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Trailblazing Journey

Harrison Guy continues to break barriers at City Hall and in the arts.

Harrison Guy (Photo by Keda Sharber)

When Harrison Guy appeared on the June 2019 OutSmart cover, he had been recently elected as the first Black male grand marshal in the more than four decades of Houston Pride celebrations.

“The fact that you get nominated is really an honor, and then when I did the research and confirmed there weren’t any Black men [who had earned the title] before me, that made it even more special,” he says.

During his research, he found out that Larry Bagneris, a Black Houston activist, had actually organized the city’s first Pride parade in 1979.

“I was super-excited to research Larry and find him,” Guy mentions. “It all came full circle for me when I was able to find him in New Orleans and bring him to Houston to talk about his story. And I’m continuing that relationship.”

Harrison Guy on the cover of
OutSmart’s 2019 June Pride issue.
Photo by Ashkan Roayaee

Never one to slow down, Guy has been busy lately as an artist, activist, and community leader. He was appointed to Mayor Turner’s LGBTQ Advisory Board in 2016, and when he took over as chair of the committee in 2019, he ushered in the structural changes he knew were needed to further the group’s impact.

“When I was invited to the mayor’s board, I learned very quickly that Houston had crowned and ordained a very small group of people that [became the face of] the LGBTQ community. It was the same leaders being recycled through different organizations for decades,” he recalls. “By the time I became chair, I made it my mission to change the room, so I on-boarded a lot of people, brought a lot of new voices in, and then I made sure that the upcoming chairs would be people who were young and had things to say who had not been listened to before.”

Guy’s involvement in the community has only grown over the years. Since OutSmart last spoke with him, he has moved from working in higher education to a full-time job with the 5th Ward Cultural Arts District. Most recently, he helped pull together the tenth annual Alliance at the Renaissance Festival, with more exciting events on the horizon.

“I get the awesome pleasure of working out of the historic DeLuxe Theater on Lyons Avenue. And I get to manage the theater as well as facilitate the cultural-arts plans that the community came up with,” he notes. “We have a large public art installation that went up recently. We just opened a portable housing complex for artists right behind the DeLuxe. There are more than a dozen affordable housing units for artists, and we just got our first artist-in-residence for that.”

Through the 5th Ward Cultural Arts District, Guy also helped launch a musical-theater program for young people in the community, as well as a program that provides children with violin lessons.

“Work keeps me very busy with all things arts-and-culture here,” he adds.

His involvement in the arts, which has also included choreography work, extends well beyond the Fifth Ward. In 2021, his original modern-dance work Colored Carnegie was featured in a Performing Arts Houston New/Now program at Jones Hall. And for the second year now, Guy is assembling the work of local queer Black artists and allies this month for a show entitled The Art of Black Pride: Black LGBTQ Art Exhibition, running May 3–14 at The Mag, 1201 Main St. Suite 101. The show coincides with Houston’s Black LGBTQ Pride Week, and in addition to the local artists being featured, a portion of the national AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display.

As he looks toward a future filled with possibilities, Guy muses about how his previous work will likely influence his future path. “I am still figuring the future out. I have some big goals I would like to accomplish, but I think what I want to do now is cultivate an organization that fills in the gaps that I’ve encountered from all the work I’ve been doing. There’s a lot of community-building that needs to happen, and that takes a lot of time.”

The second annual The Art of Black Pride opens on May 3 with a reception at 7:00 p.m. and runs through May 14. The exhibition celebrates Houston’s Black LGBTQ Pride Week with a stunning collection of works created by talented local Black artists. In addition, the first week of the exhibit will feature panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a powerful tribute to those lost to the AIDS epidemic.
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Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.
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