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Southern Dallas group brings health care resources to Juneteenth celebrations

A demonstrators legs are shown wearing rainbow-colored socks.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
A Dallas resident dressed in rainbow-attire prepares to march in "Pride For Black Lives Matter" protest in June of 2020.

Juneteenth Unity Weekend is expected to draw visitors from all over North Texas.

Along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Southern Dallas sits Abounding Prosperity, a center devoted to addressing health and social disparities affecting the Black community.

Kirk Myers, founder and CEO, says part of that work involves meeting people where they are.

For nearly two decades, he and his team have worked to incorporate resources like vaccinations and HIV testing at events like Juneteenth Unity Weekend.

"We've had tickets for vaccines, so it's all these different things that have evolved around socialization and how people socialize," Myers said, "but also peppering it with the things that people need for good health and good health outcomes."

Juneteenth, now a federal holiday, commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. It comes as many people are marking Pride Month.

Activist Betty Neal has advocated for the LGBTQ community in Dallas since the 70's. She says inclusive spaces like Juneteenth Unity Weekend can serve as teaching moments.

“In that venue, with those kids, is a lesson to be learned about support for each other, our own time and our communities as Black and gay," Neal said.

Neal says within the queer community, it's important to have Black spaces. She recalls living through the peak of the AIDS epidemic in Dallas. She says at that time, drag performers were some of the only Black people allowed in certain queer establishments.

“They need to raise funds for funerals and burial and stuff like that," she said. "Who do they reach out to? The drag community.... So drag became a vital element of success in the Black gay community because of their talent, ability to reach and raise money."

Growing up in the Southern Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff, Kirk Myers says he didn't always feel welcome in some of the city's queer spaces.

"I am of age where I remember, you know, going on the strip and someone that looked like myself would be asked for multiple forms of ID," Myers said. "And so it was not really unified then."

Myers says creating more racial unity in the queer community takes work. He says making health care more accessible is a key way of addressing racial disparities.

Between dance competitions and musical performances, he's hoping Juneteenth Unity Weekend will draw people to the health care resources Abounding Prosperity has to offer.

"You know, these are hard-fought wins," he said. "We can all coexist, and we exist around the things that bind us, not the things that divide us."

Got a tip? Email Solomon Wilson at swilson@kera.org. You can follow Solomon on Twitter @SolomonSeesIt.

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