Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones speaks at Hotter Than July's opening ceremony.

Hotter Than July Kicks Off With Candlelight Vigil

By Jason A. Michael

DETROIT - About 75 people came out to Palmer Park Tuesday to kick off the start of the 20th anniversary edition of Hotter Than July-Detroit Black Gay Pride. The crowd gathered around the blue spruce memorial tree, a tree organizers of HTJ planted early on in the event's history, where a memorial marker that was created last year was officially permanently installed.

Speaking at the opening ceremony was Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. "We have been in session since 10 a.m. this morning," a tired Jones told the crowd. "We just got out of session, and we had one 10-minute break. So it's been a long day."

But Jones did not let her exhaustion put a damper on her enthusiasm for the event. "I am honored to be here with you even though it's been a long day," she said. "I'm still thankful to be here. As we pause tonight to remember those who have departed, it's important to recognize the great strides the LGBT community is making ... This candlelight vigil gives us a chance to reflect on our loved ones who have passed on, whether it was due to natural causes or any other illness, violence due to gender hate or loss of life due to depression. We pause tonight to remember them."

Jones said she has a long history of supporting the LGBT community. "I can tell you I support you," she said. "I support your rights. I'm going to continue to stand with you, and I'm going to continue to be with you."

The ceremony ended with remarks from Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of LGBT Detroit, the agency that produces HTJ.

"We did this 20 years ago," Lipscomb said. "Just for a moment, think of something so wonderful that was created by us and has been maintained and operated for 20 years. The candlelight vigil, 20 years, rain or shine ... We've been here calling to the ancestors, drumming, for 20 years."

"For 20 years, uninterrupted, we have gathered, and for 20 years it's always been the candlelight vigil," Lipscomb continued. "We always start with God first. Yeah, we party. We have some fun. I get it. I'm a little older. I can't twerk like I used to do. But I can't stop thanking God and remembering my friends who have gone before me. And for the next 20 years we will always start off Hotter Than July (this way). It has never changed, not thinking about God and our loved ones first. I don't ever want Hotter Than July to change from that. I never want it to do that."

But for as much as Lipscomb spoke about the past, he focused equally on the future.

"We're going to be here 20 years from now," he said. "I can't wait for the 40th anniversary."

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