As I sat on a redeye flight from Boston back to the Queen City at 5 a.m. on Monday morning I thought, ‘How am I going to get through this work day?’ I sighed and attempted to take a nap while we sat on the runway. After fussing over multiple positions and trying to find a sweet spot without my neck pillow, I gave up and decided to browse Facebook one last time before taking off.
At the top of my feed was a post titled, “1 year ago today.” There was a picture of me in a tie-dye tube top with the hashtags: #cltpride #lovewins. Even though I ended up going to the Charlotte Pride Parade alone and went home with swollen lips after having a bad reaction to jalapenos, I smiled reflecting on that weekend. Suddenly, I was super excited to get through the work day because I knew that meant that I was one day closer to the kickoff of the 2016 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade.
And while I tend to celebrate by turning up, Pride isn’t just about the parties. The week leading up until the parade incorporates education, forums, panels, outreach programs, volunteer opportunities and political conversations. All of which, provide a great chance for LGBT community members, allies and interested parties to support, nurture and grow together.
For those of you who don’t know, Pride is renowned not just throughout the United States, but also across much of the world. Also known as LGBT Pride, for me, it represents a celebration of difference. A positive response to the discrimination, violence and silence that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals face every single day.
What’s even better? I get to experience it twice a year. There are two pride festivals in Charlotte — Charlotte Pride (held in August) and Charlotte Black Gay Pride (held in July). Why, you may ask? While there is a shared, collective LGBT experience that should be recognized and appreciated, the minority experience can be uniquely different and isn’t always felt, shared or recognized by the larger LGBT community. In other words, it’s easy for minority causes and identities to get lost in the sauce.
Every year since I’ve been in Charlotte, a few friends, both members of the LGBT community and allies, have made an effort to attend at least one event during each Pride Festival. This past year, the highlight of Black Gay Pride was going to The Scorpio. Conveniently located near a Cook Out on Freedom Drive — did you catch the shameless late night food plug? — The Scorpio has been a safe haven for members of the LGBT community since 1968. I would argue it’s the closet you can get in the Q.C. to an underground, elusive and exclusive allure that you’ll find in New York LGBT spaces.
Every Saturday, you can catch a show that features dance groups, vocalists and fabulous drag queens. During Black Gay Pride, they usually try to incorporate someone who’s become a figurehead in the community. Last year, a star from RuPaul’s Drag Race was in attendance. However, no matter when you drop by, you can always expect to be fully entertained and to experience a high-energy atmosphere, with a splash of drama, all the way up until 4 a.m.
Sadly, each year, it seems like the amount of activities — for both festivals — decrease significantly. This year, I missed out on the Black Gay Pride festivities, but I plan on catching a few of the following events this week as the 2016 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade continues:
• Aug. 19 (and continuing through Sept. 10): McColl Center for Art + Innovation will feature art installations in several of its public restrooms entitled, Open Occupancy: Artists Respond to HB2.
• The Official Charlotte Pride Kickoff Cookout Party at The Bar at 316 is also Friday night starting at 5:30 p.m. I’ve never experienced Bar 316, as many refer to it as, so this will be a welcomed change to my nightlife routine.
• And last but not least, I’m hoping to drop in for Takeover Friday at Le Méridien Hotel. (This may, or may not, include a quick trip upstairs to my new fave rooftop spot, City Lights Rooftop).
Unfortunately, I won’t be in town on Saturday. However, I’m optimistic about celebrating Pride this year in a new way. And if I’m lucky, I’ll make it back in time for the Charlotte Pride Parade on Sun., Aug. 21. What events do you plan on attending during this year’s Charlotte Pride Festival? What would you like to see different next year?