Jack Walker Published

W.Va. Black Pride Foundation Forges Space For Black LGBTQ Community

A photo of a pride flag hanging from the side of a brick building. The flag can be seen against a blue, cloudy sky. The flag depicts red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple colors symbolizing Pride, as well as white, pink and yellow colors for transgender Pride. The flag also depicts black and brown colors to symbolize inclusion of LGBTQ people of color.
Founded in 2022, the West Virginia Black Pride Foundation provides programming and identity-specific resources to Black members of the LGBTQ community across the Mountain State.
Sarawut/Adobe Stock

Black LGBTQ West Virginians often experience exclusion on the basis of their race and LGBTQ identity alike, according to Kasha Snyder-McDonald, founder and executive director of the West Virginia Black Pride Foundation.

But Snyder-McDonald said the organization — founded in December 2022 — is looking to turn shared experiences like these into an opportunity for community-building.

Jack Walker spoke with Snyder-McDonald about her foundation’s vision for a better West Virginia for Black LGBTQ residents.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Walker: Could you tell me about how West Virginia Black Pride got started?

Snyder-McDonald: Well here in Charleston, West Virginia, they didn’t have any kind of Black Pride. It took them a couple of years before they got some Black entertainment for Pride. There [were] a lot of African American people and trans people — LGBTQ+ — that had nowhere to go. And they also felt like they weren’t included in other organizations. I’m not saying that these organizations did not include them; it’s just that they just didn’t feel welcomed. So we came together, a couple of my friends, and we decided to say, “Well, we need to have a Black Pride.” Because everywhere in America was having a Black Pride, and we’re Black and we wanted to tell our stories and let people see what we do and what we bring to the table and what we have to offer. Because the Black experience is a wonderful experience, something to be talked about. We’re trailblazers and leaders.

Walker: You touched on this a little bit, but for those who might be unfamiliar, could you explain what Black Pride is, and what makes Black Pride groups distinct from other LGBTQ organizations?

Snyder-McDonald: Black LGBTQ+ people or persons are not — they are accepted in other spaces, but they’re not comfortable in those said spaces. We’re always told that we’re loud, we’re always told that we’re overbearing, and they just don’t want us to be around. The trans community has been one of the most left out communities of all, because people don’t want to deal with us. People don’t want to date trans women. People don’t want to associate with trans women. And trans women are the ones that led the march for the LGBTQ+ community, especially Black trans women. But, of course, we’ve been overlooked by white LGBTQ+ men.

The Black Pride organizations, we make sure we have this safe haven. We have a whole host of Black trans and nonbinary people here in West Virginia. But you would never know it because they don’t feel comfortable. But when we opened West Virginia Black Pride Foundation they all decided to come. We have a whole host of people that come. They sit, they relax, we have cookouts, we have sister circles. Like I said, we talk about Black history. We inform them that they’re not a stigmata on the universe. We try to show them and give them knowledge. And knowledge is power.

Walker: What are some of the resources and programming your organization offers?

Snyder-McDonald: We are a drop-in center. So you can come in and you can utilize our zen rooms, and we have a space just to breathe and relax and to collect your thoughts. We are fully staffed with bathroom facilities and things like that, so if you need to come in and get hygiene [products] or stuff like that, we have that for you. If you need to take a shower or bath, we have that as well. We are currently working towards building — in addition to our center — somewhere we can have an emergency shelter for those people who get kicked out and have no place to go.

So, you know, we do what we say we’re going to. We’re here to help the community. We’re here to help the LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ community [has] been kicked out for such a long time. They’ve had no places to go, and we give them a place to go.

Walker: You’ve been around now for about a year and a half. What has the community response been like so far?

Snyder-McDonald: You know, even when we started a Black Pride, everybody was so excited and so happy and so on board. And oh, “We’re willing to help you and we’re willing to do this and do this and do this.” As soon as we opened, there was crickets. There was nobody. We have had some support, do not get me wrong. Monetary support, we’ve had very little. But that’s because we are Black Pride. The word “Black” had been weaponized, especially in this day and age. So we’ve been called prejudiced, we’ve been called dividing the community. We’ve been called everything but the Son of God.

Walker: So it sounds like many potential donors are giving funds to more established LGBTQ organizations as opposed to Black Pride, which has made it difficult for you all to get off the ground. Is that accurate?

Snyder-McDonald: We have a Pride here already. And because they already have Pride, we’ve been met with — when we reach out to ask for donations — “We’ve already donated. We’ve already donated. We’ve already donated.” At times, it begins to feel racist and bigoted.

Walker: Pivoting now, what’s been your favorite part about creating space for the Black LGBTQ community here in West Virginia?

Snyder-McDonald: Oh gosh. Just to see the community. We are located right in the heart of the Black community here in Charleston, and the stigmata between Black people and the LGBTQ+ community is very big. But we are changing that each and every day. And that is the big thing. We had neighbors who have never even spoke to us, that made fun of the organization being there that come and drop off donations, come and sit in our space. They ask us if they can come and just relax because it’s so serene and so beautiful, how we’ve beautified the neighborhood by sprucing it up.

To see Black trans women and men who are scared to come outside literally walk outside of their own home and be themselves when they walk into West Virginia Black Pride Foundation. They sing, they dance, they read poetry. They, [as] we say, “gay out.” They get to be themselves.