Due to conflict and disputes, 2007 was an unstable year for Windy City Black Pride. After a successful pride celebration with former president Charles Nelson, the then-9-year-old organization began to wilt when accusations of Nelson being "incompetent" and an "overzealous leader" bothered board members.
2007 Windy City Black Pride. Photo by Andrew Davis. 2007 Windy City Black Pride. Photo by Kat Fitzgerald
Although some form of celebration has been around since the early "90s, Windy City Black Pride was not official until 1998 ( not being recognized nationally until 2000 ) ; it was spearheaded by Ken Pickens, who remained president until 2000, according to current treasurer Keith McCoy. Thayer Johnson followed Pickens from 2001-2003 and each year following 2003 a new president has surfaced; 2004 being a year with no president at all.
Some may have predicted this given the presidential turnover of Chicago's Black pride.
This year marks the 10th year anniversary an official Chicago Black Pride has been around"a year that is usually marked with celebration and kudos to the past years and forward thinking for the future.
This year, however, isn't the most gleeful for Black Pride. Former president Nelson was virtually ousted, only to form Chicago Windy City Black Pride, leaving two times the celebration for Black Pride attendees this year"with Windy City Black Pride and the newly formed Chicago Windy City Black Pride.
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The internal conflict of this particular "split" is questionable. Like any clash there is a story and more than one. The problem is figuring out who has the more plausible story.
On one account, money misappropriation and promises not being kept caused a very ugly break within the organization causing an emotional shift in trust and even friendships were tarnished in the process.
"We were not a happy board due to Charles; the board could not get along with Charles," stated Windy City Black Pride Treasurer Keith McCoy.
According to McCoy, Nelson's term as president began with tension. At the beginning of Nelson's term, the organization did not have bylaws or any concrete formality defining rules. When McCoy was brought on as treasurer, distaste for that process had already caused an uproar, forcing some people to step down as board members.
Eventually, accusations of money being used inappropriately began to fly and people began to point fingers. With money becoming an increasing concern, questions of its whereabouts led to a change of accessibility, leading to a new rule that more than one member has to be present to draw cash from the organization's bank account.
Nelson, now president of Chicago Windy City Black Pride, shared his view on the separation: "Last year as president was very stressful. I thought was working with people who were trustworthy."
Nelson also confirmed possible theft but he was unable to talk about the specifics due to an ongoing investigation. He did, however, state that a member of the opposing organization could be the cause of the mysterious missing funds.
A question that has now come up is how does the Black gay community choose. With a brief exception, both Black Pride celebrations are on the same days and, for some events, at the same time.
Pride, being a word that connotes unity and some idea of oneness, seems to be at stake here. Yearly celebrations"such as this one"was created so that different members in the community could come together and embrace cultural similarities especially events like Black Pride; combing race and sexual orientation.
"I think this is causing turmoil and confusion in the community [ the separate prides ] ," stated Nelson.
Two major factors of this separation is that this isn't very far fetched for a metropolis like Chicago and one of the two organizations is supported by the International Federation of Black Prides ( IFBP ) . According to IFBP President/CEO Earl Fowlkes, cities like Washington, D.C., and New York both have had multiple Black Prides in the past due to similar differences.
"There are probably people in every city who think they can do a Black Pride better than the current organizing committee. The sheer amount of work it takes to put a Black Pride together usually acts as a deterrent to the naysayers," said Fowlkes.
Fowlkes also added his support for Charles Nelson and Chicago Windy City Black Pride: "The other group in Chicago has accused Mr. Nelson of stealing money and checks, etc. The IFBP has investigated these charges and have found them to be baseless. There have been no arrest and other investigations of Mr. Nelson by the authorities in Chicago. Therefore, the IFBP has no reason not to continue to support Charles Nelson."
He added that " [ t ] he IFBP is not me or Charles; it is the collective strength and energy that is only as strength as the weakest Black Pride. In addition, the IFBP has standards which the members must abide by to remain a member."
Being an active and the longest-serving Windy City Black Pride member, McCoy spoke about maybe working together in the future. "A resolution will come in time. We could have coordinated activities together. That would have been acceptable. I don't know if that is possible just yet."
See www.windycityblackpride.org and www.chiblackpride.com for complete lists of events.