Virtual Vigil Seeks to Unite LGBT, African American Communities

“Together We Rise,” photo via Come OUT St. Pete.

(WM) Come OUT St Pete (COSP) has partnered with Project No Labels (PNL) and the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum to virtually present “Together We Rise” June 27, a vigil designed to unite the LGBT and African American communities.

The gathering will take place along the city’s Bayshore Dr. at 8 p.m., where more than 100 socially-distant volunteers will unfurl COSP’s 375-foot rainbow flag. They will kneel for nine minutes of silence to reflect on the Black Lives Matter movement. Organizers strongly discourage public attendance.

“In talking with several people, there was consensus to do something in lieu of the St Pete Pride parade,” COSP Board Member Brian Longstreth recalls. “We reached out to Terri Lipsky Scott, executive director of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, and she described her efforts to include the museum in LGBT events.

“The response from many in the community was that they would love to participate,” he explains, “but they weren’t out to their family. We felt it was a need that we could help address by working together.”

The gathering was initially designed as a vigil for George Floyd, whose murder May 25 in Minneapolis launched global protests against police brutality. Longstreth says organizers expanded the vigil to reflect on the murders of Black, transgender members of our community and others, including Tony McDade of Tallahassee.

“We must recognize the origin of Pride was a riot against police actions,” Longstreth says, “and show solidarity when any minority is facing persecution.”

PNL CEO Claire Elisan, whose organization assisted in volunteer and other efforts for the vigil, says it’s critical that the LGBT community shows its support. “Black, trans women are being murdered at an alarming rate,” she explains.

“Every year, during Transgender Day of Remembrance, the numbers are disturbing,” Elisan continues. “This fight goes hand in hand. We have to acknowledge and validate our Black, transgender siblings in this fight. They’re fighting every single day to survive.”

Organizers advise that city officials have been essential in ensuring volunteer safety, a paramount concern as the coronavirus continues to impact Tampa Bay. Those unfurling the flag will be provided an event-branded T-shirt and face mask, made possible by sponsorship from the Home Shopping Network as well as hand sanitizer, provided by St. Petersburg Distillery. Participants will also maintain a minimum of six feet of distance from one another in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.

“While we understand everyone would like to participate in this event, only the volunteers that have previously signed up to hold the flag will be present,” organizers share. “We want everyone to follow along on Facebook Live.”


Additional “Together We Rise” branded T-shirts will be made available for sale benefiting the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. The virtual vigil will be streamed via COSP’s Facebook page on June 27 at 8 p.m. Watch live or afterward at Facebook.com/ComeOutStPete and view additional details on the event’s Facebook page.