Over the weekend, Tyron Street was lavished in rainbows and glitter for the 2018 Charlotte Pride festival and parade. The annual event celebrates LGBTQ+ visibility in the Metrolina area.
The history of Pride was not always glitter and rainbows, in 1969 homosexual Americans were faced with an anti-LGBTQ+ legal system. The Village in New York City was not exempt from bigoted, homophobic laws that lead to frequent police raids on gay bars. Tensions between the New York City police and the sexuality minority community erupted into protest and violence at the Stonewall Inn after a routine raid. This became known as the Stonewall riot.
After the event, residents of the Village formed activist groups in hopes to establish a refuge for members of the LGBTQ+ community where they can be open about their sexuality without prosecution.
On the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Brenda Howard “Mother of Pride,” contributed to coordinating the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. This evolved into Pride, a week-long celebration to promote equal rights and to stand against discrimination toward LGBTQ+ people.
Charlotte Pride was founded in 2000; however, Pride-like festivities have been held in the area since the 1970’s. The festivities were once held at Marshall Park, which has now grown to a weekend long event that takes up most of Uptown. In 2013, the city hosted the Bank of America Charlotte Pride Parade, the first one in the area since 1994.
The event now consists of drag shows, film festivals, performances, merchandise booths, festival activities, and so much more.
Why Do We Still Need Pride?
Pride is necessary to give visibility to LGBTQ+ people. It shows that Charlotte has a flourishing community of acceptance. When I visited pride, I felt nothing but love. I hugged strangers carrying “free hugs” signs, was given free swag, twerked with people I never met before, and met some of the most beautiful individuals one could ever meet.
Not everyone is lucky to find this community. Many in the LGBTQ+ community still face discrimination. There are lives in the LGBTQ+ community that are forever lost due to the hatred that still exist, these lives include, but not limited to, Amia Tyrae, Blaze Bernstein, and Ally Steinfeld. These three, and several others, were murdered for their sexuality or gender in the past year. Youth that identifies as sexual minorities are at greater risk of committing suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Many teenagers and young adults are kicked out of their home and face homelessness when word of their sexuality reaches their family.
How Pride has Evolved
Personally, I believe that Pride has expanded beyond the LGBTQ+ community. The event is inclusive and recognizes all minorities that may face discrimination. This includes people of color, those with disabilities, women, and those in lower classes. I attend Pride, not only as a bisexual in search of a community, but as a woman with a disability born from a low-income family.
Pride offers amenities for those with disabilities, such as having a sign language interpreter. The event recognizes those of color and with different faiths by having organizations involved that relate to the African American, Latin, Christian, Wiccan, and other communities.
I worked during pride; however, I had the benefit of working at one of the locations of the festivities. While I was doing my job at the front desk of the museum, I danced along to the songs of One Voice Charlotte. During my break, I craved funnel cake and obtain the sugary deliciousness.
Rain can’t drag pride down. As I got out of work, and stepped into the world of queens and rainbows, it began to rain. Despite the weather, the party continued, and eventually, the rain departed.
I walked the streets, shopping for pride swag. Booths were selling everything rainbows, from belts, pasties, stickers, underwear, and toys (yes, sexual toys). *One booth, YAS Queen CLT, was selling merch that showcase not only the pride of the LGBTQ+ people, but also of the city. Their t-shirts displayed slogans such as, “Yas Queen City” (hint the title of this post).
I walked to the Wells Fargo stage as In Real Life were finishing their last song of the night. Later in the evening, Aja, a drag performer and rapper most known from RuPaul’s Drag Race, A Capella rapped for the crowd as her main show was cancelled due to the weather. Superfruit, comprised of Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi from Pentatonix, also performed during the night as lightning can be seen from the distance. Courtney, one of my work buddies and self-proclaimed Superfruit’s biggest fan, was living a dream as her favorite musicians performed in front of the Duke Energy building.
The Bank of America tower, the Vue, the fountain of Romare Bearden Park, the Knight Theater, and several other notable Charlotte buildings lit up as the colors of the rainbows throughout the night. I was lucky enough to capture the moment as I stand at Romare Bearden with my camera set to a slow shutter while on a tripod.
One of the best excuses to be late to work is because I had to take a photo of a cute puppy named Delila wearing a rainbow hat, tie and leggings.
During my break, I rushed to the parade. The best part about going to events alone is the ability to get in front of the crowd to capture the moments. I just had to be patient and wait for people to slowly leave the crowd. I stayed till the end, when the Pride flag was displayed.
I clocked out of work with only an hour left of Pride. A stranger asked for me and group of others to hug him, and so we did. A group of girls played music and I went over to twerk as if no one was watching. Uptown’s famous “Jesus Loves You” guy went up to people the let them know that Jesus loves them for who they are. I ended the night with an amazing LGBTQ+ group at Mellow Mushroom with Vegetarian and Vegan food, and a beer. It was a fun and rememberable moment that I would never forget. I love the LGBTQ+ community for putting this event on and showcasing love and equality to the Charlotte people.