May 27 - 29, 2016, Puerto Rico - XscapePR (www.xscapepr.com) has been created as the next "must attend" event for queer communities of color. This is much more than your typical fabulous gay weekend party. This is all about a sun-filled, fun-filled, fabulous, networking celebration for grown QPOC. Travelers will enjoy an action packed weekend consisting of three nights of theme parties, live entertainment by national recording artists, cultural excursions on the island of Puerto Rico, an all-star comedy night, an LGBT film festival , financial plus health & wellness workshops and the Vanguard Avant Garde Awards. That officially sounds exciting even before you see the lineup of performers.
I have a confession to make. Sometimes I get a little bored with parties. I know that this is some sort of blasphemy for a socialite. Consider this, we in the LGBTQ community are a pretty loyal bunch. If we attend an annual event of yours and truly enjoy ourselves, we expect it to happen every year and expect it to be great every year. The reality is, we never take into account that over the years we change. We need more out of an event than plentiful, cheap drinks and booty bumpin music after we've reached a certain age. We need our events to evolve and grow with us. Combine that with the number of events created specifically for queer people of color (QPOC) and you are officially in the desert of events, until now. This Memorial Day weekend, a new event has arisen on the horizon that I believe could really be a game changer for queer communities of color. XscapePR is an event created to fill in the gap for the "grown folks" in the community.
Gregory Douglas and Maurice Foley have joined forces to produce this monumental event. Douglas has been producing events for Atlanta Black Gay Pride for years. When I asked why they created this event he said, "Professional Gay African American and Latino men and women (35-55) are highly noted as being educated, cultured and possess higher end discretionary income for entertainment and leisure travel. The gay population has an enormous economic influence and impact, particularly within urban areas, where gays and lesbians come together to celebrate. Xscape PR 2016 speaks directly to this population and was created to fill a void within the community of gay professionals looking to travel to tropical and international destinations. Also, Puerto Rico is one of the most LGBT friendly tropical places." Other upside Lovelies, it's a US territory so you don't need a passport to get there!
Now you see why I got so excited when I found out this event had been created. Imagine, heading home at the end of your big gay weekend with a head full of inspiration and a pocket full of business cards, instead of a hangover and some "what happens in Puerto Rico, stays . . ." kind of stories. Imagine an all-inclusive VIP weekend filled with famous QPOC and allies, movers and shakers that have experienced life beyond being gay and of age. Folks are ready for something new.
Looking at the line-up and the fact that they are almost completely SOLD OUT in their first year, this clearly shows how on point and overdue an event like this really is:
Woman of Soul Artist Monifah, Lifetime Achievement in Music Honoree Angie Stone, actress/model/presenter Az Marie Livingston, singer/actress Frenchie Davis, out Hip Hop artist Melli B, reality star and producer Torrei Hart, reality star and Model Icon Award recipient Cynthia Bailey, reality star Ariane Davis, Mara Schiavocampo from Good Morning America, plus the LGBT Artist of the Year & Queen of Bounce Music Big Freedia -- do you need to hear more? The 10 year reunion members of the cast of Noah's Arc: Jensen Atwood, Darryl Stephens, Rodney Chester and Gregory Keith; awarding winning journalist and filmmaker Clay Cane, author/filmmaker and Renaissance Man of the Year Nathan Hale Williams, just to name a few.
I need to interject something here. Other than Black Pride each year, I don't know of anything that has really spoken to the needs of QPOC over 30, as a community. I know Lucy and Gail produce some great events annually in Palm Springs, including the Palm Springs Women's Jazz Festival (www.lucyandgail.com). Then there is the Women of Color Weekend in P-Town every year (www.provincetownforwomen.com). There is even Black Lesbians United (www.blacklesbiansunited.org) hosting an annual retreat for the last 8 years in Northern California. Combined with other predominantly or entirely black gay male events produced each year, and you can see why something for the entire QPOC community, including a certain level of luxury with that travel, is so unique.
When I asked Az Marie Livingston about what it meant to her to be part of a weekend like this, she had this to say. "I'm looking forward to two things for sure, the sun and the palm trees; and giving the award to Cynthia Bailey. I've never really done anything like this before. I went to one awards [show] a long time ago. The Out Awards. . . I'm looking forward to getting dressed up. Just the fact that I was asked to give her the award, for me is an honor. . . plus doing something I've never done before. Then I'm really looking forward to chilling at the beach."
At a time when so many QPOC have issues internally and externally with visibility within our black and brown communities-at-large, it is such a gift to see a gathering of people ready to stand together in fun and solidarity.
When I asked Monifah about visibility of LGBTQ celebrities and why they would be reluctant to be out, she said, "It's different for different people. It could be the social stigma attached [to being LGBTQ] and the fear of what that can do to their fan base, to how people respond to them . . . at the end of the day you have to say, I'm cool with me. My belief is, I'm provided for either way it goes. I have to be comfortable in my skin. This is the only skin I have. This is the only person I am. I have to live in my truth; because doing anything else, it will kill me. You know, I can't afford that. I don't have that luxury."
I literally cheered when she said this. It speaks to the heart of why this event is so important. Each time someone that is admired within communities of color is out there with no "shame in their game" this makes it easier for the next person. Each opportunity we can gather our community together with the support of allies moves us closer to acceptance and harmony. Now, not only are we coming together, we are lifting each other up and heading to Puerto Rico! Where's my mojito?