From literature, to parties, to picnics, to religion – there’s something for everyone at this year’s Black Pride celebration.

The festivities open tonight with a reception and “literary cafe” at the Guthrie Theater’s 9th floor Polhad Lobby, hosted by writer Alphonso Morgan, and featuring readings by local publisher Lisa Moore and noted Jamaican-born author G. Winston James. The reception will last from 6 pm to 9pm, followed by the first anual BLoW uP Tha Mic singing competition at Minneapolis’ Gay 90’s, starting at 9:30pm. The competition will be “something like American Idol,” according to Earnest Simpkins, the 2009 Black Pride Chair, with each contestant singing a song of their choice and the entire field pared down to a top three for the audience to vote on the winner, who will receive a cash prize.

Saturday will feature a full day of workshops and activities at Color CoordiNATION’s “Interaction” at South High School, from 10am to 5:30pm. According to the group’s website, the Interaction “encourages individuals to explore methods of healthy self-identification & communication by: “Increasing connectivity through fun, respectful & knowledgeable interactions Exploring opportunities for leadership, Community development, Discussion about effective & practical approaches that will empower our diverse communities.”

The central event of this year’s Black Pride, however, will be Saturday night’s Red Party, at Patricks’ Caberet from 9pm to 1am. According to Simpkins, the theme will be encouraging the community to know their HIV status — regular cover is $15, but it’s reduced to $10 if you wear red, and $5 if you take a free, rapid HIV test at the party, conducted by the Minnesota AIDS Project, the African-American AIDS Task Force, the HIM program, and Pillsbury United Communities’ HIV Education Program. Activist Necee Taylor will host, with music from KMOJ Radio’s DJ Lady, and performances by Genevee, Shamika Bupri, Paz, Victoria Gotti, Miss Spirit of the Lakes, and Miss Gay 90’s. Refreshments will be available.

Sunday’s events promise to be be calmer, giving everyone a chance to unwind from the Red Party — Parkway United Church of Christ will host the Black Pride Church Service from 10am to 11am, followed by the Black Pride Festival at Minneapolis’ Boom Island Park, from 4pm to 10pm.

The service’s theme this year is “Unity is the new You.” Simpkins explained this as “unifying our identities. Pushing against the idea that “you can’t be LGBT and Christian…That’s unheard of in the black church!”

“We’ll be reclaiming this institution that’s caused so much pain and shame and guit in our community,” Simpkins said, “The service is all about fighting the homophobia…that we’ve suffered in the name of God.”

The Festival on Boom Island will be a low-key family picnic, featuring storytelling by writers and editors from Rainbow Rumpus, sack races, tattoos, and coloring books for kids, plus spades, dominoes, volleyball, and other activities “for the adults,” Simpkins said.

Food will be available, potluck-style. “Everybody has at least one thing they can make in the kitchen really well,” Simpkins said. “Here’s your chance, showcase it! Share the wealth!”

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