LoveFest 2012 was slated to be Chicago’s biggest Black gay event of the summer. Themed “Healthy.Sexy.We.,” the messaging and programming of the event were intentionally structured to be in line with the Chicago Department of Public Health’s “Healthy Chicago LGBT Community Action Plan,” and our own Healthy Is Sexy (HIS) Lifestyle Campaign.
To attract larger numbers of Black gay and bisexual men to the festival, CBGMC raised funds to secure live performances from legendary dance diva Crystal Waters, poet/spoken word phenomenon Buttaflysoul, and drag icons Cyon Flare and Mz. Ruff N Stuff. A preview edition of our HIS Lifestyle Guide was also prepared to be distributed to attendees as a LoveFest souvenir, featuring articles written for and by Black gay/bisexual men about fitness, spirituality, healthcare, public policy, and a host of other topics that our community is concerned with.
As the buzz surrounding the event increased and showtime drew closer, we anticipated that more than 750 people would be in attendance. We became more and more excited about this huge opportunity to touch such a large portion of our community with health and wellness related programming and, for the first time ever, screening beyond HIV and other STIs (for other health issues such as hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, and cardiovascular disease which also disproportionately impact Black men).
Then, before the festivities could even get underway, it started to rain…and it didn’t stop. Physical health activities such as yoga, volleyball, and kickboxing had to be cancelled. Crystal Waters’ performance and the EGOmania ball were moved to indoor venues. And Cyon’s Drag Race could not go forth on a stage that quickly became as slick as oil (stilettos and oil don’t mix).
Though our spirits were a bit dampened by the fact that we’d spent the last year planning for an event that looked like it wasn’t going to be able to happen at all, the tune of our song changed when we realized that our community was still right there with us.
We estimate that nearly 150 people still came out to the park that day. Many brave souls found refuge under tents while others simply grabbed umbrellas and went about the business as usual. Some mingled, danced, and even played football in the rain (big thanks to DJ EightBall, DJ GucciRoxx, DJ Tiger, and DJ Lora B for keeping the energy going)!
Most important, approximately 60 people accessed services at the LoveFest Health Village, which was fully operational despite the rain (thanks to the remarkable efforts of our community partners at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and Howard Brown Health Center).
Data from the many screenings conducted within the Village confirm what CBGMC has believed to be true for quite some time; incorporating general health and wellness into HIV education, testing, and linkage to care is necessary and even desirable from the people within our community. Two-thirds of attendees screened were found to be overweight, with 33% coming in as obese. Of the cholesterol screenings conducted, 20% of people screened had high cholesterol, while 25% screened below normal. Additionally, forty-percent of participants screened for hypertension were in the “pre-hypertensive” range, while nearly 20% were at Stage 1 or higher. [For a summary of Health Village results check out our Publications page]
So, although the rain altered our plans for the event overall, it had very little impact on our intention or outcome. For the past 7 years, Black gay/bisexual men have come to know LoveFest as a place where they can access culturally sensitive and appropriate healthcare screening and education, in a safe, fun, and respectful environment. Even with a constant downpour of rain, this year was no different. In fact, with such a comprehensive offering of health screenings available at the 2012 Health Village, this year may have been better. At the end of the day, that’s something that we can all be proud of and look forward to what 2013 will bring our way!
Keith Green Chairman of CBGMC Board of Directors
& the LoveFest 2012 Planning Committee