Four months after pride month and two years after the last in-person festival, South Side Pride returned to the DuSable Museum courtyard on Saturday with an array of amusements, stands and, despite the rain, exuberance.
"There's not enough Black gay bars. We can go to the North Side, but we won't be welcomed," said lifelong South Sider Aliyha Hill on the dance floor.
The festival "means resilience," she said. "It means my presence is appreciated. It means I'm here, it means I'm queer and all of that."
Eric Schneider moved to Hyde Park last year with his husband and his 11-year-old son, who attends the Ancona School and was busy in the bounce house.
"We had been commuting for several years, and just basically wanted to live closer to the school and school community," he said.
"Ancona is a great school for LGBTQ families, for sure," he said, citing its social justice mission and uncommon diversity for an independent school. "And then when we found that school community so welcoming, then the neighborhood seemed that much more attractive."
Shakur Silas, 25 and a native Hoosier, was at Pride South Side from the south suburbs.
He is planning a move to Douglas, one of the community areas within Bronzeville, in the near future. While a North Side lakefront neighborhood has been the destination of choice for young gay men from Indiana since time immemorial, Silas deliberately choose the city's original Black neighborhood for his move at a time when Bronzeville is experiencing a demographic and commercial renaissance spurred by the city's Black middle class.
"When I visit the North Side, I think it has a lot of opportunities for young queer people to be around their people and see queer things, but when it comes to me and my identity — me identifying as Black — I would like to see more of that culture in the North areas. And there's just not," Silas said.
Silas came out as a high school sophomore. "No matter what I'm experiencing, no matter what group I'm in, I'm always going to be myself," he said.
"I think that there is still some work that needs to be done in certain parts of Bronzeville, but for the most part, the areas that I've visited, I feel comfortable. I feel that there needs to be more queer representation, so that those areas where I'm not comfortable in, people can walk down the street holding hands," he said. "I want people to be comfortable seeing that and recognizing that we're not a threat to these areas."
Cynthia and Kelly Bryant, married six years in December, were working a stall for their cheesecake business, Cynergy Bakes, at the festival, and were doubly proud to be presenting their business at a LGBTQ festival for the first time.
"An event like this is perfect for us, because we kind of check off three boxes when it comes to minorities: we're women, we're lesbians, and we're Black," Kelly said. "It's been very refreshing to have an event like this. We typically do vendor events, but this is the first one that's been an LGBTQ+ event. We didn't know what the customer base would be like, but it's been great."
Business at other recent events have gone well, too. The two, who are currently living in Kenwood while waiting on construction on their home in Beverly to finish, also sell cheesecakes wholesale and made to order.
The gender wage gap cuts both ways in same-sex couples, statistically to gay men's benefit and to lesbians' disadvantage. Cynergy is both of the Bryants' business, but Cynthia works a city job as well; though the business has made a profit, she would eventually like Kelly to be able to work at Cynergy full time.
For her part, Cynthia said she wishes more partnered gay women would go into business together. "I talk to my friends, 'We need to start working with the lesbian community. We need to tell them about homeownership, about starting businesses, turning our passions into property and profitable businesses. Because we have that creativity, and we need to use it more."