Along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in South Dallas is Abounding Prosperity, a center dedicated to addressing health and social disparities affecting the black community.
Kirk Myers, Founder and CEO, explains that part of that job is meeting people where they are.
For nearly two decades, he and his team have worked to integrate resources like vaccinations and HIV testing at events like Juneteenth Unity Weekend.
“We’ve had vaccine tickets, so it’s all these different things that have evolved around socialization and how people socialize,” Myers said, “but also peppering it with things that people have needed for good health and good health outcomes.”
June 19, now a federal holiday, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It comes as many people are celebrating Pride Month.
Activist Betty Neal has been an advocate for Dallas’ LGBTQ community since the ’70s. She says inclusive spaces like Juneteenth Unity Weekend can serve as teachable moments.
“In this place, with these kids, there is a lesson to be learned about supporting each other, our own time and our communities as black and gay people,” Neal said.
Neal says that within the queer community, it’s important to have black spaces. She remembers living through the height of the AIDS epidemic in Dallas. She says that at that time, drag performers were among the only black people allowed in some queer establishments.
“They need to fundraise for funerals and burials and stuff like that,” she said. “Who are they for? The drag community… So drag has become a vital part of success in the black gay community because of their talent, their ability to reach out and fundraise.”
Growing up in the South Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff, Kirk Myers says he didn’t always feel welcome in some of the city’s queer spaces.
“I’m the age where I remember, you know, going to the strip and someone who looked like me would be asked for multiple pieces of ID,” Myers said. “And so it wasn’t really unified at the time.”
Myers says creating more racial unity in the queer community takes work. He says making health care more accessible is a key way to address racial disparities.
Between dance competitions and musical performances, he hopes Juneteenth Unity Weekend will draw people to the healthcare resources Abounding Prosperity has to offer.
“You know, those are hard-fought wins,” he said. “We can all co-exist, and we exist around the things that bind us, not the things that divide us.”
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