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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 17, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 33
Steven Sawyer, Executive Director for POCAAN, talks about Pacific Northwest Black Pride events taking place this weekend
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Steven Sawyer, Executive Director for POCAAN, talks about Pacific Northwest Black Pride events taking place this weekend

by MK Scott - SGN Contributing Writer

PACIFIC NORTHWEST
BLACK PRIDE
August 16-19


POCAAN'S Pacific Northwest Black Pride Celebration this weekend works toward a future without bias where all people enjoy equity and equal rights. They do this by producing LGBTQIA+ Pride events that inspire, educate, support and celebrate similarities in our diverse communities. The events began on Thursday, August 16 and will continue through Sunday evening.

I had a chance to chat with Steven Sawyer, POCAAN's Executive Director, about their plans for the weekend.

MK Scott: Steven, Northwest Black Pride is this weekend. What will be some of the highlights?

Steven Sawyer: We have something for everyone! We have workshops with nationally known speakers like Darnell L. Moore, an award-winning writer and activist, and a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement. He will be leading a discussion on being Black & Gay in America.

Special guest speakers like Bobby Blake, a pornstar turned preacher, who will serve on a panel about sex positivity.

We have parties every night celebrating everything (POC) people of color and LGBTQIA+.

We have a Trans symposium moderated by a national Trans leader and advocate, Lee William, from Milwaukee, WI; Vanessa Grandberry of the Center for MultiCultural Health, who was a former employee of POCAAN and was editor of Tea Time Trans, a publication produced by POCAAN more then seven years ago; and Jeremiah Allen, director of TransForm Washington, a statewide Trans rights organization.

MK: Looks like the biggest event will be the Saturday Block Party at Othello Park (4351 S Othello St, a short walk from the Sound Transit Link Light Rail Othello Station), with special guest Bobby Lytes from 'Love and Hip Hop: Miami.'

Sawyer: Yes, we have the phenomenal Bobby Lytes, the star of 'Love and Hip Hop: Miami' and rapper behind the hit song 'Get Ya Shine On' (and cousin of Miami rap legend Trina). We also have other exceptional local and national artists, like D. Dynasty aka Dominique, a Drag King performer. Flame Monroe, writer, comedian, BET personality, Diamond St. James, premier local female impersonator, Amora Dior Black, 2018 Nubian Pride Queen, winner of Seattle's Entertainer of the Year award and one of the leading drag queens from R Place (with all the stunts), and Ladie Chablis, La Femme Magnifique International 2011 and longtime host of the R-Place drag shows.

There will be more than 20 local venders and community organizations, including health and wellness agencies. We'll be testing for Hep C, HIV, and other health screenings. It's guaranteed to be a great day!

MK: Tell me about the ALL WHITE AFFAIR on Saturday evening and the Emerald City Mini-Ball on Sunday.

Sawyer: Well, the ALL WHITE AFFAIR happens on Saturday, August 18, from 10pm to 1:30am. We are asking the community to show up and show out in their finest threads, ALL WHITE.

There will be a no host bar, with signature cocktails being served and VIP ticket holders receive their first two drinks free. We have a local DJ and we will party the night away and LEVEL UP on the dance floor. Tickets are $15 at the Seattle Airport Marriott (3201 S 176th St.)

The Return to The WIZ: Emerald City Mini-Ball is Sunday, August 19,, from 8pm to 10pm at R Place and Tickets are $10 at the door. There are over 10 different categories to walk and we have a total cash prize of $500.

It will be one of the first events of its kind in the Seattle area and we are so happy to bring a little bit of that East Coast flavor to Seattle. So come on out and strike a POSE!

House balls are traditionally some of the first opportunities to host LGBT youth and give them safe space to be authentically themselves.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In addition to the ALL WHITE AFFAIR and the Emerald City Mini-Ball, Pacific Northwest Black Pride is also hosting the All Black Party on Friday evening, August 17, from 10pm to 1:30am, at Sodo Pop (2424 1st Ave S).]

MK: Since taking over as Executive Director of POCAAN in March 2017, what have been the highlights?

Sawyer: Oh wow, that's a hard question to answer. My team and I have accomplished so much over the last two years. We've added 4 brand new programs and expanded many others to better serve the Greater Seattle community. We started an annual fundraising gala that raised $17,000 in its second year. Since then, we have hired seven new staff and are now launching the first Pacific Northwest Black Pride to further engage the community. My passion is really being in and serving my community.

MK: What are the future plans for the organization?

Sawyer: As we expand, we plan to increase our client intake by 8% in the following year and begin an STI testing program. The expansion will answer our challenges, such as space constraints. This fall we will launch a second office in the South Seattle area (near Renton, WA) and a Trans leadership development institute. We want to make sure that POCAAN is a staple in the black and gay community of Seattle for another 30+ years.

MK: According to your bio, you had your start as a minister.

Sawyer: Yes, I'm a third generation preacher/pastor from Louisiana where my great-grandfather founded my home church. I currently serve in a national role as Auxiliary Bishop in the United Progressive Pentecostal Church Fellowship under the direction of our Presiding Bishop O. C. Allen III. It's one of the country's few Affiriming Pentecostal denominations. This summer, UPPC launched a national initiative entitled 'Prevention from the Pulpit.' We are seeking to heal some of the wounds and break the cycle of stigma around HIV created by some religious institutions.

MK: Who is your greatest inspiration?

Sawyer: One of my greatest inspirations is Bayard Rustin. Not only was he a brilliant American leader in the Civil Rights Movement, he was an architect of the movement for nonviolence and Gay rights. He advised and provided direction to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen King's leadership.

Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Mahatma Gandhi's movement in India, and helped teach Dr. King about nonviolence while living his life authentically.

Pacific Northwest Black Pride events continue through Sunday, August 19. Check out www.nwblackpride.org for complete details.

MK Scott is a Seattle-based arts blogger. Check out his blog at uniteseattlemag.com

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