The Gay8 Festival is back for another year! Gay8 is a free Latin LGBT art, music and food street festival in Miami. The second annual one-day festival will take place on Jan. 15 where “Calle Ocho” (8th Street) in Miami’s “Little Havana” district is transformed into a grand street party where people from all backgrounds are welcome to participate with opportunities for connection.
When co-founder, Damian Pardo, was asked about the inspiration and conception of Gay8, he reported the following: “Joe Cardona, myself and a friend were having coffee one day in Little Havana bemoaning how segregated Miami can be, and we thought it would be a great idea to bring different parts of Miami together to have a festival experience. We thought it would be a great way to encourage more connection in a city that often lacks cohesion. We thought the LGBT community was the perfect community to host the event as LGBT people are in every slice of life: African-American, Hispanic, Women, Special Needs, etc. We thought that since LGBT people have generally been able to work through their differences toward a common goal like equality, then the community-at-large could learn from LGBT people how to connect better.”
Pardo has said that in its first year, Gay8 were able to build these bridges and make connections by opening doors throughout the community. When asked for an example, Pardo stated, “We see organizations in Hialeah joining the Miami Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. We see LGBT groups hiring bands they had never heard of before the festival or holding events in Little Havana. We see LGBT people coming back to Little Havana for dining or entertainment. We see the community here open their arms and embrace not just LGBT people but diversity in general. We see city leaders react in awe at how well so many people from so many parts of South Florida celebrate in Little Havana together. And the magic of the event is the diversity in the crowd and the fact that people from all parts of South Florida show up together.”
This year Gay8 will recognize and celebrate four individuals at the Gay8 Pa’Lante Awards who have helped move Miami forward with a proven and long track record of connecting different parts of Miami. The recipients of the Pa’Lante Awards are: Steve Adkins, President of the Miami Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MDGLCC); Desmond Child, Singer, Producer and Song Writer; Denise Brown, Founder of RJT Foundation; and Cecilia Guitierrez-Abety, Executive Director of the Miami Children’s Initiative. The Pa’Lante Awards will take place on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, at the Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center in Miami.
Gay8 organizers have implemented a fun marketing strategy this year of having a “Gay8 Car.” The Gay8 Car is wrapped Smart Car sponsored by Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables and Smart Car Center. Just like in the film, “Herbie Goes Bananas,” the Gay8 Car has been burning up the road as it has traveled to bars like Georgie’s Alibi; Club Bailo; and Twist to advertise the event. It also makes appearances at establishments that are sponsoring Gay8, like the legendary Versailles, and AIDS Health Foundation (AHF). When the Gay8 Car is not in motion it is parked at Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center
Pardo says that, “Gay8 is not really about the Cuban-American community and the LGBT community. The festival is about all South Florida communities. That’s the point! We do the festival on MLK weekend in Little Havana with a large outreach in the Jewish community, Caribbean community, Anglo community and African-American community.”
As the leaders of Gay8 focus on connecting South Florida communities, they also focus on social issues in the community as they highlight the issue of gun violence.
Pardo stated, “We are donating 10% of our revenue to RJT Foundation, an organization of mothers dedicated to helping families that have lost their children to gun violence. One of our honorees is the founder of this organization. We asked Stonewall National Museum and Archives to debut an exhibit on PULSE at the Tower Theater. So, an issue like gun violence becomes a bridge between the African-American, LGBT and Hispanic community, especially since East Little Havana is also disproportionately affected by gun violence.”
When asked what the future of Gay8 might look like, Pardo stated, “I think Gay8 has a potent message. It’s like pride on steroids. It’s everyone’s pride: men, women, African-American, Anglo, Jewish, LGBT, Caribbean, and Hispanic. At a time when people are questioning the legitimacy of this rainbow coalition type of message, here comes Gay8, proving that it works in practice. A strong message wrapped in fun with the opportunity to grow definitely has legs.”
To find out more about Gay8 and purchase tickets, visit: Gay8Festival.com