OaklandIf you’re in California or one of the its border states, I highly recommend packing up and heading to Oakland for their 4th Annual Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival.  I’ve been before and can tell you that it’s definitely worth experiencing and one of the only festivals in the country to focus only on Black SGL films.  The festival takes place in Oakland August 15, 19, and 20th.  Aside from the film festival, there will be plenty of parties and events to attend as well.  A perfect opportunity to get to know your brothers and sisters in Oakland.

The festival once again takes place at Oakland’s landmark Parkway Theater, located at 1834 Park Blvd.

This year’s domestic films include White Shadows, a film that profiles Dalee Henderson, a famed celebrity hairstylist who is diagnosed with AIDS and must reconcile himself to the changes the disease affects upon his body, mind, and spirit. Brooklyn’s Bridge To Jordan profiles a woman who must fight to rebuild her relationship with her deceased partner’s estranged son.  DL (Down Low) Chronicles Episode: Wes and the world premiere of DL Chronicles Episode: Robert by directors Deondre Gossett & Quincey LaNear, profiles a journalist as he undertakes research for a book on black men living on the (DL) down low.  Oakland native and director Maurice Jamal’s latest film presents a prodigal son story with a twist.  Dirty Laundry, follows Patrick (Rockmond Dunbar), a black gay man who seems to have the perfect life, a fabulous wardrobe, a great job at an upscale magazine and a cute young boyfriend until the day a knock at the door reveals the other side calling him back to the traditional Southern family he hasn’t seen in over ten years.

International film offerings include St. Martin de 4th Street, a film that profiles the story of two lesbians and Martin the son, who can’t stand his mother’s new girlfriend.  Determined to win in the battle for her affection he summons everybody from Buddha, voodoo gods and his fairy godmother, but only one thing can save the day.  Rape For Who I Am tells the story of two South African lesbians who are raped, and victimized because of their sexuality.  Rag Tag is a moving film based in Nigeria and tells the story of friendship, love and the ties that bind us, as two men are torn between obedience to expectation or heeding the call of passion.

Film-festival co-producers Debra Wilson (Jumpin the Broom and Butch Mystique) and Joe Hawkins say that they hope to use this year’s festival to increase AIDS awareness, citing that in Alameda County, 42% of the people living with HIV/AIDS are black men who have sex with men and that African American women and children have the highest rates of HIV infection in the county as well. The county has had to absorb significant cuts in HIV/AIDS related funding as a result of the ongoing war in Iraq. Mr. Hawkins also serves as co-chair of the 2nd Annual East Bay AIDS Walk sponsored by Starbucks Coffee. This year’s AIDS Walk takes place on September 9th at Lakeside Park.

"We hope that participation in the walk will increase by 100%.  Our diverse organizing body is asking all groups from every ethnicity, culture, gender and sexual orientation to walk to help raise money for East Bay organizations that work to either stop the spread of HIV/AIDS or assist people living with HIV/AIDS.

Oakland is home to the largest population of African and African-American gays and lesbians in Northern California. In fact, according to a 2000 survey by the International Federation of Black Prides, in terms of the number of black LGBT people in cities, Oakland ranks seventh behind New York City; Atlanta; Washington D.C.; Los Angeles; Detroit and Chicago.

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