 p.m. — Pride in the Park Tailgate Party, Bryan Park, Shelter No. 3, 4308 Hermitage Road. Bring your own food and beverages. Free.

Details and tickets: http://www.blackpriderva.com, BPRVA2019.Eventbrite.com or (804) 293-0797