Durham County

Turning point for Pride in Durham? LGBT groups at odds.


Several LGBTQ, community and faith groups are urging the public to stay away from this month’s annual NC Pride event in Durham.

The groups, which have formed the #LiberateNCpride coalition, sent an open letter to the NC Pride Committee asking for changes to the event. It is inviting signatures on a petition at http://bit.ly/LiberateNCPride.

The NC Pride event Sept. 30 isn’t the only area Pride event this fall, however, and the coalition is urging support of other events, like Southern Fried Queer Pride also this fall in Durham.

In an interview Wednesday, Helena Cragg, board chair of the LGBTQ Center of Durham, said the groups wrote their letter to express their disappointment.

This summer, the NC Pride committee led by John Short canceled the annual NC Pride parade and announced that the festival would move from Duke’s East Campus to a block of Rigsbee Avenue. The new “NC Pride @ Night” festival will run from 4 p.m. Sept. 30 to 4 a.m. Oct. 1.

NC Pride made the change after criticism that it had scheduled the event on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which ends at sundown Sept. 30. Past participants, however, said a night-time street festival at bars after fasting for 24 hours would still rule out many observant Jews and that canceling the parade part of NC Pride during the day would exclude younger participants.

Carolina Jews for Justice is one of the petition’s signers. Josh Orol, chair of Wake County chapter and on the statewide board, said it’s not enough to change the date – a Band-Aid solution that doesn’t systemically change things.

“We need to call for a collectively-just Pride and one that really represents the needs of many minority groups,” he said.

“Really, for us it’s about supporting, being excited and proud of the Jewish queer community and North Carolina queer community, and also an opportunity to see where we can connect and struggle for a progressive future in our state,” he said.

This year’s decision not to reschedule Pride is “another example of the NC Pride Committee ignoring the needs of our diverse LGBTQ community,” the coalition’s release stated.

“NC Pride has fallen short of taking the right action to be truly inclusive. Trans[gender] [and] queer communities of color have worked to address deep concerns with pride over the years to no avail,” Laila Nur said in the release.

‘Inclusive in our hearts’

Short said he had not yet read the petition Wednesday but said it saddened him. He would not say who else is on the NC Pride committee.

“We’ll get through this year, and have proven we’re inclusive in our hearts. We’ve changed our dates and timing, and there’s not much more to say about it,” Short said.

He said a big partner in the night event is the LGBT bar, “the bar.” The block of Rigsbee Avenue for “NC Pride @ Night” has “the bar” at one end and Motorco Music Hall at the other.

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Durham hometown favorites The Bulltown Strutters, parade down Broad Street. Thousands filled the Duke East Campus neighborhood Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, for the annual N.C. Gay Pride march and rally. Mark Schultz mschultz@newsobserver.com

#LiberateNCpride is asking vendors to reconsider purchasing a booth and the community to reconsider making donations to the NC Pride Committee.

The LGBTQ Center of Durham will not have a booth, Cragg said. But she might go personally to support some things. The wording in the petition is for people to “abstain” from this year’s Pride, she said, to show nuance beyond just boycotting.

Speaking out

Cragg said Pride’s history in protest is mirrored by speaking out in this way.

“I feel like there’s definitely elements of calling out what’s happened, but also an invitation to community members to discuss what Pride should look like, and what we want,” she said. She said a town hall would be a chance to discuss the future of Pride.

Southern Fried Queer Pride, an Atlanta event that is expanding to Durham this year, will have workshops and performances Oct. 17-22 in downtown Durham. Co-founder and executive director Taylor Alexander said modern day Pride festivals are having a tough time recognizing all of the facets of their community.

“Any kind of modern Pride festival – whether it be more of a mainstream or DIY festival – it needs to be more aware of the public and what they want, and restructuring maybe,” said Alexander, who uses the pronoun “they.”

“I would say that a lot of Pride festivals are catching up to the times and the public they serve. The oncoming community of trans people are active and aware,” Alexander said. “I feel as if for a long time, a lot of Pride festivals have turned into music festivals and celebrations, but it’s not real clear what they’re celebrating.”

Parker T. Hurley, a co-founder of NC Trans Pride in Action, said in the coalition statement that it’s time to “reclaim Pride in the spirit of Stonewall Rebellion; to honor the histories, experiences and center the leadership of transgender women, transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, disabled folks, immigrants, rural communities, non-Christian communities and those of us living at the intersections of those struggles and identities. It’s our time to begin the work of accountability, healing and building a pride for all.”

Alexander said Pride can be both a political event and a celebration. In a post-marriage equality world, the next battles are about trans rights, undocumented people’s rights and racism, they said.

The discussion comes at a time, during September Pride Month, when Durham is promoting its LGBTQ community.

The Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau is marketing how “Y’all Means All in Durham.” Its website lists several LGBTQ-friendly events in Durham, including NC Pride.

“People get caught up that you have to go to one Pride event, when there’s plenty of them out there,” Alexander said.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

Area Pride events

Oct. 7: Noon to 5 p.m., 3rd annual Alamance Pride Festival

Burlington Historic Depot

200 S. Main St., Burlington

Oct. 7: 7:30 to 10 p.m., Community Pride Havdallah

Levin Jewish Community Center

1937 Cornwallis Road, Durham

Oct. 13: 6 to 10 p.m. Rainbow Bull Bash (A party for queer youth ages 13 to 19)

LGBTQ Center of Durham

114 Hunt St., Durham

Oct. 14: 2 to 7 p.m., LGBTQ Center of Durham 2nd Anniversary Jam

Rigsbee Avenue, Durham

Oct. 19-22: Southern Fried Queer Pride

Downtown Durham

Oct. 28: Noon to 5 p.m., Queernival

304 E. Trinity Ave., Durham