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CHICAGO BLACK PRIDE WEEKEND Caucus celebrates Black Pride with day party, festival
by Vern Hester

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On July 1, The Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus—in partnership with Rails Marketing Group and FZ Entertainment—celebrated Black Pride with the 13th Annual Love Fest, which featured live celebrity performances, a brunch, DJs, a health and wellness fair, stand-up comedy and drag performances. The event, held at The Promontory, ran from the afternoon through the evening.

Among the artists performing this year were vocalist Seven Streeter; Ms. Ruff N Stuff; comedian Terry D'Mor; vocalist LaRon J.; female impersonators Saffire Blue, Amelia Black and Iyanna Frantz; and DJ Sedrick and DJ Superman. Beloved personality/entrepreneur Otis Mack made a return to the festival after a long hiatus and emceed throughout the day.

Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus Executive Director Erik Glenn expressed appreciation and surprise with this year's event, saying, "We are so excited by how much the festival has grown. We have people from the North, South and West sides of Chicago all together, and the turnout is phenomenal. We are really amazed with the response; we even got a couple of dozen volunteers and, this year, so many people wanted to come and support."

The festival, which annually takes place at the end of Black Gay Pride, has always included a health village, and this year was no exception. Howard Brown Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health were on site offering free HIV, STI and blood-pressure testing as well as offering a wealth of information on PrEP, safe sex and long-term wellness options.

The entertainment got off to a ribald start with Mack cracking jokes about his 165-pound loss, and D'Mor playfully ribbing him and defending her girth. Local vocalist LaRon J. performed next setting a tone of danceable soul and opening the show for the arrival of Ms. Ruff N Stuff and her squad of performers. DJs Sedrick and Superman then ignited a dance floor free-for-all that featured house, rap and old-school disco. Streeter closed the show with a short set that featured many of her hits ( "I Like It," "Next," "It Won't Stop" ) as well as an onstage dance-off with members of the audience.

Event sponsors included The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, The Chicago Department of Public Health, Project Vida, Howard Brown Health, The Chicago Center for HIV Elimination, Third Coast CFAR, The Regional Resource Network Program, The Core Center and Project Wish ( The University of Illinois ).

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