You might classify Precious Smith as a Southern Belle. She doesn’t have much of a Southern drawl, but she has that laid back, Southern charm, a big smile, and a personality that’s warm and welcoming. She grew up in Texas where celebrating Juneteenth was huge. She also grew up in a community where she celebrated proudly and openly being a part of a Black Pride.
So with both Juneteenth and Pride celebrations in the same month, June was a month she celebrated wholeheartedly. However, since relocating from Wichita to Texas about seven years ago, June hasn’t been quite the same.
While she could show up in her Blackness at Juneteenth, she didn’t have a place where she felt comfortable showing up in her gayness. What she really wanted in Wichita was a place where she could show up comfortably as her full self, a Black lesbian.
“If I go to a Black event I can’t show up with my wife because people are looking at me like, ‘oh, OH, she has a wife,’ said Smith. “Then I can’t show up in Pride spaces with my Blackness, because most of the Pride events are geared for the majority, not towards the minority.”
So after seven years in Wichita, she grew tired of not having a place where she could comfortably express her whole self, and since there wasn’t a table where she could have a seat as “all” of her, she decided to create the table. The result is Wichita Black Pride.
Right now, Wichita Black Pride is just a relatively new Facebook Group, but Smith believes it can, and will be more, and prove to be a great support system and provide a great service to Wichita’s LBGTQ+ community.
Smith began the group by telling the three friends she knew and they told their friends and they told their friends. From that process, the group now has 20 members who have expressed an interest in serving on a Black Pride committee.
“It was amazing to me because I was like, ‘I don’t know half of you, but welcome, we’re glad to have you,’” said Smith.
TOUGH BEING LGBTQ+ IN WICHITA
“I was having a conversation with my friend Shawna and we were discussing how hard it is to be both Black and gay and exist in spaces where we’re not supposed to be,” said Smith about her Wichita lived experience.
From strange stares when she’s with her wife, to Pride activities that don’t address her culturally, Smith says it’s tough expressing and existing as her full self in Wichita. One example of how people can be unaccepting came from her church, a place where she had been taught all her life to love her neighbor.
Smith was an active member of her Wichita church and attended every Wednesday and Sunday. That was until one of the deaconesses found out she had a wife.
“It was the one old lady in church and from then, her whole deaconess crew was looking at me like … to the point I stopped going to church altogether,” said Smith.
Personally, Smith says she’s lucky. She has a good therapist, vents by writing on her blog, and has a supportive work-family at her job as a teacher with USD 259. Other Black LGBTQ people aren’t always as lucky at finding support. She believes that’s why there’s such a high rate of suicide, self-harm and ideation in Black LGBTQ+ communities.
She hopes Wichita Black Pride can help fill some of the voids.
MAKING CONNECTIONS: GIVING BACK
To help build connections between group members, and give back, Smith has planned a series called “Walking With Water,” where members meet and hand out cold bottled water to community members. They held their first Walking With Water event on June 13, and their next Walking With Water will be Sun., June 27, at 4 p.m. Participants will gather initially at the Quik Trip at Broadway and Murdock, and they’ll spread out in the community handing out water and meeting people in the community. It’s a project Smith hopes to continue for several months.
Another idea Smith hopes to accomplish is a fundraiser to help buy toys to support LBGTQ+ families at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.
“It’s one thing for individuals to be less fortunate, but it’s another thing for you to be less fortunate and everywhere you go you’re stigmatized. I want to take the negative stigma out of being Black an LGBTQ, because it’s not necessary,” said Smith.
“We’re here and we’re not going anywhere so we need a space as well,” Smith concluded.
If you’re interested in connecting with Wichita Black Pride Committee, you can find the group on Facebook. Join the group and keep up with what they’re doing, make friends and support one another