True T’s Blackout Weekend Set to Light Things Up – with Julian McClain

Welcome back to Blackout Weekend with True T PGH! Our annual three day musical festival is back for 2021 this weekend, August 13 through August 15th, for a celebration of Black excellence featuring some of the best local LGBTQ artists from the tri-state area. True T’s Development Officer and Program Coordinator Julian McClain recently sat down for a quick Q&A to tell folks a little bit about what they can expect from Blackout 2021.

For the uninitiated, what is True T’s Blackout Weekend?

Julian McClain: Blackout Weekend is a curated experience to display and promote Black and brown artists and creators. In previous years we’ve included proms, brunches, and parties.

What separates Blackout from any event like it? 

JM: It’s not a Pride. It’s not a ball. It’s really something where all facets of what we (True T) do come together and make magic. Showcasing what we bring as a community and culture.It differs because there are so many niches for the queer spectrum. This is come one and come all. Come together to appreciate what we all do.

What does an event like this look like?

JM: This year people can expect outdoor events along with brunch coming back! Of course folks can expect some of the things we do and dabble like a ball and parties

That sounds awesome! What is on the schedule for each event? 

JM: Friday – We’re partnering with Reel Q, the queer film festival in Pittsburgh. They’ll help in presenting Leave It On the Floor – a ballroom centered movie that we’ll be presenting at the event along with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh at the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation in the Northside. It’s great to have different sized and focused organizations coming together for a movie in the parking lot.

Saturday Afternoon – For the Blacks Who Brunch event we’ll be partnering with Color Me Urban. We do an annual event called Melanin and Mimosas and so Blacks Who Brunch definitely coincides with that. The catering to the mimosa creation to the decor. Everything will have a little bit of Color Me Urban’s touch to it as well as the invitee list. We’re working with future makers so the artists, the entrepreneurs, the people who are trying to spread the word about some project that they’re doing. That’s where we’re really going. It coincides with the spirit of what Blackout Weekend is. It’s highlighting the magic that goes on in this community.

Saturday Night – The Blackout Party and Mini Ball is going to partnered with Big T Ebony – We got someone who is throwing events right now from the ball community. – We’re keeping true to our roots and throwing balls. We wanted to inculcate that specifically into this weekend. Big T is a ball curator here in Pittsburgh and the House of Ebony and we’ll be partnering with them to make a larger event.

Sunday – And then I am Human Too, which is our last event. We’ll be partnering with the Love Diamond Project and that’s an exclusive fundraising project for them to put towards operating costs. They’ll get all the money from the door, they’ll get all of the money from the pledge cards and stuff being sent around. It’s hard finding money and I know that from experience.

Is there any significance to the dates and locations chosen for this year? 

JM: We really wanted to be located all over Pittsburgh so everyone can say that there is something happening in their backyard. So we’re in the North Side, We’re on the South Side, we’re back here in East Liberty. We wanted it to be easy for people to get to so these places are on the bus line, near the studio and right on East Carson. We wanted access so all of the events this weekend are going to be as accessible as possible.We also really wanted to be able to give college students a sort of last hurrah before going back to school and make sure this was something they’d be able to attend.

With that in mind, who all is invited to the events this year? Are there any age restrictions? 

JM: This year’s Blackout event is really inclusive so we are saying come one come all. Even if you are 16 you can come to the movie, you can come to the brunch, you can come to the party, you can come to the fundraiser. The movie in the parking lot is a come one come all event. Any age is of course welcome to that event. The brunch will have some alcohol served but we do have wristbands. We’re not trying to have too many folks under 21 at that event, but we do have under 21 wristbands if someone is underaged at the event. The ball is more of an adult event, but wristbands will also be available.

What does an event like Blackout mean in a city like Pittsburgh? 

JM: Pittsburgh to me has a lot of opportunity. Even though there’s a lot of discourse, even though there’s a lack of equity, it’s even whitewashed – I think events that are centered around people of color or creating spaces that make them feel safe or for them to feel welcome or wanted are few and far between. Speaking as a queer gay man, I’d love to go to certain events, but when it’s curated by cis men and I don’t know how comfortable I would be. Even sometimes when it’s people of color centered events, sometimes if you’re queer or non-binary or just not cisgender affiliated, you can feel uncomfortable in those spaces. So we really wanted to differentiate and say that this is an inclusive event for everyone especially if you’re queer we want you and this is a time and space where cis people can feel like “o this is what it means and feels to not be in the majority”. That’s what we want the mood and feel to be. If you’ve ever been to the gyms in Pittsburgh – they are very inclusive – you’d see so many types of people come together to just have a good time. It wasn’t one demographic of people. There wasn’t just one general feel to the event. That’s the feeling we want. A genuine community gathering.

As much as we hate to say it, COVID is still a factor. With case numbers rising here in the city, what safety measures will be taken at events? 

JM: We’re asking people to wear their masks especially in closed spaces for the brunch, for the ball and for the I Am Human Too event. We’re going to be indoors for all of those and so social distancing is still important to us as well. We’ve capped off those events so it’s not an open ticket. We’ve capped off capacities and we’ll be sanitizing all of the equipment for those events. Where we can control social distancing, it will be implemented.

And of course most importantly, where can folks get tickets? 

JM: All tickets are available via social media on True T’s Facebook and Instagram. Tickets are secured through Eventbrite from there.

For more information on Blackout Weekend, visit our events page on Facebook @TrueTpgh and get additional updates and info via Instagram @truetpgh.

See you for Blackout this weekend!