Jenna Anast and Elijah McKinnon, hosts of this weekend's virtual Pride festival, #4theQulture | Photo courtesy of Elijah McKinnon

As Chicago activists continue to shout Black Lives Matter in the streets, a few local LGBTQ+ centered community groups are working to make sure the message conveys that all Black lives matter — including Black trans lives, a group that is often targeted by police and subjected to other forms of violence.

Beginning Friday, June 26, Reunion Chicago is joining Slo ‘Mo and OTV – Open Television to host a three-day virtual Pride festival, titled #4theQulture Fest. According to Reunion Chicago’s director of development, Elijah McKinnon (pronouns: they/them), the three-day event is in celebration of Pride month. Despite the cancellation of the 51st annual Chicago Pride Parade, which is now going digital on Saturday, June 27 due to COVID-19, #4theQulture Fest is meant to create an experience for the LGBTQ+ communities that allow for entertainment, art and free-spirited vibes. 

“This is really a platform for us to really celebrate and honor the past, present and future of pride. Chicago is approaching the 50th year anniversary of Chicago Pride,” McKinnon said, highlighting that the first gay liberation march took place in 1970 while the Stonewall uprisings took place in 1969. “We also want to be mindful that we are in this present moment where we’re experiencing a lot of injustices and we want to highlight that.”

On the evenings of June 26-28, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., OTV will livestream #4theQulture Fest. Each night will feature separate forms of art for viewers to dance, sing and laugh out loud right from their homes. There will be drag and comedy shows, musical performances and more by some of Chicago’s iconic Black LGBTQ artists, activists, poets, advocacy groups and more — including a cameo performance by 16-year-old queer Chicago rapper Kid Kenn, queer Chicago-based art collective Molasses, award-winning interdisciplinary artist Avery R. Young and LGBTQ nightlife and drag collective Unfriendly Black Hotties.

An additional Pride Month bonus: Slo ‘Mo, an LGBTQ-focused party that celebrates people of all identities bodies and expressions through music, will also be featured in HBO’s first-time ever digital Pride Festival, alongside LGBTQ+ music artists and celebrities such as Grammy-nominated singer and actress Janelle Monae, MTV award-winning singer Todrick Hall, NYC nightlife art collective Papi Juice and queer comedian Cameron Esposito. The 10-day HBO digital Pride festival will air June 18-28 on its Human by Orientation platform.

The TRiiBE caught up with McKinnon who also serves as the executive director of OTV, co-host and the director of the upcoming HBO segment for Slo ‘Mo and is a 2020 recipient of the Field Foundation’s Leader for a New Chicago award. McKinnon talked about their excitement for this week’s Chicago Pride festivities and why the inclusion of Black LGBTQ+ lives matter in the Black Lives Matter movement. They also give exclusive details about this weekend’s lineup.

How does Reunion Chicago serve the Black LGBTQ+ creative community?

Elijah McKinnon: We’ve been holding space for folks for almost five years. What’s really beautiful about this community is that we’ve cultivated this platform that is rooted in resource sharing and leadership development and the prioritization of LGBTQ+ folks and communities of color and these roles that are traditionally inaccessible at larger institutions and more traditional art-making spaces. It’s been a really amazing opportunity to see the community rally behind this space as well as what we stand for and value in terms of our people developing their leadership skills.

Explain the timing and necessity for #4theCulture Fest. Why is right now such a pivotal time for Black LGBTQ+ lives in Chicago?

EM: Something that is incredibly important is space for Black joy, in particular, Black queer joy is so vital and essential to any movement-based work. As an organizer myself, I’ve worked in a variety of capacities over the years for the movement of Black lives, I see such power in us being able to document our stories and archive the experiences that are happening in real time for our future generations. 

Why is it so important that groups like Reunion Chicago fight so hard for Black trans lives?

