Group working to create LGBTQ Center for Durham

Jun. 26, 2014 @ 06:23 PM

Plans are afoot to launch a new community center in Durham that would provide programs, services and advocacy for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

The organization of the LGBTQ Center of Durham is in the early stages. Organizers are in the process now of gathering feedback on what Durham residents would want to see in a community center in Durham.
“Durham really does need its own center,” said Helena Cragg, a program leader for the planning for the LGBTQ Center of Durham and a member of the board at the LGBT Center of Raleigh. “There’s something about having a tangible, physical space that helps to bind the community.”
The LGBT Center of Raleigh opened in 2010 to serve the whole Triangle. It was formed out of a merger with another organization, Triangle Community Works.
In an email, center Director James Miller said the Raleigh center offers or sponsors more than 15 programs and has a goal of giving voice to a disenfranchised population.
It hosts HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing twice a week, he said, does sexual health outreach, and has an LGBT Community Library with more than 3,000 volumes.
“LGBT Center of Raleigh serves as a focal point for the community as a whole, providing a safe space for everyone,” Miller said in an email. “We see or take calls from more than 400 people each week on a myriad of topics.”
Miller said Raleigh center leaders are able to offer insight to help with the launch of a center in Durham.
It’s not just the distance to the LGBT Center of Raleigh that may be an obstacle to participation from local residents, said Henry Amador, who’s on the communications committee for the proposed Durham center. He also said there may just be Durhamites who want a center in their home city.
The Durham community has its own needs and wants, Cragg said.
Right now, they’re in the information-gathering stage to reach out to people to find out what people want the center to be, what programs it should offer, what it should look like, and what it should be called.
Cragg said she wants to ensure the center reaches out to poor members of the community, minorities, as well as to transgender and queer people.
“Those are going to be things steeped in the Durham mission statement,” she said.
Between now and September, they’re planning to hold social events and other gatherings to get that feedback.
“We really want to keep it as intimate as possible to make sure that people are heard,” she said.
They hope that by September’s NC Pride 2014 festival, they will be able to wrap up the information-gathering stage. Amador said they hope to be stronger in their fundraising efforts by then.
They don’t have a financial goal for what they’re looking to raise as of yet, but are accepting donations online through the website
The downtown Durham coffee shop Cocoa Cinnamon is also donating $1 from each sale of the iced coffee drink “Bull City Pride” toward the center’s fundraising efforts during the month of June.
Leon Grodski de Barrera, the co-owner of Cocoa Cinnamon, said the business gets a lot of requests for sponsorships and other types of support, and he said they work hard not to take sides in politics.
“At the shop, we say that everybody is not only welcome, but desired, as long as they’re not violent, hateful or disturbing people,” he said. “In some sense, the shop is meant to be a conduit for who people are.”
Grodski de Barrera said they decided to support the center in that line of thinking.
“We don’t just want one group or another group, we would really just like to have everybody,” he said. “Our support for the center is one way in which we see that unfolding.”
While the community center in Durham is still in the planning stages, the organizers are already holding events.
Amador said Durham center organizers are organizing a blood drive as part of National Gay Blood Drive’s national effort to raise awareness about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.
Men who have sex with men have been ineligible to donate blood since 1977 under FDA rules.
According to the FDA website, the FDA rule is in place because men who have sex with men have an increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B, and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.
From 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 11, organizers are encouraging gay and bisexual men to bring eligible donors to the American Red Cross to donate blood on their behalf.


Updated June 26, 2014: is the website address for the proposed new Durham community center.