Executive Director Ian Haddock of The Normal Anomaly Initiative. Credit Pisces310 Photography
Executive Director Ian Haddock of The Normal Anomaly Initiative. Credit: Pisces310 Photography

The countdown to one of Houston’s biggest LGBTQ+ pride events is underway.

The Normal Anomaly Initiative is bringing back the Black Queer AF Music Festival from May 3-7, and it’s coming into its second year bigger and better than before.

The five-day festival will feature local and national performers, including headlining rappers KenTheMan and Kidd Kenn, with performances by R&B artists Keke Wyatt, DJ Sedrick Drayton, and SevnDeep.

Ian Haddock, founder and executive director of The Normal Anomaly Initiative, says this event is about celebrating the joys of the Black LGBTQ+ experience and addressing the challenges that disproportionately impact them.

The Defender spoke to Haddock to learn about this festival’s impacts on the community.

  • Slide show 1: The Normal Anomaly Initiative team. Credit: Sawi P. Slide show 2 Bounce artist Sissy Nobby performs at Black Queer AF. Credit Sawi P. Slide show 3: Music Artist Durand Bernarr performs at Black Queer AF. Credit: Sawi P. Slide Show 4: Godfather of Bounce music Vockah Redu performs at Black Queen AF. Credit: Sawi P.

Defender: Tell us about yourself and what led you to your work as an advocate here in Houston.

Haddock: Originally, I’m from Texas City, Texas. I came here in 2006 to figure out what I wanted to be in life. I come from a disheartening background; a single-parent home, my brothers didn’t graduate high school, and they ended up selling drugs. Coming to Houston was my second chance at life. But I had nothing. The community I found here embraced me and changed my life in multiple ways. It gave me hope for the future and connected me to opportunities to begin cultivating.

Defender: Where did the idea begin? And what sets this festival apart from what others would celebrate during Pride Month?

Haddock: Black Queer AF is a tongue-in-cheek kind of title. It talks about the culture of being Black Queer AF, but it stands for the Black Queer Advancement Festival. It’s a space to unite and celebrate art and culture and how politics and advocacy are about authentic selves. This idea came from a project that we currently do called Project Liberate. It’s a nine-month cohort of people at the intersection of the Black and queer spectrum. We give them training from world-class teachers and facilitators on how to build a business or nonprofit. What we were thinking about is how we launch their businesses in a way that gets the community involved in economic, racial and social justice. This year, we are launching a business and a music festival, and we’ve included events where we will discuss difficulties around arts, culture and politics. This is a collaborative effort. Everyone from our board to the volunteer groups has a hand in the success of this event.

Defender: What impact has this festival had on the community?

Haddock: Twenty-seven people have graduated from our Project Liberate program. Twenty-five of them will be launching. Last year when we launched the businesses, 13 people showcased their businesses live at the music festival, and eight of them have become future entrepreneurs. What’s powerful about this festival is how we’re returning to how Black pride was created. Black Pride was created as [a form of] resistance. Those of trans experience in the Black and Latina community were against law enforcement coming into their establishments just because they had a good time being who they were. So often, when you think about pride, you think about the party, but we don’t think about the Stonewall Riots. Not only do we have a music festival and beach party, but we also have a forum to have these important conversations in different spaces of the festival. People from all over the nation see value in this and are coming, and it isn’t just Black queer people. I’m proud that this is not an exclusionary space.

Defender: Texas has taken a highly conservative stand regarding issues impacting the LGBTQ community. What message do you hope to share with state and local representatives this year?

Haddock: We are not your enemy. Who we are and whom we love are not intended to be opposites. We are your brothers, sisters, friends, uncles and aunties. This is no different from the war on race or women. This is the same. It’s about people in power wanting anything other than them not having the same rights and accommodations. We, not only as Black queer people, deserve to be treated fairly. When I go outside, you will see my Black skin and everything that comes with being a Black man, and if I’m around a certain type of people, you will see my queerness. As a person at those two intersections, we’ve seen so much damage, brutalization, loss, disparity, oppression and marginalization. So, if anyone needs safety and protection, it would be people that look and love like me.

Defender: The festival is expanding this year. What can people anticipate?

Haddock: We will start with a pageant on May 3 to crown Mr. and Mrs. Black Queer AF. On the 4th and 5th, we’ll have a forum for some cool conversations, and a Black mental health town hall. Our keynote speaker is Greg Mathis Jr. We’ll have a conversation that focuses on womanhood called ‘Sister Sister’ and another forum that will bring people from the academic, law enforcement, legal and research spaces to talk about what we can do to move us forward as a Black queer community. Then that Saturday is our premiere flagship event, the music festival. And on Sunday is church service and then a beach party at Balmoral Lagoon in Humble, TX, and it’s absolutely free.


May 3, 2023 – 7 p.m.: Mr./Ms. Black Queer AF Pageant at Hamburger Mary’s Houston

May 4-5, 2023: Black Queer AF Summit at Doubletree Hilton (IAH), where great thinkers, culture curators and influencers will discuss forward mobility of the Black, queer community

May 6, 2023: Black Queer AF Music Festival at Stampede Houston

May 7, 2023 – 11 a.m. – Black Queer AF Sunday Service at St. Peter United, featuring guest soloist and an affirming message of faith

May 7, 2023 – 5-9 p.m.: Black Queer AF IMPULSEified Beach Party at Balmoral Crystal Clear Lagoon

For more information visit https://www.normalanomaly.org/

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Laura OnyenehoEducation Reporter

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...