Celebrating inclusion and tolerance

Sep. 29, 2013 @ 12:41 PM

Under blue skies Saturday, rainbows dominated the streets around Duke University’s East Campus.

Thousands of people gathered along West Main, Buchanan and Markham streets to celebrate yet another facet of Durham’s broad diversity: lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals.

It was our NC Pride Parade, which included a parade and community party, and seemed above all to encourage people – no matter their orientation – to be themselves and revel in it.

“It’s full of love,” Tamika Robinson told The Herald-Sun’s April Dudash. “There’s no hatred here.”

The event got its start in Durham in 1981, but throughout the years also has been held in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Carrboro, Asheville, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

Such a festival may not seem all that unusual to us in a more open-minded city like Durham, but it is one of the few Gay Pride celebrations in the southeastern United States in September. Others are held in Columbia, S.C., and Richmond, Va.

Next month, similar festivals are scheduled in Memphis and Atlanta.

Harry Rosenberg, who came out at 74, praised the Durham NC Pride event for its affirming nature, because “it makes us proud and visible and unashamed.”

“You see a lot of people here, of all colors, young and old, children, and we draw strength from each other,” he said.

The parade even drew participation from churches, such as Pilgrim United Church of Christ, whose motto is “All are welcome here.”

Certainly, the event had its detractors, with pockets of protesters waving crosses instead of rainbow flags. But it seemed like a day that called for tolerance even of the intolerant, so long as the protests remained peaceful.

The Durham party was held just a day after the celebration of the new LGBTQ center in the Bryan Center at Duke University, moving from a the basement of the West Union.

“Every university should have this,” said Duke freshman Mera Liccione. “This is definitely a safe place, but this is also a place where people can get educated.”

Duke alumnus Fred Steckler, now president of the Duke LGBT Network, said that the new center demonstrates the university’s commitment to inclusion: “You belong here.”

On campus. In Durham. We hope, someday, everywhere.