EM: When we look at our history, a lot of the work that has been mobilized and really spearheaded in terms of movement building, Black trans people have been at the forefront of those collective movements and will continue to be. The reason it is so important and vital to fight for Black trans and gender non-conforming people is because we are some of the most marginalized people within multiple types of communities. We know that there is more and that we are whole, beautiful beings that can no longer exist without showing the world our humanity. 

How has society’s views of LGBTQ+ lives in Chicago, and all over the world, changed over the years? What brought about this change?

EM:  Historically Black queer and trans lives are highly targeted specifically when it comes to white supremacy patriarchal cultures. We are starting to see that in the media. The LGBTQ+ community has always been visible, it’s just now gained a main stage. Where people are starting to rally nationally and globally around the movement for Black lives, [they] are realizing that we have to be very explicit and intentional in what we mean when we say Black lives. It isn’t just a particular type of Black, it’s all Black lives. 

That means some of the most marginalized people in the community and in the world, and those are Black queer, trans and non-binary people. Through initiatives like #4theQulture, seeing Black queer and trans people with humanity and joy shows a different narrative for people who paint these people as villains or monsters or people who are not whole. We are starting to see these systems in a more global context as we become more conscious. There are systems that have just existed because someone said that they should. I think as we are all collectively pulling our resources together to realize how we can change that, we’re manifesting and we’re seeing that change happen in real time.

What type of vibes can people expect this weekend at the #4theCulture Fest?

EM: When you log in every night between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., the internet will come alive with DJ sets and performances and Public Service Announcements and talks. This is really a platform for us to really celebrate and honor the past, present and future of pride. Chicago is approaching the 50th year anniversary of Chicago Pride. We also want to be mindful that we are in this present moment experiencing a lot of injustices and we want to highlight that. All of that is the thread that connects the three days together. As we mourn the loss of the Pride Parade, we’re really looking at a way for us to create this hybrid model, in-space and online. The purpose is to really bring together all of these amazing Black LGBTQ+ creatives from every corner of Chicago. I’m just really excited as we wrap up this month that is traditionally rooted in bringing people together. We’re still going to have a moment for that.

Check out the official lineup for #4theQulture Fest, streaming live nightly on OTV. RSVP for each night at

NIGHT ONE: THE PAST (Friday, June 26)

Hosted by: Jenna Anast and Elijah McKinnon

Featured community organizations: Affinity Community Services and Brave Space Alliance 

DJ set by Audio Jack

Pop-up performance by Thair

Pop-up dance lessons by Darling Shear

Pop-up physical training lesson by T-Banks

Newscasts on COVID-19 and recent uprisings by Unfriendly Black Hotties presents “Hot Tea with the Hotties” with Kenzie Coulee, Bambi Banks-Coulee, Khloe Coulee and Dynasty Banks

Short film and musical experience by Futurehood presents “Black Proprograda” with Mister Wallace and Hijo Prodigo 

NIGHT TWO: THE PRESENT (Saturday, June 27)

Hosted by: Jenna Anast and Elijah McKinnon

Featured community organization: #LetUsBreathe Collective

DJ set by Duane Powell

Pop-up performance by Thee David Davis 

Poetry Set: Moment of Truth by Charlene Carruthers, Kai Black and Mother Nature 

Queer comedy skits by Tribble, Aasia LaShay Bullock, Lisa Beasley, Ashley Ray and Dewayne Perkins

Panel discussion by A Queer Pride presents “Kiki 4 the Qulture” with Sasha Love, KC Ortiz and Maori Beverly Hillz


Hosted by: Jenna Anast and Elijah McKinnon

Featured community organization: Queering the Parks

DJ set by Selah Say  

Pop-up performance by Avery R. Young  

Surprise cameo performance and interview with Kidd Kenn

Short film by Molasses Chicago presents “The Molasses Drip” with Onyx, Zolita, Bone Reader and Lucy Stoole

Drag performance by Fabitat presents “The Most Fab Habitat” with The Vixen, Bambi Banks-Coulee, Luc Ami, and more