Atlanta Black Pride's Managing Partner Melissa Scott Talks Success, Business & Challenges
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Labor Day in Atlanta can only mean one thing: Atlanta Black Gay Pride Weekend!
Atlanta Black Pride is acclaimed as the largest black gay pride weekend across the United
States, heralding approximately 250,000 persons into the city across the events throughout the 5 days of the ‘weekend’.
As we get ready for one of the most epic weekends in the city, Gaye Magazine caught up with philanthropist, promoter and “serial entrepreneur” (as she likes to call herself) Melissa Scott. As the co-founder of the Pure Heat Community Festival and a managing partner of Atlanta Black Pride, we wanted to get all the details about one of the largest LGBTQ+ gatherings in the country.
Scott comes from humble beginnings in Augusta and was raised in Baltimore before making her way to Georgia. Scott is a well-known party promoter in Atlanta and dee-jays under the name DJ M.
In 2018, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms even named Melissa Scott a board member of the city’s LGBTQ Advisory Board. In describing herself, Scott considers herself a “Type A, OCD motivator”.
In 2022, Atlanta Black Gay Pride celebrates its 26th year, and the Pure Heat Community Festival celebrates its 10th year in Atlanta. Scott tells us that the Pure Heat Community Festival simply started as an idea to rent a pavilion at Piedmont Park during Black Pride Weekend and give away free water. Something that was intended as a small idea grew into something much, much larger.
With DJ Rick spinning on the ones and twos in their rented pavilion, Scott revealed that they expected about 400 people to show up and receive the free water they were giving out that weekend. Instead, over 10,000 people arrived at the space they occupied, and therein lies the beginnings of one of the most recognized events during Atlanta Black Pride weekend.
When asked what Scott appreciates most about identifying as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, she tells us that “it is what it is.” But what resonates with her most is the support that the city of Atlanta provides to the members of the community. Scott tells us that she comes from a time when she almost lost her basketball scholarship in college due to being openly lesbian.
As such, she says that she appreciates the constant vigilance that the city pays to our queer community, stating that if there is an issue within our community there is no brushing it under the rug.
“The city itself is an ally.”
Being a DJ and promoter, Melissa Scott often finds herself in communal social settings, which is where she thrives. Through community, she has found herself meeting different kinds of people who offer a kaleidoscope of personalities and come from a melting pot of various circumstances.
Scott says that this is where a lot of her outreach and philanthropic intentions began. She stated that social environments can act as “medicine for some people” and so she became more interested in being a part of the solution as opposed to seeing people “self-medicating” in order to survive.
Through this realization Melissa Scott found herself drawn toward more outreach programs involving LGBTQIA youth. Upon realizing that a lot of the youth that she found herself interacting with were, in fact, homeless, Scott discovered that she wanted to find ways to help homeless LGBTQ youth before they got to the point of homelessness.
This year’s Pure Heat Community Festival will also double as the inaugural year for the Pure Heat Community Youth Festival. The youth festival is geared toward members of the LGBTQIA+ community that are between the ages of 14-24 years old and promises to be just as outstanding as its forefather. The youth festival will also have an area of its own along with its own vendors and entertainment.
Creating an inclusive event of this magnitude has been no easy feat for Melissa Scott and her team, however. She lets us know that the festival is entirely free and as a queer woman of color, she has had her share of navigating obstacles in order to bring the Pure Heat Community Festival to new levels.
“I can say LGBTQIA all day, but what that looks like from a corporate standpoint is gay white men… You know this is a festival, a free festival, for people who love the LGBTQIA community and people who just love people. And so, the biggest challenge coming into this was funding.”
Scott states that in trying to receive sponsorship for the Pure Heat Community Festival, organizations would reject the proposal stating that they were already sponsoring other (universal) Pride events. Atlanta Black Pride brings over 40 million dollars in revenue to the city over 5 days.
Despite this, however, Scott tells us that it’s been a constant and enduring endeavor for the festival to receive the recognition and notoriety it rightfully deserves. She continues to say that “we’re getting there”, stating that Gilead Sciences and Ace Healthcare Foundation came on as sponsors this year and are the reason that they will be able to launch the youth aspect of the Pure Heat Community Festival.
Scott tells us that one of the many reasons the organization has been pushing to generate income from the festival is to fund some of the outreach programs for the Vision Community Foundation. The Vision Community is a sister organization that hopes to “impact and transform the minority LGBTQI+ community through outreach, awareness and prevention.
The Pure Heat Community Festival that takes place during Atlanta Black Pride Weekend has come a long way from its humble beginnings in a pavilion at Piedmont Park. The festival over the years has seen the likes of Nicki Minaj, Monica, Tiny and Da Brat and BB Judy. Scott makes mention that the year that Nicki Minaj came to Atlanta Black Pride happens to be one of her fondest memories in the festival’s history.
The festival was set to take place not too long after her partner and co-founder of the Pure Heat Community Festival, Durand Robinson, was murdered and Scott states that she was feeling very unmotivated and saddened by his passing.
In what some may call “perfect timing”, Scott turned the radio on in her car to hear Nicki Minaj stating that she was “ready to shut the city down for Atlanta Black Pride Weekend”. And the superstar did indeed make good on her promise.
Scott disclosed that what makes her feel the most prideful as the weekend rolls around every year, is the joy that she sees from the patrons that turn up for the festival.
“In the midst of the event if you look out everyone is smiling for no reason.”
She says that is reason enough to push her to do more and more each year for the festival.
The Atlanta Black Pride will kick off on Thursday September 1, 2022 and run through to Monday, September 5, 2022. Scott's annual Pure Heat Community Festival at Piedmont Park will take place Sunday and will host approximately 25 events including a brunch, block party, and nightly events. There will even be resources available for COVID and Monkeypox testing as well as vaccinations for both respectively.
Atlanta Black Pride Weekend promises to continue its exemplary legacy this upcoming weekend with a host of epic events, iconic influencers and fabulous celebrities. The celebration of Pride in any form is a nod to the beautiful spectrum of sexual identities that exist and their narratives.
So Gayes, be sure to show up and show out for our city at Atlanta Black Pride! Let’s continue to show the world how much Pride we really have!