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Houston Splash Marks 30 Years of Black LGBTQ Pride

Houston Splash in 2016 (Dalton DeHart)

Weeklong celebration empowering communities of color kicks off Thursday.

By Ryan M. Leach

Houston Splash, billed as the largest LGBTQ Pride celebration in the South catering to African-American and Latinx people, kicks off Thursday, May 3.

The weeklong celebration is focused on celebrating and empowering LGBTQ communities of color.

“Communities of color, especially black and brown communities, have historically been excluded from mainstream movements and spaces, including within the larger LGBTQ+ community,” says Houston Splash co-organizer Mike Webb. “This is evident in our own history as Houston Splash evolved from the Splash Beach Party.

“These experiences highlight the need for queer communities of color to create safe, empowering spaces where we do not have to face the racism and social barriers we commonly experience,” Webb adds. “This is why Houston Splash prioritizes black and brown empowerment during our celebration.”  

Houston Splash began in the late 1970s as a statewide event with parties in Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas and Galveston. At the time, the event catered primarily to gay white men, according to the May 1979 issue of the LGBTQ magazine This Week In Texas.

Galveston Splash Day in 1979 (via HoustonLGBTHistory.org)

By 1987, as more black LGBTQ people began to attend Splash, the gay white community moved its event elsewhere. The black community then took ownership of Splash, and the first Black Gay and Lesbian Splash Day was held in 1988, according to the May 1997 issue of The Underground. Thirty years later, that same event will be held May 6 at East Beach in Galveston.

However, the modern-day Houston Splash—now in its 23rd year—is much more than a party. The celebration offers its 7,500 attendees opportunities to engage socially as well as civically.

“The nature of LGBTQ+ Pride is to celebrate who we are as a community and as individuals,” says co-organizer Jason Black, adding that the Super Social Day Party on Saturday, May 5 combines celebrating each other, complimented by civic engagement.

“We intentionally invite community partners that provide voter registration, HIV/AIDS testing and education, and additional resources that can help positively impact LGBTQ+ people of color,” Black says.

On Wednesday, May 2, Houston Splash will partner with the T.R.U.T.H. Project for “Let’s Talk About It: Mental Health – Redefining Our Narrative.”

“This event focuses on mental health within the African-American community,” Webb says. “Our goal is not only to define and address the stigma associated with mental health but also provide a safe space where community members can gain new strategies around how we can individually engage in mental health care.”  

Although Houston Splash is focused on empowering black and brown LGBTQ people, the celebration is open to all. “Houston Splash is for everyone who wants to celebrate Black Gay Pride and the Pride all LGBTQ+ communities of color should feel,” Webb says.

Entertainer and LGBTQ activist T.S. Madison will host the Kick-Off Party on Friday, May 4, with doors opening at 10 p.m. at Fitzgerald’s. Houston City Councilman Larry Green, who passed away earlier this year, traditionally welcomed guests to Splash. Organizers hope other council members will follow suit in his memory.

Either way, whether you are a veteran attendee or a new one, Splash has something special in store, Black says.  

“Everyone’s first Houston Splash experience varies and is unique to that individual,” he says. “For many of us, it can be our coming-out moment where we embrace all of who we are. The common experience tends to be a shared moment where our sexuality and race is holistically embraced and celebrated. This encourages a sense of pride not traditionally felt in our everyday lives.”

For more information about Houston Splash visit HoustonSplash.com or Facebook.com/HoustonSplash.

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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